A plan to provide all those experiencing homelessness with suitable accommodation has been brought forward in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Unsuitable Accommodation Order, which prohibited local councils from placing pregnant women or families with children into bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) or hotels for more than seven days, has from today been extended to all homeless households. (Click here for the Amendment Order.)

Scottish ministers had planned to extend the order from May next year, but have brought the move forward as a means of protecting the vulnerable group of homeless people.

An exception, in force until 30 September 2020, is provided in that it will not be a breach of the order for local authorities to use hotel and B&B accommodation where that would be the best option to enable people to self-isolate or otherwise comply with physical distancing guidelines.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart commented: "There has been a remarkable cross-sector response during the COVID-19 crisis, with emergency accommodation and support quickly given to those that need it most.

"Extending the Unsuitable Accommodation Order, a Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) recommendation, will provide people with quality accommodation to support their move on from homelessness."

He added: "It is vital we protect the progress made, and ensure there is no backwards movement in local and national efforts to tackle homelessness in the aftermath of the pandemic.

"We will work with local authorities to overcome any barriers they face as we move to a new way of dealing with homelessness. We know hotel and B&B accommodation is being used during the current public health emergency to ensure there is physical distancing and ability to self-isolate – vital to suppressing the spread of the virus – so the initial legislation will be time limited to ensure no local authority is in breach of the order whilst they are protecting people during the pandemic."

Welcoming the news, Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, commented: "Today’s measures must set the template for a future that puts control and choice in the hands of the individual. It will also require service providers to be properly funded to provide high quality, safe services that can meet the aim of ending the cycle of homelessness."