All those assessed as homeless by local authorities in Scotland have a right to accommodation, unlike the rest of the UK.
Those at risk of homelessness are legally entitled to help and support, to stop people losing their home and help them find another as soon as possible. This also helps identify other contributing issues, such as debt or mental health problems, so that the right support measures can be put in place.
Up to 18 per cent of those who approach their local authority for assistance do not go on to be assessed as homeless, often due to a change in circumstances.
For those who do become homeless, the availability of temporary accommodation means that people have a place to stay until permanent accommodation is found and support (if needed) is in place.
In October 2019 we announced a working group of experts and key partners, supported by Crisis, that will consider options for a new law ensuring all public bodies work together to prevent homelessness. The Prevention Review Group will make recommendations in summer 2020.
Local connection and intentionality provisions: changing definitions
We want to remove barriers to support which can hinder the prevention of homelessness, we commenced the local connection and intentionality provisions in the Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003.
This will modify how people are assessed as homeless, recognising that there are usually good reasons for people wishing to live in a certain area. Also that sometimes complex health and wellbeing issues need to be addressed when people are found to be intentionally homeless.
We will work with key partners to publish a statement in November 2020 on taking forward the new power to modify the operation of local connection referrals. This will include a consultation during 2020.
Housing Options is an information and advice process that councils use when someone approaches them with a housing problem. It aims to prevent homelessness wherever possible and its introduction in 2010 was credited with a significant fall in homelessness applications.
The service focuses on people's personal circumstances, helping them explore all options, including council housing, housing association homes and private rented accommodation. It can also provide support for underlying issues that can underpin housing problems such as debt, family breakup and mental health problems.
This means that, rather than just making a homeless application, housing officers can work with other services to help people before they reach crisis point.
Why the Housing Options approach was introduced
The initial aim of the Housing Options approach was to help local authorities meet the 2012 Homelessness Target that 'all those assessed as unintentionally homeless will be entitled to settled accommodation as a legal right'.
We created the Scottish Housing Options funding programme to help councils make the necessary changes, which included establishing five regional knowledge sharing 'Hubs' in autumn 2010.
Housing Options Hubs
Housing Options Hubs bring together neighbouring councils in Scotland to promote, develop and share information and best practice on the prevention of homelessness.
Hubs are council-led but membership can include other organisations (for example, third sector agencies and social landlords) who work in partnership to deliver services.
The hubs are:
- Ayrshire & South: North Ayrshire, Dumfries & Galloway, East Ayrshire, Inverclyde and South Ayrshire
- Edinburgh, Lothians & Borders: City of Edinburgh, East Lothian, Falkirk, Midlothian, Scottish Borders and West Lothian
- North & Islands: Highland, Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Eilean Siar, Moray, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands
- Tayside, Fife & Central: Perth & Kinross, Angus, Argyll & Bute, Clackmannanshire, Dundee City, Stirling and Fife
- West: East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow City, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, South Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire. Glasgow Housing Association is also a member.
We have provided continued funding to the Hubs since 2010 to help them to continue developing their approach to homeless prevention including £150,000 provided in 2019/20.
Housing Options guidance and evaluation
Our Housing Options Guidance sets out the principles on which any effective Housing Options service should be based, as well as the outcomes it should aim to achieve.
The Hubs were evaluated in 2012. The evaluation found that the Hubs have helped to advance the Housing Options approach and helped councils work together and share best practice.
- evaluation of the Local Authority Housing Hubs Approach report
- research findings from the Local Authority Housing Hubs Approach report
- best practice checklist for organisers and hub members
The positive impact of the Hubs was also noted in the Infrastructure and Capital Investment (ICI) Committee report into the 2012 Homelessness Commitment.