A PETITION calling on the Scottish Government to pay charges for homeless temporary accommodation has been lodged with the Scottish Parliament.

In Glasgow, the council is owed around £4m in arrears for temporary accommodation from people who are liable for the charge.

Most people are covered by housing benefit but not everyone is eligible for the support.

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The Glasgow Times revealed earlier this year how, while around £20m was received, mostly in housing benefit, £4m was outstanding, a drop from £5m in 2020.

Glasgow City Council and other local authorities source flats for temporary accommodation from housing associations and landlords.

In May this year, 6352 people were in temporary accommodation in Glasgow, up 10% from 5735 in 2020.

Housing campaigner Sean Clerkin has presented the petition before the Scottish Parliament for MSPs to consider, asking the government to step in.

The petition asks for general taxation to pay all charges for homeless temporary accommodation, including writing off the debt owed by homeless people to councils, which he says totals £33m across Scotland.

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Mr Clerkin said: “The issue of the plight of homeless vulnerable people paying large charges for temporary accommodation from local authorities was first highlighted by a recent report from the Legal Services Agency in Glasgow which concluded that the Scottish Government should use general taxation to pay for all charges for temporary accommodation for homeless people.

“More recently, Homeless Action Scotland have highlighted in a report that working people who are homeless are being forced into serious debt. As they are above the threshold for housing benefits, the report suggests that local authorities are chasing after them using debt collection agencies.”

Glasgow City Council said earlier this year “Debt accrued in temporary accommodation is pursued and is only written off when it is uneconomical to pursue.”
Mr Clerkin said the number of homeless people is likely to rise and the debt increase.

He added: “The cost of living crisis will further impoverish many people in Scotland and it is highly likely there will be an increase in homeless applications and homeless assessments therefore the state has to protect our most vulnerable.”

The petition will be considered by the Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee, who will decide whether it wants to pursue it with the Scottish Government.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government expects local authorities to follow the Code of Guidance on Homelessness, taking individual circumstances into account before making any decision about charging for use of temporary accommodation.

“Sustainable and adequate housing support should be provided through Housing Benefit and the housing element of Universal Credit, both of which are responsibility of the UK Government.

“Despite cuts to Scotland’s overall budget by the UK Government, in 2022-23 we are providing local authorities an annual share of £23.5m for homelessness prevention and response measures, and £8m to support the implementation of rapid rehousing transition plans.”