CIH Scotland’s Housing Festival ‘re-run’ a great success
Following a re-run of day two of its annual Housing Festival, CIH Scotland’s policy and practice officer Susanne Flynn provides a short recap of the highlights.
Following an untimely finish in February due to the wintry weather, CIH Scotland was pleased to be able to offer delegates a re-run of day two of it’s annual Housing Festival this week (and there was plenty of sunshine this time around!).
Taking place on Monday 21 May at the Wheatley Group Academy in Edinburgh, the event was attended by over 80 delegates and speakers, who returned to continue the important discussions which were cut short back in February.
CIH Scotland Chair Esther Wilson welcomed delegates back to Edinburgh, before introducing the day’s first session on the crucial links between health and housing.
Professor Marion Bain, co-director of the Executive Delivery Group for Public Health began by setting out the Scottish Government’s vision for public health reform, and highlighting housing’s role in helping to drive forward this agenda. The reforms aim to create a Scotland where everyone thrives, through the creation of a new national public health body, greater joint working between housing, health and social care partners, and the agreement of a new set of public health priorities for Scotland. Marions’ co-speaker Angela Currie, Housing and Care Services Director at Blackwood welcomed this focus on a more joined up approach, but said that more could still be done to ensure that housing features as an equal partner in health and social care policy development.
Next up, delegates heard from Liz Cooper, Policy Manager at the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) and North Lanarkshire Council’s Homelessness Manager Val Holtom on the development of new standards to provide sustainable housing for people leaving prison. According to a recent survey, 50% of prisoners said that they had lost their accommodation upon entering custody, so the aim of these new standards (entitled Sustainable Housing on Release for Everyone or SHORE for short) is to ensure that people entering prison receive the right advice, information and support to allow them to maintain their tenancy or have suitable accommodation arrangements in place upon their release. The standards, which were developed by SPS along with key stakeholders from the housing sector (including CIH Scotland, Shelter Scotland, SFHA and ALACHO), were launched in December 2017 and the SPS is currently working to bring forward the period from which these can take effect from the time a person enters prison to the initial arrest phase.
The final session took the form of a panel debate, and focused on land supply, a particularly timely topic as the Scottish Parliament continues to progress new planning legislation. Panel speakers (Andy Wightman MSP, Mike Bruce from Weslo Housing Management, Craig McLaren from RTPI and David Morgan from Miller Homes) were asked to consider the challenges of the current system of land ownership and to address the question ‘is there a better way?’ While views differed on the causes of these challenges, there was agreement that the planning system needs to be more robust to compel land owners to sell vacant land at a fair price for the development of much needed new housing.
Drawing the event to a close, CIH Chair Esther Wilson reminded delegates of some important words from Alastair Campbell’s opening address on day one of the Housing Festival in February: “We must refuse to accept it is ok for someone not to have a home.” In this crucial time for housing, Esther called on the sector to continue to innovate and adapt, and to face the many challenges ahead with courage and confidence.
Planning will soon be underway for next year’s Housing Festival, which will take place from 12 – 13 March 2019 at the SEC in Glasgow, so watch this space for more information.