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Operation of the Homeless Persons Legislation in Scotland: 2014-15

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Main Points

The main points for the period 1 April - 31 March 2015 (2014-15) are:-

Applications

  • There were 35,764 applications. This was 1,470 (4%) lower than the number of applications received in the same period in 2013-14.
  • The number of applications has fallen in 19 out of Scotland's 32 local authorities. Applications increased in Aberdeen City, Dundee City, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, Eilean Siar, Falkirk, Moray, North Lanarkshire, Perth & Kinross, Shetland, Stirling, and West Lothian.
  • The continuing fall in applications overall is mainly due to the impact of housing options/ homelessness prevention strategies adopted by most councils over the past few years rather than to changes in the underlying drivers of homelessness. However, the rate of reduction in homelessness applications has slowed. This suggests that, in its current form, the impact of housing options work is unlikely to lead to further large reductions in applications beyond those already seen.
  • Across Scotland, two thirds of homelessness applicants had been through a housing options service first. However, there was marked variation across local authorities - from 96% of homeless applicants in Falkirk and South Ayrshire to less than 5% in East Dunbartonshire, East Ayrshire and Eilean Siar. These proportions are likely to reflect how local authorities have configured their housing option and homelessness services.
  • The main reasons for applying as homeless have remained unchanged over the past year. Relationship breakdown is one of the main causes of homelessness applications (29% of all applications in 2014-15) or being asked to leave (25% of 2014-15 applications).

Assessments

  • There were 29,565 homeless or threatened with homelessness assessments and this was 521 (2%) lower than in 2013-14.
  • The number assessed as intentionally homeless has fallen back slightly from the highest level recorded since monitoring began. The highest level was seen in July-September 2014 (497 intentionally homeless decisions). Although the numbers are small at around 400 per quarter, the number of intentionality decisions had been rising, whilst the number of applications and homeless assessments have both been reducing. However, this may be a consequence of the abolition of the priority need test as all those assessed as homeless are now tested for intentionality. Prior to this, non-priority homeless households would not have been subject to the intentionality test.
  • Repeat homelessness has increased for the second consecutive year, from a low of 5.6% in 2012-13 to 7.2% in 2014-15. In addition, the proportion of homeless assessments where the applicant had at least one support need has increased from 34% in 2013-14 to 38% in 2014-15. Taken together, this may indicate that, whilst housing options may be tackling more straightforward cases, there is evidence to suggest that a minority of households now being helped by statutory homeless services may have more complex needs than was previously the case. Only around one in four cases of repeat homelessness had secured settled accommodation as their previous outcome so this issue goes further than one of tenancy sustainment. The previous outcome was not known in around 40% of cases with prison accounting for a further 10% of previous outcomes.

Outcomes

  • A total of 24,501 cases were closed during 2014-15 - these cases had been assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness and contact had been maintained through to duty discharge. This is 4% lower than in 2013-14 when the figure was 25,526. The number of cases closed has fallen as a result of there being fewer applications overall.
  • For those with a right to settled accommodation, the proportion of unintentionally homeless households securing settled accommodation has remained stable at around 80% since 2007/08. Note: Settled accommodation includes permanent accommodation - local authority lets, housing association lets, and assured tenancies in the private rented sector. Settled accommodation also includes non-permanent accommodation - accommodation where housing support has been provided which is not appropriate to provide within permanent accommodation. Non-permanent accommodation also includes a short assured tenancy in the private rented sector provided that various conditions in respect of the tenancy and the applicant are fulfilled.

Temporary accommodation

At 31 March 2015:-

  • There were 10,488 households in temporary accommodation - an increase of 207 households (2% increase) compared to one year earlier.
  • Over the last year, the number of households in temporary accommodation increased in 12 out of 32 local authorities. Notable increases have been seen in Highland (+37%), Aberdeen City (+26%), East Renfrewshire (22%), Shetland (+17%), Falkirk (+16%) and East Lothian (+15%).
  • There were 2,662 households with children in temporary accommodation - an increase of 183 households (7% increase) compared with one year earlier. These households contained a total of 4,555 children, an increase of 402 children (10% increase) compared to one year ago.
  • There were 14 households with children in bed & breakfast accommodation - an increase of three households compared to one year earlier. Four of these households were in Edinburgh, four were in West Lothian, three were in Fife and one were in each of Aberdeenshire, Glasgow and South Lanarkshire. The number of households with children in Bed & Breakfast accommodation is about a tenth of the March 2008 level (12% of the March 2008 figure).
  • There were no reported breaches of the Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2014.