THE Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Bill is expected to receive Royal Assent this month.

In a nutshell, it extends many of the Covid-19 measures that were introduced last year at the height of the pandemic until next March.

It’s fair to say many of the UK and Scottish government actions over the past 18 months have been effective in preventing a massive increase in evictions, homelessness and financial destitution.

The real question for me, though, is whether we have permanently mitigated that human misery or postponed it. In some respects, the answer to that question is that it depends on who you are and where you live.

UK Finance – the voice of the banking and finance industry – reckons homeowners have fared reasonably well during the tough times of the pandemic.

Eric Leenders of UK Finance said: “While there was a slight rise in total arrears in Q1 2021 compared to the historic low levels seen before the pandemic, the additional support from lenders has helped many mortgage customers stay out of arrears.

“With the economic impact of Covid-19 continuing to be felt, we anticipate there will be further increases in mortgage arrears during 2021.”

The forbearance of lenders has been very welcome, although it was mandated by the Financial Conduct Authority, the sector’s regulator.

The support from lenders has largely been agreeing to “mortgage holidays”. Effectively, this has been homeowners helping themselves as the length of their mortgages is extended. Nevertheless, that has been an essential respite for almost two million households.

It’s difficult to predict future trends as our civil justice statistics in Scotland are a year behind. The latest we have are for 2019/20, which was the year ending just as the pandemic broke last March.

They revealed that 2204 new repossession cases were raised in the sheriff court against homeowners – up 18% from the preceding year. A total of 10,520 eviction cases were raised against social tenants – down by 15% on the preceding year.

We know from the Scottish tribunals annual report that in 2019/20 there were 1742 new eviction cases raised in the tribunal against private renters.

We know that on average it takes around three months from when a new eviction case is lodged for a landlord to obtain an order to evict against a private renter.

And it’s the private rented sector (PRS) where people are most likely to have been adversely affected by the economic impact of the pandemic. Before the pandemic, the highest growth in relative poverty in Scotland was in the PRS.

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act will continue to extend eviction notice periods to six months until next March, so that will maintain the slowing-down effect on new tenant-eviction cases.

The slowing-down effect came into force last April. If a landlord served a notice last April, they would have to wait until October last year to raise eviction proceedings and would be unlikely to obtain an order until January this year.

The real brake on evictions and repossessions has been the ban on evictions while an area was under level three or four lockdown restrictions. Glasgow only came out of level three on June 5 this year.

We know a lot of eviction and repossession cases have been accumulating in the system. All of these cases are now able to progress, which at some point may well result in a wave of homelessness – unless cases are defended.

Has the Scottish Government done enough? Certainly, for private renters the new £10 million grant fund promised later this year might be too little too late.

There are two huge economic drivers coming down the line at the end of next month: the end of furlough and the end of the £20 Universal Credit (UC) uplift.

One in every eight employees in the UK are still on furlough. You are more likely to be furloughed if you are under 25, over 65, female or working in the hospitality sector.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) predicts a shock to come at the end of furlough and the UC uplift.

The IFS calculates that a single person with no dependents who earned £20,000 per annum would have an income of £16,000 on furlough.

On UC at present that person’s income would be £4925 per annum. With the removal of the UC uplift it drops to £3885.

When you factor in the end of furlough and the UC uplift with the resumption of evictions, you have the perfect storm of human misery.

A strong free advice and law centre network will be essential to help those at risk of homelessness and financial hardship.

Unfortunately, Glasgow City Council reduced its funding to that network by one-third last year.