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Comparing rights based & non-rights based approaches to homelessness Beth Watts University of York A comparison of Scotland & the Republic.

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Presentation on theme: "Comparing rights based & non-rights based approaches to homelessness Beth Watts University of York A comparison of Scotland & the Republic."— Presentation transcript:

1 Comparing rights based & non-rights based approaches to homelessness Beth Watts University of York A comparison of Scotland & the Republic of Ireland HSA Conference, 14 th April 2011

2 Introduction  Rights based approaches to homelessness are popular  Global/national; natural/socially constructed; moral/legal; enforceable/unenforceable; abstract/specific?  Housing as a human right (moral framework)  Specific and enforceable legal rights to housing (policy tool)  Do enforceable legal rights to housing for homeless people achieve good outcomes?

3 Research questions  Do legal rights to housing for homeless households ameliorate the stigma that can be associated with accessing statutory services targeted at specific ‘needy’ groups?  To what extent do legal rights to housing for homeless households empower service users?  Do legal rights to housing for homeless households mean that those in greatest need access suitable housing?  Do legal rights to housing for homeless households create an adversarial climate and/or divert time and resource into legal process and away from tackling housing need?  Are the perverse incentives created by legal rights to housing for homeless people acted upon by homeless households?

4 Scotland’s rights based approach  Homelessness Task Force established in 1999, final report 2002  Landmark legislation in 2001/2003  Phasing out of ‘priority need’ category by 2012  Scottish Executive received Human Rights Award in recognition of these reforms

5 Ireland’s ‘social partnership’ approach  Approach developed since the mid 1990s in response to failure of 1988 Housing Act  Stakeholder negotiation and deliberation: a problem solving and consensual approach  Authoritative government coordination through homelessness strategies, key legislation and evaluation  Transparency and monitoring: ratcheting up of standards  Sustained political will and significant investment (€53.4m in 2011)

6 Method: Comparative qualitative research

7 Emerging themes  Stigma  No consensus that legal rights help weaken stigma. Some concern they could exacerbate it  Stigma attached to homelessness itself (as well as mental health issues, addiction etc) not nature of policy response.  Empowerment  Conceptual/definitional issues  Service user involvement; choice; ‘structural empowerment’; a sense of entitlement?  Housing need  Legal rights don’t eliminate competition for scarce resources  But do they lead to fairer outcomes?  Rights place focus on resolving homelessness (settled accommodation) as opposed to managing homelessness.

8 Emerging themes  Legalistic and adversarial? Scotland misunderstood.  Consensus and adversary in both systems.  Consensual, problem solving approach consistent with and possible within framework of legal rights.  Scottish legislation led to surge in acceptances which led to innovation and focus on prevention, problem solving and ‘housing options’.  Legal challenges are rare; service user awareness of legal rights not key; internal reviews and regulator as (more?) important as legal redress.

9 Emerging themes  Perverse incentives  Series of perverse incentives within the Scottish system.  Distinction between perverse incentive existing; perverse incentive being acted upon and perverse incentive undermining entire system.  Perverse incentives will be created where there is allocation based on need, not only in systems based on legal rights. Concerns in Ireland about unintended consequences of service expansion.


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