Two protests in Scotland’s biggest cities today have highlighted the damaging impacts on homelessness of the Benefits Cap and Glasgow Council’s failure to deal with its rough sleeping problems.
In Edinburgh, an Our Welfare-called rally saw campaigners occupy Edinburgh Council’s city meeting chambers singing “we shall not be moved” in support of 11 families, including 42 children who are facing eviction from their private rented homes in the north of the city due to the Benefits Cap.
Our Welfare has laid out a list of demands for Edinburgh council to support the families, some of whom have already been evicted and are living in “appalling” homeless hostels:
Edinburgh Council must:
* Pay full discretionary housing payments to help people cover rent
* Rehome families in decent flats in suitable ares rather than substandard hostels/BnBs
* Ensure temporary accomodation meets acceptable standards
* Immediately begin repairs on empty homes to put them back in use
* Start actually building long-promised social housing
Activists have pointed to abject failures by the council, which has been under a Labour-SNP coalition since 2012, at Pennywell and Muirhouse, where only 30% of new houses have been council tenancies.
They are also calling on the Scottish government in Holyrood to “allocate sufficient funds to councils to cover full discretionary payments for the cap” and better regulation of private sector rents.
The cap is currently controlled by Westminster but, there have been persistent calls for the SNP-controlled body to sabotage or refund it. Around 13,000 Scottish families are thought to be in the firing line annually, but could be spared sanctions if Holyrood blocked programme providers from passing on information to the Department for Work and Pensions.
Today’s protest follows on an occupation of the council north office in Pilton on Tuesday to demand accomodation for a family evicted due to the cap.
No more homeless deaths
Meanwhile to the west a mid-day protest at Glasgow City Chambers is targeting the council’s “completely unacceptable” inability to help homeless people, who according to a recent Freedom of Information request are now dying on the city’s streets at a rate of one person a week.
Protesters are hoping to capitalise on recent election results which saw Labour lose its majority after 37 years as the SNP took gains, leaving no-one in overall control, to pressure councillors into taking action.
In a statement, Homelessness Shames Glasgow said:
Rather than sit back and wait/hope for the councillors to do something, we want to make sure that our most vulnerable fellow citizens receive the support they need.
For too long, Glasgow City Council have failed in their statutory duty to ensure that anyone presenting as unintentionally homeless be housed by their local authority in temporary accommodation (as per the 2012 Homelessness Order). Remember, this is the law.
Furthermore, we have a support system that has been suffering from various cuts. In this new session, we cannot have another round of cuts when things are already so depleted. Quite the opposite, it’s clear we need a stronger support system for those in need.
The purpose of the action tomorrow is twofold: a) To get any councillor we see to sign a pledge, committing them to signing a motion within the next few months to improve the state of services for homeless people. Any councillors whose we do not get on the pledge will receive an email where they can sign the pledge; and b) To make sure that Glasgow City Council knows that the pressure on them won’t simply subside and that citizens of Glasgow are appalled that that people are left to die on the streets.
We want councillors to pledge to:
* Commit to ring fencing Homeless Services for the duration of this council.
* Commit to increasing support and services for Homeless through a proper consultation of staff and service users and emergency funding to be made available.
* Commit to opening up temporary accommodation by the beginning of winter 2017, when temperatures are at their most perilous