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

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Outcomes

(Table 8a to Table 11 and Chart 17 to Chart 21)

Contact maintained / lost

In 2014-15, councils closed 34,586 cases. (Table 9a and Chart 17) Of these, contact was maintained until case closure for 25,740 applications (74% of cases). This was an increase of one percentage point over 2013-14. In 2014-15 contact was lost before assessment for 1,687 (5% of cases) and was lost after an assessment in 4,193 (12% of cases). The overall proportion of lost contacts has remained the same between 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Chart 17: Applications closed from 2012-13 to 2014-15

Chart 17: Applications closed from 2012-13 to 2014-15

Accommodation offered and taken up

Chart 18 and Table 8c show the offers of accommodation and outcomes for the 24,501 cases assessed as homeless, where contact was maintained until the application reached its conclusion in 2014-15. Of these, 17,146 were offered a social rented tenancy, most of whom (15,651 cases or 91%) took up the offer. Temporary accommodation was offered to 1,962 households, of whom 1,607 (82%) took up the offer; and a private rented tenancy was offered to 1,194 households, almost all of whom 1,182 (99%) accepted the offer.

The last actions of local authorities towards cases assessed as unintentionally homeless (and in priority need for cases assessed prior to 31st December 2012) remains very similar to 2013-14 with 70% of cases being offered a social rented tenancy and 5% being offered a private rented sector let. (Table 8d).

Chart 18: Scotland: 2014-15: Action taken by local authority where applicant was assessed as homeless

Chart 18: Scotland: 2014-15: Action taken by local authority where applicant was assessed as homeless

Overall outcomes

In 2014-15, settled accommodation was secured for 18,721 (73%) of the 25,740 applications where contact was maintained through to completion of the application. (Table 8b and Chart 19a). Within this, settled accommodation was secured for eight out of 13 non-priority homeless households which had an outcome during 2014-15. These cases were assessed prior to the abolition of the priority need test but duty was only discharged during 2014-15.

Chart 19a: Scotland: 2014-15: Housing outcome of applications

Chart 19a: Scotland: 2014-15: Housing outcome of applications

Note: This chart includes 13 non-priority cases that were assessed prior to the abolition of the priority need test, but which didn't have an outcome until 2014-15.

There are different overall outcomes depending upon the household type of the applicants. During 2014-15, for those assessed as unintentionally homeless, 73.9% of single people secured settled accommodation as the final outcome and 3.3% secured temporary accommodation. This compares with families and other household types where around 85% secured settled accommodation, and less than 1% secured temporary accommodation (Chart 19b).

Chart 19b: Scotland: 2014-15: Housing outcome of applications by household type

Chart 19b: Scotland: 2014-15: Housing outcome of applications by household type

Note: The original idea for this chart came from analysis by Crisis. Only households assessed as unintentionally homeless are included.

Whilst this chart could be interpreted as suggesting that household type has an important impact in determining whether settled accommodation is secured, other factors are likely to be important. Indeed, research[9] was recently conducted by the Scottish Government to understand which factors are important in predicting whether applicants go on to secure settled accommodation. The important factors included:

  • The statutory assessment decision (as expected - only a decision of 'unintentionally homeless' gives applicants the right to settled accommodation).
  • The provision of housing support with the re-housing outcome.
  • The local authority. (This term is likely to encompass more than just the administration of the homelessness service, and may also reflect the impact of other factors, including geography, availability of housing supply and the local economy).
  • The provision of longer term temporary accommodation in the social sector or leased from the private sector, rather than short term placements in B&B and hostels.

The research also found that applicants were only half as likely to secure settled accommodation if they were discharged from armed forces, hospital or prison compared to those that weren't discharged from these establishments. Crucially, in itself, household type was not found to be an important factor.

Chart 20: Scotland: Accommodation secured by homeless applicants

Chart 20: Scotland: Accommodation secured by homeless applicants

The number of homeless households securing a social let from either a local authority or housing association increased from 11,685 in 2002-03 to a peak of 21,318 lets in 2009-10. The total number of social lets to homeless households has fallen back slightly and now stands at 16,537 in 2014-15, mirroring the reduction in applications. Comparing 2014-15 and 2002-03, there has been an increase of 4,852 (+42%) social lets to homeless households. (Chart 20 and Table 8a)

There has been a marked increase in the number of homeless households securing a housing association tenancy - increasing from 1,488 in 2002-03 to a peak of 8,297 in 2009-10 since when it has reduced to 5,891 in 2014-15. The increase in housing association lets to homeless households is partly explained by stock transfers in six local authority areas[10], where ownership of the local authorities housing stock transferred to housing associations. For these local authorities, what would have been classified as local authority lets are now classed as housing association lets.

Focusing on those with a right to settled accommodation - that is those assessed as unintentionally homeless and with whom contact was maintained through to duty discharge - the proportion securing settled accommodation has remained stable at around 80% since 2007/08. (Chart 20b).

Chart 20b: Percentage of cases assessed as unintentionally homeless [and in priority need], securing settled accommodation and where contact was maintained to duty discharge

Chart 20b: Percentage of cases assessed as unintentionally homeless [and in priority need], securing settled accommodation and where contact was maintained to duty discharge

Note: For the purposed of this chart only, settled accommodation includes both permanent accommodation - local authority lets, housing association lets, and assured tenancies in the private rented sector - and also non-permanent accommodation. Non-permanent accommodation -inlcudes 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 provided that various conditions in respect of the tenancy and the applicant are fulfilled. The inclusion of non-permanent accommodation increases the proportion securing settled accommodation by two percentage points.

Action taken to prevent homelessness

A question introduced from 1 April 2007 asks councils, at the time they close an application, to identify the action they took to prevent homelessness for households assessed as threatened with homelessness or assessed as not homeless. Councils can record more than one prevention activity for each application. Chart 21 shows prevention actions taken for the 2,931 households who were assessed as threatened with homelessness or not homeless and whose case was closed in 2014-15. Of these, 895 (31%) were provided with an assessment of their support needs, 767 (26%) were provided with assistance in finding alternative accommodation, 500 (17%) received independent financial, legal or housing advice, 345 (12%) received basic housing support, 234 (8%) received assistance in dealing with their landlord or mortgage provider, 180 (6%) had assistance in claiming benefits, 72 (2%) were assisted to use a rent deposit/ guarantee scheme, for 130 (4%) a Social Work/ Health/ or Community Care service was involved and services such as counselling or mediation were provided for 120 (4%).

Chart 21: Scotland: 2014-15: Actions taken to prevent homelessness

Chart 21: Scotland: 2014-15: Actions taken to prevent homelessness

Note: One applicant was assessed prior to the abolition of the priority need test as not in priority need, but the action taken to prevent homelessness was carried out after abolition.

The distribution of prevention activities recorded for homeless applicants in 2014-15 remains broadly unchanged from 2013-14. However, further more detailed information on prevention work by local authorities are provided in the Housing Options (PREVENT1) statistics[11].

Homeless share of social lets

The majority of homeless households who secure a social let following their homeless application do so because they are assessed as unintentionally homeless and in priority need. In such cases an offer of a social let is made and the household accepts this. In addition to this, some other homeless households secure a social let during the period of their application - perhaps because they were already on a local authority or housing association housing list - during the period of their homelessness application, they are offered and accepted a let. The homelessness statistics (HL1) system records both types of outcome. In other statistical sources (such as local authority and housing associations' letting statistics) the lets secured through the discharge of local authorities' statutory duties are often described as lets to statutory homeless or, in the case of housing associations, they are called section 5 referrals or homeless nominations.

Chart 22: Social lets secured by homeless households by assessment decision

Chart 22: Social lets secured by homeless households by assessment decision

Chart 22 shows the number of social lets secured by homeless households in each year since 2002-03, by homeless assessment decision. Over the period, numbers securing a social let, by both of the above routes, initially increased between 2002-03 to 2009-10 and have then fallen back as reductions in homelessness applications take hold. This reflects the initially increasing numbers of homeless households who have been given priority status, and then more recent reductions in homeless applications.

Chart 23: Estimated homeless share of local authority and housing association lets (excluding transfers): 2003-04 to 2014-15

Chart 23: Estimated homeless share of local authority and housing association lets (excluding transfers): 2003-04 to 2014-15

Overall homeless lets (statutory and other means) accounted for an estimated 38% of available social lets during 2014-15 (Chart 23). The proportion of social lets to homeless households has remained similar to the level seen in 2013-14.

Chart 24 shows for each local authority area the estimated[12] proportion of social lets (excluding transfer lets) secured by homeless households by assessment decision. The estimated proportion of social lets secured by homeless households in 2014-15 varied from 57% in East Renfrewshire to 15% East Ayrshire.

In East Dunbartonshire, 180 social lets were secured by cases assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness. Of these, 67 were secured by cases assessed as unintentionally homeless. Of the remaining 113 social lets secured, the vast majority of these (109 out of 113) had been assessed as threatened with homelessness and unintentionally so. These households are likely to become homeless within two months. The Council is securing alternative accommodation before these households lose their existing accommodation. This approach has resulted in homeless and potentially homeless households securing just under half of all available social lets - an estimated 47% of all non-transfer social lets in 2014-15.

Chart 24: Estimated homeless share of local authority and housing association lets (excluding transfers) in 2014-15

Chart 24: Estimated homeless share of local authority and housing association lets (excluding transfers) in 2014-15

Housing Support Regulations

Between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2015 there were 26,933 cases assessed as unintentionally homeless or threatened with homelessness that were closed during the year. Of these, 15,422 were recorded as being assessed under the housing support regulations - local authorities only have a duty to assess under these regulations if they have a reason to believe the applicant may be in need of housing support services. This represents 57% of those closed who were assessed in the period. There were 7,547 that were recorded as having had support provided (49%) as a result of the assessment (see Table 11 and Summary of Current Legislation). Improvements have been made in a number of local authorities to the way this information is reported - particularly in Argyll & Bute, Falkirk, South Ayrshire and South Lanarkshire[13].

Clearly, whilst progress is being made, the monitoring of these regulations is yet to reach its full potential. The latest figures suggest that support was provided for around 1,700 to 1,900 cases in each quarter, which is a marked increase over the 1,100 cases seen in the first and second quarter of collection (July to Sept 2013 and Oct to Dec 2013). Similarly, the number of cases assessed under the regulations has been gradually increasing from 1,500 cases for the last two quarters of 2013-14 to around 3,500 to 4,300 for the last two quarters of 2014-15.