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The importance of fighting for long-term change alongside the provision of immediate solutions

8 Oct 2022 | Debbie King

The recent seminar on ‘How can charity be reimagined to contribute towards a more just society?’ was very timely and set me thinking about a range of issues – not least having the right to be able to fight for the structural change needed to address the current housing emergency.

The right to be able to advocate for the practice and policy changes needed to ensure people have good housing outcomes is absolutely vital and should be valued and protected. In Australia, legislation has been introduced which is constraining some of the campaign actions the third sector can take. Similarly, in Westminster, we have seen the introduction of English legislation which seeks to control how people can campaign for change in England. This is a very worrying trend, and one we must resist.  

Looking at this through a human rights lens, we need to ensure that we can progressively realise the right to an adequate home wherever we are. Without affordable, secure and suitable homes, we will continue to see families − and particularly children − negatively impacted, some of them for the rest of their lives.

With over 8,500 children currently homeless in Scotland, the highest number ever recorded and a 17% increase since last year, urgent action is required. If we don’t prioritise and tackle this housing emergency now, it will become increasingly difficult to address high levels of poverty and improve education and health outcomes. 

I absolutely agree with the speakers that we (as in charities/third sector) must be ready to tackle the structural issues which are causing such widespread harm, and make sure we are not inadvertently propping up a broken housing system. A focus on ensuring that structural changes are achieved is key if we are to see the significant changes required to make a difference for everyone in our communities.

Shelter Scotland has long campaigned for change and we’ve set ourselves the challenge to fight for the structural changes needed to address the housing emergency, with a focus on fighting for the delivery of the social homes required in the right places that will reduce housing need. Without these homes, we cannot hope to tackle the growing numbers of households stuck in temporary accommodation for increasing amounts of time – families with children now spend on average nearly a year of their lives in temporary accommodation.

As well as campaigning at a national level by influencing government and politicians in all parties, we are continuing to fight for practice change locally, as we know we cannot possibly support everyone in our communities one by one with their housing issues. We’ll use the evidence we gather from working with and supporting people with their housing issues to challenge practice at a local level. Should this then require policy intervention, we will expand the activity.

We also continue to develop how we create a groundswell of support and activity on housing issues. At a national level, we enable our supporters to take action, such as calling on their MSP or the Cabinet Secretary to address the issue. We are also, through community organising activity, supporting local activist groups to take collective action on housing issues important to them. We want to create a movement that ensures that the voices of those most affected by the housing emergency are heard loud and clear, and action is taken.

While we will continue to seek to strengthen rights through the introduction of the UN Human Right to an Adequate Home in the upcoming Human Rights Bill in Scotland, we also know that those rights cannot be realised unless suitable, secure and affordable homes are available for us all.

You can read more about Shelter Scotland’s campaigning and advocacy work at: www. or you can follow them on Twitter @shelterscotland

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