The first ever major study into Scotland's pioneering homelessness prevention service has shown a near 100 per cent success in stopping people from losing their home, while saving a local authority money in the process.
The ‘Prevention Saves Money and Misery' report released this week by the Edinburgh Cyrenians and focusing on its specialist Homeless Prevention Service has already attracted supportive comments from the Minister for Housing and Transport, the City of Edinburgh Council's Housing Leader and a leading academic.
The charity's CEO Des Ryan was joined by people who have successfully kept their home thanks to the service, when he presents the findings and recommendations to MSPs at a special Parliamentary reception.
He urged homelessness is a key focus for money spent on prevention in Scotland, in light of the risk of homelessness rising and to help councils meet the upcoming 2012 homelessness target.
Mr Ryan said the Homelessness Prevention Service, which is commissioned by the City of Edinburgh Council and was the first of its kind, was a pioneering model of best practice.
Des Ryan, Edinburgh Cyrenians CEO, said:
"Scotland is a leading light to the world on homelessness and we must continue in that vein. The new report today shows that our pioneering way of preventing homelessness works - saving not just misery but money. We propose to policy makers that stopping people becoming homelessness should be a key part of preventative spending."
The study comes at a time when interest in prevention is at an all time high, following the Christie Commission's recent report and the Scottish Government's focus on prevention in September's budget statement.
Welcoming the report, Minister for Housing and Transport Keith Brown, said:
"The Scottish Government is aware of Edinburgh Cyrenians' valuable contribution towards tackling and preventing homelessness.
"We welcome this research which shows the effectiveness of a preventative approach. This benefits not only those being assisted by the project but also the wider community. Scotland has an important, but challenging, homelessness target: that by the end of December 2012, all unintentionally homeless households will have the right to settled accommodation.
"With the evident success of Cyrenians' Homelessness Prevention Service, we are a step closer to meeting that target."
The in-depth study demonstrates the effectiveness of the service in preventing homelessness, with 99 per cent of people the Cyrenians charity worked with in 2010/11 still being in their home a year later.
It also shows that prevention can save councils' money and brings other improvements to people's lives, in particular their financial, employment and health circumstances. For example, within a sample of 50 service users studied in depth for the research:
• The Cyrenians Homelessness Prevention Service helped people pay back £19,400 in rent arrears, around £15,000 of which went back to the City of Edinburgh Council.
• Eleven had moved into employment since first contact with the Cyrenians. Many had seen a significant increase in income during that time.
• During their first assessment, 30 people talked about being depressed but within a year this had reduced to 14 people reporting depression.
• Volunteering hours in the local community had risen from 624 to 1,040 during a one year period.
Councillor Paul Edie, Housing Leader for the City of Edinburgh Council, said the report showed that the services put in place by the council to tackle homelessness in the Capital were working well.
"Support from Edinburgh Cyrenians, along with our other partners, has helped many people who are in danger of falling into homelessness. Preventing homelessness means they can avoid a whole range of associated problems such as rough sleeping, health issues and increased financial difficulties.
"These findings are testament to the hard work carried out by Edinburgh Cyrenians, the council and our partners in tackling homelessness and shows that our radical strategy is paying dividends by helping those who need it most. Homelessness in the Capital has reduced by almost 15% in the past five years which is a fantastic achievement in these tough economic times.
"We have a long way to go before homelessness can be eradicated but as long as I have anything to do with this issue then this Council will do everything in its power to ensure those who most need our help and support receive it."
Professor Isobel Anderson, from the University of Stirling, in her introductory foreword to the report, writes:
"I very much welcome this report as a contribution to the emerging evidence base on homelessness prevention in Scotland.....This evaluative study from Cyrenians illustrates how organisations can implement monitoring and evaluation of outcomes alongside development and delivery of services which seek to help people sustain homes and avoid homelessness. I hope this report will stimulate further discussion across the sector."