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Wednesday, August 25, 1999 Published at 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK

UK: Scotland

Task force homes in on homelessness

The task force will be able to put forward proposals quickly

The government's new task force aimed at tackling Scotland's homelessness problem has formally begun its work.

The group, which will advise the Scottish Executive, is expected to take three years to complete its work.

BBC Scotland's Social Affairs Correspondent Reeval Alderson reports
Members also hope to bring forward legislation quickly to tackle some of the worst aspects of the problem.

Deputy Minister for Communities, Jackie Baillie, is chairing the first meeting of the Homelessness Task Force in Glasgow.

The task force was set up to review the causes and nature of homelessness in Scotland.

It will also examine current practice in dealing with cases of homelessness and make recommendations on how homelessness can best be prevented and, where it does occur, be tackled effectively.

[ image: Current practices will be examined]
Current practices will be examined
The meeting is taking place at a converted fire station which has 35 high quality furnished flats for use as emergency short-stay accommodation.

The task force is also listening to the experiences of Big Issue magazine vendors.

The wider problem of homelessness is to be tackled by the Scottish Executive through its social inclusion strategy, but it recognises that will take time.

In the meantime, the group - including representatives of local authorities, academics and those working with the homeless such as representatives of the Big Issue - will be to able to bring forward proposals quickly to ease the situation, including preventative measures.

Some quick fixes will be possible by changing laws which mean local authorities do not need to provide accommodation for everyone.

Even mothers with children can be left homeless legally.

The Scottish National Party said if sheriffs were granted the same powers as English courts to give a reasonable time to re-pay mortgage arrears, many low income families well down the local authority list of priorities would not be at risk of homelessness.

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