Homelessness remains an issue for the council
I hope all readers had a good Christmas, and I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year.
I really enjoy this time of year and always look forward to a chance to spend some quality time with my family and friends, giving and receiving presents and generally having a few days of relaxation, some tasty food and good cheer.
I wish that this were the case for all, and that everyone could look forward to 2019 with hope. But unfortunately, too many people are living in hardship that must seem even worse at a time when others are enjoying the festivities.
Clearly, the homeless among us fall into that sad category, not least because at this time of year their everyday issues can be made even worse by winter weather conditions.
This issue was highlighted earlier this month by the Sleep In The Park, which was organised by the charity Social Bite. I was one of the 12,000 who took part, along with my council colleague Josh Wilson, at one of four sleep-outs, held in Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow.
The aim was both to highlight the issue of homelessness and also raise some money for efforts to tackle the issue. I was glad to do my bit, but I know that sleeping outdoors for one night doesn’t begin to give an idea of how tough life is for those who live on the street every day and night. Also, even though more than £3m was raised, that won’t begin to solve the problem.
My own view is that the problem of homelessness has been exacerbated in recent years by the austerity policies of the UK Government. Furthermore, I think it is clear that those policies also hinder the ability of councils and others to tackle such social issues.
At South Lanarkshire Council we do what we can, and last year we provided a range of advice to 753 households to prevent homelessness. Where homelessness cannot be prevented, we provide support, and during 2017/18 1,953 temporary accommodation placements were made.
We try to put people in temporary accommodation near their families and, where kids are involved, their schools, and we work with those affected to try to find them a settled home. This work means so much to these individuals and families, and we will continue to do all we can, despite the impact of austerity on our budget.
A recent analysis I saw showed that South Lanarkshire Council has had to find savings of £166 million in the last 10 years, and a committee report last month identified the need to find £13m more in the 2018/19 budget.
This means more tough choices, but I am determined that we will do all we can to protect key frontline services, not just with regard to homelessness, but across education, social work and all that the council does.
We are currently considering options on how to make those savings and I am very keen to hear the views of residents, so I would urge you, if you have a few minutes, to get more information on the council’s website at www.southlanarkshire.gov. uk/savings or by sending views to the dedicated email address sav[email protected] southlanarkshire.gov.uk – they can also be sent by post to: Savings Consultation, South Lanarkshire Council, Almada Street, Hamilton ML3 0AA.
Raising awareness Councillors Josh Wilson and John Ross ahead of the sleep-out