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

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Assessments

(Table 1 and Table 6a to Table 11 and Chart 11 to Chart 16)

Table 1 provides the main summary statistics on the progress of homelessness applications, analysed by the financial year in which the application was received by the council for the purpose of comparing with historical data. On this basis, 80% of all applications were assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness. This proportion has increased steadily from 70% in 1992-93 to 80% in 2014-15.

Based on the financial year of assessment, of the 35,886 assessments in 2014-15, 29,565 (82%) were assessed as homeless or potentially homeless. The number of cases assessed as homeless or potentially homeless reduced by 521 cases (-2%) compared with 2013-14 (Table 1c).

Abolition of Priority Need test

In November 2012 the Scottish Parliament approved the Homelessness (Abolition of Priority Need Test) (Scotland) Order 2012. This meets the homelessness commitment and ensures that from 31st December 2012 onwards, local authorities no longer apply the priority need test to homeless households. As a result all unintentionally homeless households in Scotland are entitled to settled accommodation. With the priority need test now abolished, information on this aspect of the homelessness legislation is no longer collected.

Reasons for applying as homeless, for applicants which proceeded to a homelessness assessment

For those reaching the homelessness assessment stage, relationship breakdown is the main cause for applying as homeless. This is reflected in the high numbers of applicants assessed who cite a dispute within the household (29% of all assessments in 2014-15) or being asked to leave (26% of 2014-15 assessments). (Table 6c and Chart 11). Rent arrears or mortgage default account for around 6% of all homelessness assessments in 2014-15, while 7% of assessments are from those leaving prison/ hospital/ care or some other institution.

Chart 11: Applications assessed in 2014-15 by main reason for application: Scotland

Chart 11: Applications assessed in 2014-15 by main reason for application: Scotland

Councils record additional household characteristics for households assessed as homeless, even though they no longer form part of the formal homelessness assessment decision. Councils identify at least one characteristic, but more than one characteristic can be given.

The characteristics[5] in 2014-15 were that the household had dependent children (24% of all assessed as homeless), the household was fleeing domestic violence or abuse (10%), mental illness or personality disorder of a household member (10%) and a household member vulnerable for other special reasons (17%) (Chart 12).

In 2014-15, 41% of priority assessments were made 'according to local policy'. Following the abolition of the priority need test, this is a 'catch-all' reason indicating that the applicant doesn't fall into any of the other additional characteristic groups.

Chart 12: Scotland: Additional Household Characteristics: 2014-15

Chart 12: Scotland: Additional Household Characteristics: 2014-15

Repeat homelessness

The percentage of homeless assessments identified as repeat cases (i.e. where a previous application from the household had been closed less than 12 months before the current assessment[6]) fell from 9.8% in 2002-03 to a low of 5.6% in 2012-13. It has since risen to 7.2% in 2014-15. The number of repeat homelessness assessments has also increased, from around 1,800 in 2012-13 to 2,100 in 2014-15 (Chart 13).

Comparing rates of repeat homelessness by household type, 8% of assessments by single males were repeat applications, 6% of assessments by single females were repeats, while single parents and couples with or without children had lower rates of repeat homelessness. For cases of repeat homelessness, the accommodation outcome of the previous case was settled accommodation in just 23% of cases. Unknown or no outcome was reported in 38% of cases whilst prison accounted for 10% of previous outcomes.

The rate of repeat homelessness varies by local authority area, from 12.7% in Glasgow City to 0% in Orkney (Chart 14).

Chart 13: Scotland: Repeat homelessness assessments

Chart 13: Scotland: Repeat homelessness assessments

Chart 14: Repeat homelessness assessments as a percentage of all assessments by local authority area: 2014-15

Chart 14: Repeat homelessness assessments as a percentage of all assessments by local authority area: 2014-15

Intentionality Decisions

Cases assessed as homeless (or threatened with homelessness)[7] are also tested as to whether they made themselves homeless intentionally. Chart 15 shows the proportion of such cases assessed as intentionally homeless or threatened with homelessness. For Scotland, important points to note are:-

  • The proportion of cases assessed as intentionally homeless or threatened with homelessness has been increasing - from 3% during January-March 2005 to just over 6% during January-March 2014.
  • 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). In the most recent quarter (Jan-Mar 2015) the numbers have fallen back to 466 cases assessed as intentionally homeless. This compares with a low of 233 cases during January-March 2005.

Chart 15: Intentionality Decisions(as a proportion of those assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness)

Chart 15: Intentionality Decisions(as a proportion of those assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness)

Prior to the abolition of the priority need test, only those assessed a homeless [or threatened with homelessness] and in priority need would have proceeded to the intentionality test. However, following abolition, all those assessed as homeless [or threatened with homelessness] are tested for intentionality. As a result, more homeless applicants may be found to be intentionally homeless, and therefore the increases seen in Chart 15 are perhaps a reflection of this.

Support needs of homeless households

Of the 29,565 households assessed as homeless in 2014-15, 11,318 (38%) were assessed as having one or more support needs, and this was a four percentage point increase on 2013-14[8], and an increase in numbers of 1,319 households (Table 7, Chart 16).

Of those with support needs, 5,463 required support on skills for basic housing management/ independent living. This represents 18% of all homeless assessments and is a four percentage point increase from 2013-14. There were 4,234 (14% of all assessed as homeless) who required support because of mental health, and 3,298 (11%) required support because of alcohol or dependency problems.

Chart 16: Identified support needs of homeless households: Scotland: 2014-15

Chart 16: Identified support needs of homeless households: Scotland: 2014-15

Housing Support Services (Homelessness) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 were approved by the Scottish Parliament in November 2012, and came into force on 1st June 2013. These regulations were approved by the Scottish Parliament in November 2012, and came into force on 1st June 2013. These regulations place a duty on local authorities to assess the need for housing support services as prescribed in regulations for any applicant the local authority has reason to believe may be in need of housing support services and who is unintentionally homeless or threatened with homelessness. If an assessment of a need for support is made, local authorities must ensure that service is provided to the person who needs it. Information on the impact of the regulations is discussed in the section on Housing Support Regulations and Table 11.