Public attitudes – Unless they change – then nothing changes

Speech

Public attitudes – Unless they change – then nothing changes

In 2006, The Scottish Social Attitudes Study found that 45 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement: “Most homeless people could find somewhere to live if they really tried.”

Just let that roll around your head for a bit. Half of Scots think that homelessness is basically a choice. And if you think – well that was then and this is now then I’m sorry but the same attitudes still pervade today.

 

The excellent work being done in Scotland by Government, local councils and voluntary sector agencies is in danger of being undermined by outdated attitudes. This needs to be tackled head on.

Now, you might be thinking – I don’t think like that – what’s this got to do with me? Unless we tackle that 45 per cent figure we’ll never attack the root causes of homelessness. The poverty, the inequality, the despair and the lack of housing stock and crucially the support that folk need.

Without properly paid, properly respected support and housing staff the fight against homelessness will never be won.

Never, Ever. End of.

The link between support worker and those that need their support is the most important factor in changing people’s lives. And yet, it is these workers who are expected to endure inadequate wages, zero hours contracts, the spectre of compulsory competitive tendering, it is the casualisation of support for the most vulnerable.

Too many homelessness workers are deciding that their future is not compatible with their job and feel that they must change to more stable, less mentally exhausting work for the sake of their families and their own health.

Looking at recent adverts for support workers here in this city – the wages being offered were less than you’d receive for working at Aldi or Lidl.

The number one criticism that I hear from folk with lived experience of homelessness is about being passed from worker to worker. But if folk aren’t staying in post then this is an inevitable consequence of the situation.

In Glasgow where the IJB responsible for homelessness issues has decided to remove millions of pounds of funding from homelessness provision what security is available for frontline workers. Most voluntary sector providers are having to tender annually leading to greater job insecurity.

And even in the public sector – the reductions in local authority funding year on year means the annual examination of the big blue book to see what’s next for the chop.

We all know that spending money on vulnerable people early enough will save money in the medium to long term. The Christie Commission told us this nearly a decade ago.

The problem has been since Campbell Christie laid out the truth in simple and precise detail we’ve seen year on year cuts.

Consequently – spending on acute services in the NHS go up, spending on prisons and police stay in line largely with inflation, the amount we spend as a nation on early intervention and prevention has stalled at best and gone backwards in many instances.

But how do we change things? What can we do to make the difference needed?

Firstly – change the attitudes that allowed this to fester in the first place.