Publication - Minutes

Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group minutes: September 2020

Published: 22 Sep 2020
Date of meeting: 8 Sep 2020
Date of next meeting: 8 Dec 2020

Minutes of the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group meeting in September 2020.

Published:
22 Sep 2020
Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group minutes: September 2020

Attendees and apologies

Attendees

  • Kevin Stewart MSP (Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning; Co-Chair)
  • Cllr Elena Whitham, COSLA (Community Wellbeing Spokesperson; Co-Chair)
  • Laura Caven, COSLA
  • David Duke, Street Soccer Scotland
  • Alison Watson, Shelter Scotland
  • Sally Thomas, SFHA
  • Lorraine McGrath, Simon Community
  • Jon Sparkes, Crisis
  • Sabrina Galella, A Way Home Scotland/Rock Trust Coalition
  • John Mills, ALACHO
  • Janice Stevenson, LGBT Youth Scotland
  • Gavin Yates, Homeless Action Scotland
  • Jo Ozga, Scottish Women’s Aid
  • Angie Wood, Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership
  • Ruth Robin, Healthcare Improvement Scotland
  • Catriona MacKean, Scottish Government
  • Janine Kellett, Scottish Government
  • Graham Thomson, Scottish Government
  • Melanie Goodfellow, Scottish Government
  • Karen Grieve, Scottish Government
  • Lynsey MacKean, Scottish Government
  • Marion Gibbs, Scottish Government
  • Matt Howarth, Scottish Government
  • Lee Bunce, Scottish Government

Apologies

  • Neil Hamlet, NHS Fife – Ruth Robin deputising.
  • Peter Barry, SOLACE
  • Shea Moran, Aff the Streets

Items and actions

1. Welcome and introductions

Cllr Whitham welcomed everyone to the meeting and thanked everyone for joining the call.

As there was a full agenda, members were advised that the link to the published minutes from the last meeting on 14 July had already been circulated and any changes are to be sent directly to Melanie to amend.

2. Regular updates

Jon gave a brief verbal update to members on the Collective’s work on night shelters. Regular roundtable meetings are being held with a number of stakeholders to make sure there isn’t a need for night shelters in Edinburgh or Glasgow this winter. A lot of work has already been done to achieve this with Bethany Christian Trust and Glasgow City Mission both making great positive steps to prepare for the winter period. Bethany will offer direct access to hotels and Glasgow City Mission have similar plans in place. This accommodation and the support provided alongside it should prevent any ‘informal shelters’ from opening this winter.

Lorraine then gave members a brief verbal update on the NRPF route map. A consultation is underway and this will conclude at the end of September. Around 20 responses have been received so far and they are also offering consultation sessions to allow more direct input from those who may not otherwise engage. The key challenges remain conversations with funders and housing providers to help understand the gaps and clarify what can legally be done to support this group. The minister wants to continue to push this work forward and keep pressure on the UK Government. Another letter to the UK Government from HPSG would help to keep the pressure on.

Alison raised the issue around EU nationals being told they’re not eligible for housing support. Officials agreed this could be raised through the Housing Options (HO) Hubs to clarify their rights.

Officials have now received one Welcome Centre proposal for Edinburgh with Glasgow’s proposal to follow shortly. The minister would like to try and move away from this type of accommodation altogether, but recognises the need for a transition period and that this may be a helpful solution.

John gave members an update on the most recent RRTP subgroup meeting. This was the first meeting in the recovery period and a good opportunity to hear how recovery plans are going. The second year of RRTP funding has now been confirmed and HO Hubs leads gave an update on challenges being faced on the frontline.

There are concerns around the number of people in temporary accommodation and local authorities are looking at ways to maximise housing options to try and move people on as quickly and safely as possible. The subgroup wants to understand how year three funding could be more targeted to support delivery of each local RRTP. Homeless Network Scotland is also working on developing a Housing First national development framework to provide context and learning from the pilot Pathfinder cities, which will allow this programme to be scaled up across Scotland. A consultation on this will be undertaken later in the autumn. Housing First will now be a standing agenda item for the sub-group.

The group recognised that the Private Rented Sector is a critical area of access, but there are challenges when moving people in to this type of accommodation. A lot of work is on-going to maximise access and engage with this sector and the pilot in Edinburgh is making some headway. John also highlighted that the subgroup discussed the need for the percentage of homelessness lets to increase overall if rapid rehousing is going to be successfully scaled up and be a key part of recovery plans.

Jo raised concerns around an increase in domestic abuse being reported to Police and refuges remaining at capacity, but the HO Hubs are not seeing an increase in homelessness presentations. This could be a gap in data collection.  

The minister reminded members that whilst data collection work is usually very good, this will have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Mr Stewart also pointed out that allocations are still happening and that these are going to the most vulnerable where possible and agreed that it is imperative that a high percentage of allocations go to this group. He also noted that whilst best practice has been shared with local authorities, this hasn’t always been utilised so it is important to take this on board when taking recovery plans forward.

Sabrina then gave a verbal update on behalf of the Change Team. The team have been working closely with SG officials to understand how they can feed in to the on-going work to ensure those with lived experience have the opportunity to engage at the right time. The team also wants to build a more inclusive team and work with as many groups and feed in to the work as much as possible.

Action:

  • SG officials to clarify rights of EU nationals at HO Hubs.
  • SG officials to share RRTP funding allocations with members for information.

3. Homelessness Statistics and returns to the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR)

Graham introduced the paper to members and briefly covered the key statistics.

Alison highlighted that these are worrying statistics, particularly those relating to temporary accommodation. These are likely to be even higher now as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, which is a concern shared by the group. This shows the urgency needed to tackle this issue, ensure work is properly resourced and that there is a good enough social housing supply.

The minister agreed with members that we must continue to do everything we can, but highlighted that some of this is out with the hands of the Scottish Government, e.g. welfare reform. That is why there are some areas we need to continue to put pressure on the UK Government to change.

Cllr Whitham highlighted that shifting resources and working together will help to tackle this, but welfare support is a huge driver.

Jon highlighted that the rough sleeping figures for England (pre-pandemic) would be published on 9 September and will show an increase in the number of people on the streets. This highlights how successful the Scottish response to the pandemic is and is a credit to the work that has been undertaken in recent months.

Jo shared the concerns of others about these statistics and added that a review on collecting data on those with protected characteristics and their intersectionality would help to develop more targeted prevention work. Jo said we need to know more about who is being made homeless; she has been able to get the information from SG statisticians but it would help if the SG published equality breakdowns.

Lee from the Housing, Homelessness & Regeneration Analysis Unit in the Scottish Government joined the discussion and advised members that work is underway to consider how to release more data in future publications.  An equalities breakdown was published in November last year and the statisticians can do the same again this year. A data review is also planned to understand where the gaps are and an update can be brought to a future meeting. Members would be happy to support and have input to this work.

Gavin raised his concerns that the Scottish Housing Regulator statistics are showing that pre-eviction protocols have started to rise and that this may continue over the coming months.

The minister reminded members that the HARSAG II recommendations and the updated action plan will help to bring about the some of the changes that are needed following the pandemic and this highlights why this work must be pushed through as quickly and effectively as possible.

Action:

  • David Duke will send over questions to SG officials, who will also share these and the answers with the minister.

4. HARSAG II: the Scottish Government’s and COSLA’s response

Janine provided a verbal update to members on behalf of the Scottish Government and COSLA. Members were advised that there would be an opportunity for them to feed in their comments on the updated action plan ahead of publication and once Mr Stewart and Cllr Whitham have had the chance to comment, although the timescales would be tight. Members were keen to participate in this.

It was highlighted that the Prevention Review group is yet to report with their recommendations and members were keen to understand how this would be fed in to the new action plan. The minister will take this forward with officials but this is a living document as changes will be needed as things develop and long term pieces of work conclude.

Members noted that some of the HARSAG II recommendations may require legislation, but there is nothing in the PfG about this, so members wanted to know when this would be taken forward. The minister advised that there is no time in the current Parliamentary term but that drafting work would be done in advance of the next Parliament to ensure this progresses as fast as possible. However there are things, such as Brexit, that are likely to take up a large amount of time.  

Jon noted that the proposed publication of the updated action plan is very soon after the publication of the HARSAG II recommendations, which highlights how much work has gone in to taking this forward.

Action:

  • The minister asked Janine to update HSPG members on how we see the legislative changes coming into play.

5. Homelessness prevention

Members provided a range of updates relating to work that is underway on homelessness prevention.

The minister provided an update on eviction legislation. He advised members that it is important that mediation plays a big part in dealing with cases relating to anti-social behaviour. It is important to get to the root of the issue but should not be used as an alternative route to evict tenants.

Members asked about support around rent arrears and raised concerns that the Tenant Hardship Fund was a loan rather than a grant. As a loan, this could lead to further debt and then affect credit ratings. It may be helpful to rethink how this is administered and include more flexibility to ensure sustainability. The minister assured members that this was the only way to advance this and highlighted that a further £3 million had been allocated to DHPs, bringing the total support to £19 million. It is still the case that people are signposted to all the other support available in the first instance before being referred to this fund and that debt support and advice is given to everyone who needs it. Members asked for more information on how the DHP funding has been distributed and Janine agreed to share this.

Jon gave the group an update on the work being progressed by the Prevention Review Group. This has moved at pace and is an important piece of work. The Group is now testing out what draft legislation might look like, to ensure recommendations are clear and specific, and how to ensure the system is fully accountable. A final report is expected later this year.

Sally then gave an update on the Homelessness Prevention Fund. The number of applications for this fund are encouraging as they show a huge amount of interest in this work. These are still to be reviewed and the outcomes will be advised shortly. Sally also advised that a meeting with Mears had taken place and had been positive. They were looking at how to communicate effectively and will ensure dialogue continues. 

The group were then given an update on the Domestic Abuse Pathway from Jo. An interim update from the working group will be circulated to members for their information. The group acknowledged that the introduction of new legislation for Protective Barring Orders will really help to make important improvements and takes a critical first step in preventing homelessness for women and children. 

Sabrina provided the final update about the work that is underway to develop a Youth Pathway. A Way Home Scotland developed and launched the Care Leavers Pathway last year, but this pathway will be for all young people. This would mean that homelessness for young people would be rare, brief and non-cyclical. The current work was focusing on how to prevent homelessness in young people by engaging with families and schools. Shea is working on a survey for young people to ensure it includes lived experience and members can let Sabrina know if they are aware of anyone that might like to be involved in supporting this work.

Action:

  • Janine will provide members with an update on how the DHP funding has been distributed.
  • Jo will circulate an update from the Domestic Abuse Pathway working group.

6. AOB and close

Angie would like to discuss the review of Adult Social Care and officials will take this forward with Angie to ensure this is framed in the context of homelessness. Lorraine agreed that this would be a helpful discussion, particularly on social care provision for those who are homeless.

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday 8 December 2020.

Action:

  • Angie to take forward a discussion with SG officials around the review of Adult Social Care and how this impacts on homelessness.

Contact

Email: Melanie.Goodfellow@gov.scot