Section three of the consultation paper focuses on the proposed changes and actions around Temporary Accommodation Standards. This chapter presents analysis of the responses to questions centring on standards including:
- Views on whether current standards are appropriate and fit for purpose
- Improvements to temporary accommodation
- Proposed new standards
- Additional standards
- Other standards
- Where standards should be included and referenced
- Working Group considerations
- A comparison of temporary accommodations
- An overview of what is considered unsuitable by those with lived experience and improvements to temporary accommodation
The assessment of current definitions of standards and whether these are appropriate and fit for purpose
Section 2: Question 7: Do you believe the current definition of unsuitable accommodation set in 2004 as set out in legislation (Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2014), which focusses on the location of the accommodation and the facilities the accommodation offers, is still the most appropriate or are there any factors you would like to see changed? Please explain.
The question on the definition of unsuitable accommodation contained two sections. Part one asked respondents to select a preferred option in relation to the definition. Of the 52 respondents who responded to this question, most selected 'there are factors I would like to see changed'. The remainder felt the current definition is 'still the most appropriate'.
Analysis by respondent subgroup showed that those desiring change were dominated by organisations with an advocacy role. Housing providers, such as local authorities, more commonly believed that the current definition is still most appropriate.
Part two asked for respondents' comments on the current definition. Dominant themes in the responses to this question, ranked from most prevalent to least prevalent, are described below.
Most common were calls for the definition to recognise that accommodation should meet the specific needs of individuals or families. Examples of needs to consider included their health, vulnerabilities, size of family and age. A small number of respondents described the needs of people with specific experiences, such as being a recent care leaver.
Many respondents shared examples of issues with the current definitions. These included descriptions of overcrowding of temporary accommodation.
A lack of clarity in definitions was also a prevalent theme in comments. Examples include:
- What 'reasonably accessible' services means.
- The language making it difficult for people to understand their rights.
- A need for clarity in relation to locality.
- For guidance in applying exemptions or exclusions.
- Calls for the guidance to outline how to determine the adequate number of bedrooms. A small number of respondents suggested that exemption reasons are overused.
Some respondents with lived experience shared examples where the type or location of temporary accommodation caused adverse impacts such as isolation, poverty and disruption for individuals, families or children.
Another theme in comments were expressions of agreement that the current definitions are still appropriate. However, many of these comments also included examples of issues in implementation, or other issues for the Scottish Government to consider when revisiting its guidelines in relation to unsuitable accommodation.
Respondents reflected on the importance of placements that enabled people to access crucial services. Some of these called for a needs or risk assessment to link service users with appropriate support. In another strand of related comments, some respondents highlighted the importance of location in relation to sustaining engagement with agencies that service users are already engaged with, such as the Department for Work and Pensions, social care or medical services.
A number of examples were provided of allocation challenges in certain geographies or specific local authorities, such as a lack of available housing stock, or where stock is dispersed across large rural areas.
Some respondents proposed changes for the Scottish Government to consider, or reflected on other contextual developments that might have an impact on policy or approaches related to temporary accommodation. These included:
- For the definition of unsuitable accommodation to mirror the standards proposed for temporary accommodation.
- For the definition to allow the use of small scale shared temporary accommodation.
- Sufficient implementation timescales to be established.
Other less frequently identified themes in comments included calls for housing providers to consider specific issues such as:
- Availability of Wi-Fi; provision of access to specific amenities, such as a fridge.
- Greater enactment of service users' rights including security of tenure.
- Closer involvement of service users in decisions about their placements.
Section 2 Question 8: In extending the Order do you think the same definition should apply to all homeless households as it currently does to families with children and pregnant women? If not, please provide an explanation of how you feel the definition should be amended to take account of the extension.
The consultation question on extending the definition to all homeless households contained two sections. Part one asked respondents to select 'yes' or 'no' to express agreement or not with the extension of the definition to all homeless households. Most of the 56 respondents who responded to this question agreed the definition should be extended to all.
Analysis by stakeholder type showed a majority of agreement within all stakeholder groups, except one. More housing providers, advocacy organisations and people with lived experience agreed than disagreed with the extension. However, among individuals without lived experience (for example, members of the public), slightly more disagreed than agreed with the proposal.
Responses were considered in relation to whether or not people believed the extension should be applied to all homeless households. As noted above, a majority of respondents agreed the definition should be extended to all households. Most respondents supported the extension on the basis of equity or fairness.
However, there were mixed views about accommodation requirements. Some suggested needs might vary depending on the make-up of the household; those without children having different needs and potentially, being more flexible in terms of their requirements. However, others suggested a consistent approach across all households is important, for example to make the transition manageable, or to achieve equity.
A small number of respondents identified practical advantages of extending the definition. These included streamlining procurement processes, as properties will be required to meet the same standards; and achieving consistency, as the variability quality of accommodation aligns to meet the same standards.
Some noted their agreement with the principle but expressed fears that housing providers would be unable to meet any new requirements in the short term. They highlighted local authorities have undergone a number of significant changes related to housing policy.
Among the small number of respondents who did not believe the definition should be extended, the following concerns were identified:
- Some expressed a view that single individuals or adult households have different needs to those with children. Within these comments were a number of suggestions that the accommodation offered for households without children might vary and could be more flexible. For example, one suggested that the reference to suitability for children within the 2014 Order should be removed for households without children.
- A small number accepted an extension of the definition in principle, but said they did not support it at this stage because of the practical challenges of meeting the anticipated demand for housing, should the definition be extended to all homeless households.
- Calls for priority to be given to needs of families with children and pregnant women were made by small number of respondents.
- One organisation did not provide a yes/no response to the question, but commented they would only support the extension should a sufficient time be provided for the transition.
Existing CIH Scotland/Shelter standards as a basis for advisory standards
Section 3 Question 1: HARSAG recommended that we build on the existing standards and to work with stakeholders to produce new standards for temporary accommodation to ensure a consistent standard of provision across the country. As a first step in this process we are looking to adopt and update the standards contained within the guidance.
Please confirm whether you agree that the existing CIH Scotland/Shelter Scotland standards provide an appropriate basis for a Scottish Government advisory standards framework. If not, please explain your answer.
Section 3 Question 2: A summary of the standards that we propose to include in the advisory framework is shown earlier in this section with further detail contained with the CIH Scotland/Shelter guidance. Do you think these standards are still relevant and fit for purpose and explain your answer?
All bar one of the respondents indicated they were in favour of the standards currently in use. Some viewed them as being adequate in their current form. Responses to this question highlighted the existing standards as comprehensive and robust, reflecting the physical and social aspects of temporary accommodation. Others highlighted the practical benefits of using existing standards as the basis of an advisory standards framework.
Many respondents, however, suggested there is a need to enhance or update the standards. Respondents from housing providers and advocacy organisations described lessons learned from the implementation of the standards, or recent changes in the context of providing temporary accommodation.
Requests for further guidance, or clarification, included:
- More guidance on how to judge if cultural needs are being met.
- How local authorities should meet the needs of EU nationals seeking temporary accommodation who are not entitled to benefits.
- Details on how to ensure that people who experience homelessness have their health and social care needs met in a coordinated way.
Other comments within the responses that asked for clarification or guidance included calls for the standards to define 'affordable'. For example, one respondent noted changes in social security policy have impacted on the affordability of temporary accommodation. One respondent asked how a 'sufficient, safe and secure space' is defined. A small number suggested the standards to be clearer on the standard of repair, observing hat wind and watertight is not a sufficient description and that the definition could draw on the expectations of the repairing standard or SHQS.
It was suggested by a small number of respondents that the standards could differentiate between accommodation types. For example, in shared accommodation, to acknowledge there will be shared cooking/laundry and WC/bathroom facilities. There was a call from a small number of respondents for more detail about what constitutes a 'suitable standard of furniture to meet the household's needs'. Respondents raised questions such as whether or not this included items such as bedding, towels, cooking implements and essential infant equipment where required.
One respondent reflected that in rural, remote or island locations, housing may not be located close to a supermarket or a doctor's surgery. They said the standards note that services could be 'reasonably' accessed by public transport but in some areas public transport may be across a stretch of water, and called for further clarification on this basis.
Proposed new standards
Lived Experience Question 17: We propose that standards cover the following areas:
- Physical: safe and secure, access to proper cooking, washing facilities, suitable for disabled people, clean, enough living space etc.
- Suitability: affordable and meets your needs.
- Located near services: schools, medical facilities
- Support: you can get the support you need from a range of services
- Management: your possessions are protected, you have a written occupancy agreement, you are involved in discussions about your stay and there are processes for moving in and out, you get a rent statement
Do these cover the right areas to improve standards in temporary accommodation? Is there anything missing?
Those responding to the lived experience section of the consultation were presented with a list of areas covered by the proposed new standards and asked if these were the right areas, or if they felt anything was missing. This question was also included in the alternative format response submitted via an organisation.
There was no indication of disagreement with the proposed list of areas to be covered. However, some respondents shared comments or gave suggestions for additional points for inclusion.
Comments on physical standards included that the space should be family friendly and have enough bedrooms or sleeping spaces for everyone being accommodated. One person noted the need for Wi-Fi. Another noted that it should include stipulations for decoration and maintenance.
A small number expressed their support for including within the location standard for the accommodation to be 'located near services', with one commenting on the importance of location being an in area that people want to stay in (especially for women and children).
With reference to the management standard, a few reiterated the importance of including security of personal possessions, and two also commented on the need to ensure personal safety by preventing alcohol and drug misuse and anti-social behaviour in shared accommodation.
"I always hated the shared letterbox as 25% of my post went astray especially around Christmas. Landlords sometimes ask one tenant to dish out the electric cards and get played upon. Fellow residents come to the room door drunk or with other problems including their loneliness." [Individual with lived experience]
One respondent highlighted a need for support to read and understand any signed agreements.
Respondents were asked to share their thoughts on whether or not additional standards are required, in the following question:
Section 3 Question 3: Please tell us whether there are any additional standards that you consider should be added to this framework and explain your reasons.
Themes in the responses to this question, ranked from most prevalent to least prevalent, are set out below. There were no notable variations by respondent subgroup; key themes were evident across responses from stakeholders.
Most prevalent within the responses to the question was a suggestion that no additional standards are needed. This view was expressed by respondents from advocacy organisations and housing providers. The comments in this theme varied; roughly half contained a short statement to the effect that no other standards were required. Others reflected positively on the existing standards in different ways, for example describing them as 'fit for purpose', but also suggesting that aspects of guidance be refined or clarified.
Second most common were calls for standards to include a requirement for the accommodation to meet the specific needs of people placed in temporary accommodation. This view was expressed by respondents from advocacy organisations, housing providers and one individual with lived experience of homelessness. A small number expressed the view that staff working with homeless people should be trained in trauma-informed delivery. One respondent suggested the Scottish Government introduce a Code of Guidance for those allocating placements, so that staff better understand the varied needs of individuals and families. Specific considerations mentioned in responses included disabilities, people with multiple and complex needs and families with infants and children.
Calls for a standard linked to the affordability of accommodation were also identified in some comments from advocacy organisations and housing providers. They included general observations that the accommodation should be affordable for tenants, and more than one called for an affordability assessment to be carried out before assigning an individual or family their temporary placement.
Some respondents reflected on conditions of residence, suggesting that the standards should promote greater rights for people placed in temporary accommodation. Descriptions of unwelcome restrictions included curfews, and lack of permission to host visitors or keep pets.
Reference to the quality of the physical environment, including furniture and other household items were identified in a small number of responses.
Enforcement of standards were also called for. In these comments, respondents suggested that without enforcement, standards could be meaningless. A small number of respondents highlighted the role of partner agencies in securing the ambitions inherent in the advisory standards. These included work delivered by health and social care partners to support people housed in temporary accommodation.
Three respondents highlighted guidance or sources of information which they believed could usefully inform the development of standards. These have been signposted to the Scottish Government for reference.
Other minor themes across comments included:
- For the standards to be developed after further consultation with people who have lived experience of homelessness.
- To position the standards within an equality and human rights-based framework,
- For safety matters to be considered when allocating placements to individuals or families; to create clear guidance for landlords,
- To establish explicit legal protection for tenants,
- For greater clarity on the term 'habitable' to avoid overcrowding accommodation,
- To facilitate digital access for tenants,
- For tenants to be able to personalise their place of stay, for example to use their own furniture.
Incorporation of other standards that apply to temporary accommodation
Section 3 Question 6: Page 9 of this consultation advises that there are already a number of other legislative standards relating to housing, that can apply to some or all types of temporary accommodation. Do you agree that a reference to these other legislative and regulatory mechanisms is made within the new set of accommodation standards? Please explain your answer.
A common response to the question on other relevant legislative and regulatory mechanisms was that their inclusion within the new set of standards would be helpful. It was explained these would reinforce and raise awareness of the legislative and regulatory framework among housing providers, staff, other stakeholders and service users.
However, some respondents called for this to be handled with care, to avoid confusion. They emphasised a need to ensure that people understand their rights. One respondent explained: 'We are concerned that this may be confusing, particularly as the standards relate to different types of tenure and may or may not always be applicable. Therefore, it is essential that these mechanisms are explained clearly and in simple language so that people can quickly and easily identify and understand their rights'.
A common concern was the complex nature of this work, in which many stakeholders collaborate together. Respondents described a need to avoid conflict in different legislative frameworks, as well as for the framework to recognize any gaps in standards under the current system.
Where standards should be included and referenced
Section 3 Question 4: On page 15 of this document we suggest that it would be appropriate for the agreed new standards for temporary accommodation to be included in the refreshed Code of Guidance on Homelessness which is due to be published later this year. Please tell us if you:
- Agree that it would be appropriate to include new standards for temporary accommodation within the refreshed Code of Guidance and explain your answer;
- Think that the new standards should also be published elsewhere and explain your answer.
Lived Experience Question 16: As a first stage, we want to put the standards into a refreshed Code of Guidance, which local authorities are expected to follow. These will be known as Advisory Standards and will allow us to do something quickly. The second stage will be to introduce Enforceable Standards but this will be a longer process as we need to consider all of the existing legislation that covers permanent housing standards to make sure that temporary accommodation meets all of these. Do you have any comments about this approach?
The vast majority of respondents felt that the standards and guidance should be incorporated into a single document. Respondents typically suggested that combining the standards and guidance into one document would make them more accessible to all stakeholders. Conversely, one respondent suggested that 'given that the Code of Guidance focuses on how homelessness applications are received and processed and the framework would focus on temporary accommodation standards there may be value in keeping these as separate, but linked, documents.
In comments on publishing the document, themes included calls to foster awareness of these new standards amongst both homeless people and the general public. It was suggested that the publication of an accessible document would support homeless households to understand their rights and, in doing so, challenge local authorities when things go wrong.
Comments on accessibility included calls for standards to be explained clearly, in simple language, with details of complaints processes and information about how to challenge decisions or seek redress when rights are breached.
Many called for the development of a leaflet to be promoted in common areas of temporary accommodation or other places that deliver services for homeless households, and tenant information packs. It was suggested the standards should also be explained by staff that signpost people to enter temporary accommodation. A small number suggested the standards should be included in tender documentation for housing providers.
Finally, it was suggested by one respondent that the standards are published on a range of public websites including the Scottish Government, local authority sites, Citizens Advice Scotland and homeless charities.
Only a small number of comments were made by those with lived experience in relation to the proposed two stage approach (a first stage where local authorities follow standards in a refreshed Code of Guidance, and a second stage of enforceable standards). A common concern among those who commented was that an initial stage of advisory standards was unlikely to result in any change. They argued that moving to enforceable standards straight away, or as soon as possible, would be more effective.
Working Group considerations
Section 4 Question 6: In establishing up a Working Group to take forward the production of a new standards framework we will set terms of reference which will define their purpose, aims and objectives. In setting the remit of the group, what do you think the Group need to take into account as they develop a new standards framework for temporary accommodation?
Lived Experience Question 18: We will set up a Working Group to develop the new standards framework for temporary accommodation. Is there anything you think this group should do or take into account as they do this?
A number of suggestions were offered in relation to the operation of the Working Group. Many respondents argued it must include representation from people who have lived experience of homelessness to inform their work. Respondents from all of the key stakeholder sectors suggested the Working Group should have broad a cross section of representation; not just housing providers, but those that deliver support and services that address the needs of homeless households, such as health or social care services.
Another frequent theme in the responses to this question was for the Working Group to give due weight to local authorities' implementation of Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans. Respondents reiterated points made elsewhere in their consultation response, for example, that many local authorities will be dealing with multiple priorities, with limited resources at their disposal. A small number argued that the Working Group should quantify the financial impact of meeting the revised standards framework and produce recommendations as to how Local Authorities will be supported to meet the new temporary accommodation standards. One called for the Working Group to provide clarity on timescales for the implementation on any mandatory actions required.
Specific tasks suggested for the Working Group included the development of guidance on temporary accommodation factors, such as the location in relation to essential services and places of work, the physical arrangements of accommodation, the number of bedrooms required in any given property.
It was also suggested the Working Group could ensure the system is attuned to varying challenges faced by Local Authorities and the different models of temporary accommodation and tenure types on offer. A small number of respondents asked the Working Group to consider the enhanced role of health and social care partnerships in temporary housing models.
A role for the group in relation to monitoring and reporting was also mentioned in some comments. This included to monitor and report on the housing and support needs of people experiencing homelessness; the availability and affordability of accommodation for local authorities to use as temporary accommodation; how temporary accommodation is allocated and managed; support for tenants to sustain temporary accommodation; and the impact of changes in the welfare system
Most common within references to the skills and experience of the Working Group were calls to ensure that the individual needs and circumstances of people are taken into account. For example, one asked for members of the Working Group to be 'empathetic to the experiences, backgrounds, and/or trauma of the people who stay in temporary accommodation and not be judgemental of them'.
One respondent suggested that the Working Group visit or use temporary accommodation to understand the issues. Another highlighted the need to be aware of the different pressures being faced by different local authorities.
In terms of specific areas of focus, one respondent commented on the need to consider the gendered nature of homelessness, particularly in relation to domestic abuse, and other equality issues. Beyond this, around half of those contributing to the alternative format response submitted via an organisation gave both specific points and general comments around temporary accommodation for the Scottish Government to review.
What is considered unsuitable by those with Lived Experience
Among the small number of respondents who responded to the lived experience questions in the consultation, all agreed that it was common to live in unsuitable accommodation of the type outlined in the consultation. Most agreed that it was 'very common'. There was also a clear consensus with most indicating that Bed and Breakfast accommodation was more likely to be unsuitable.
The lived experience section of the consultation included several questions which asked respondents to reflect on their experiences of unsuitable temporary accommodation.
Lived Experience Question 3: What do you need from temporary accommodation to make it suitable for you?
Lived Experience Question 5: We are making changes to the Unsuitable Accommodation Order so no-one has to stay in 'unsuitable' accommodation for more than 7 days. What does unsuitable mean for you?
Lived Experience Question 6: Legally, suitable accommodation currently means that you:-
- Are housed where people in your household can access schools and medical services in the local area
- Have adequate bedrooms for members of your household
- Have exclusive use of toilet and washing facilities for members of your household
- Have access to your own or shared cooking facilities and use of a living room
- Can stay in the accommodation at all times, with no curfew and are allowed visitors
Is there anything else you would add to the above list or take away?
Lived Experience Question 11: We want to improve the standards in temporary accommodation across Scotland. Thinking about your experience(s) of living in temporary accommodation, what types of things would make/have made your stay more positive or pleasant?
Respondents were also provided with a list of the current legal requirements of suitable temporary accommodation and asked to comment on the list. Similarly, the alternative format response submitted via an organisation provided a list of factors which determine if a property is unsuitable and asked respondents to comment.
In general, no objections or disagreement were raised with the list of requirements for suitable accommodation (or the alternative format responses definition of unsuitable accommodation). Rather, responses tended to reiterate the existing requirements while often highlighting instances where they not been met. Some suggested where the requirements need to be expanded or to include specific points or improvements.
Most common were comments on cooking facilities. These included mention of lack of facilities and the problems this causes, requests for storage including fridges and freezers, and calls for everyone to have their own cooking facilities.
Second most common in responses to this question was mention of unwanted curfews or other curtailments and restrictions. Respondents suggested this can be restrictive and isolating, or made them feel like a criminal. One respondent highlighted that curfews can be prohibitive to people employed in hospitality or shift-work. Related to this were calls for visitors to be allowed, to avoid social isolation and one call for pets to be allowed.
The need for accommodation to be clean and in a good state of repair was another prevalent theme in comments. For example, in response to the question on what respondents viewed as unsuitable, respondents shared descriptions such as 'squalidly' 'odorous', 'unclean', 'shabby' 'filthy' and 'dirty' 'cockroaches and other insects'; conversely respondents asked for accommodation that is 'clean', 'fit for living in relation to hygiene standards'.
There were also comments about staff, which fell into two key strands:
- Calls for staff in temporary accommodation to be welcoming and considerate; some described experiences of feeling judged or having their problems dismissed as 'just complaining'. There were also calls for the staff to be trained, understand and be empathetic to the circumstances and needs of people who are temporarily homeless.
- Other comments focussed on the housing officers. There were similar calls for being treated with dignity and respect, but also for better and more frequent communication about what was being done to progress peoples' cases.
- A washing machine was commonly mentioned as required for accommodation to be suitable.
Safety and security were referenced in different ways. Some simply called for temporary accommodation to be a 'safe place', and for it to be located in a safe area. A small number commented on the importance of personal possessions being secure. One person raised the need for single sex accommodation.
Related to this, a few described antisocial behaviour of other residents. They noted it can feel threatening and some called for there to be no drugs or no people with addiction issues housed in the accommodation.
The choice of area was important to many, with the main concern being that people are housed in an area which is familiar to them. In responses to this question some highlighted the value of being close to existing support services and networks. Others reflected on the need to be close to day-to-day services, particularly schools for households with children. One person raised the need to be close to good transport links.
A small number of respondents also called for financial support, but this tended to be money to help finance travel between existing networks such as schools and areas where they are housed.
Comments on the importance of accommodation meeting the needs of residents covered three areas. Firstly, to give consideration to any physical barriers or disabilities experienced by residents. Respondents reflected on being placed in high-rise buildings, needing to climb several flights of stairs or lacking accessible bathing facilities. Secondly, to be aware of any mental health concerns and ensure homeless households are not placed in accommodation which could exacerbate any existing conditions. Finally, two respondents commented on religious requirements in relation to sharing food preparation areas (eating pork, halal meat etc.).
A number commented on the need for greater support to be available within temporary accommodation, particularly in relation to supporting those with mental health needs or addiction issues.
The remaining comments focussed on aspects of the facilities offered by temporary accommodation. These included for an adequate number of bedrooms to accommodate all those present, and the need for beds and for clean bedding and calls for private toilet and bathroom facilities.
Some requested a living room or similar communal space, with a few highlighting the value of this in reducing any feelings of loneliness or isolation within the setting.
A small number of respondents mentioned disparate issues such as provision of a TV, Wi-Fi, control over heating, adequate portions of food and basic furnishings which should be ready when someone moves in.
Comparisons between temporary and permanent accommodation
Lived Experience Question 12: How would you compare the standard of temporary accommodation with the standards of any permanent accommodation that you have experienced?
A small number of respondents reflected on experiences of temporary accommodation compared with permanent accommodation. These views varied considerably; a few felt there was no difference, but on balance permanent accommodation was seen as better. Reasons for this were highlighted as being able to settle in an area, being able to have your own furniture and decorate, and a lack of curfews and security concerns. Two negatives mentioned about permanent accommodation were unscrupulous landlords and the lack of furnishings. One respondent pointed out a potential benefit from the communal, supportive environment of supported accommodation as opposed to social isolation resulting from permanent accommodation.
"Like 'night and day'. The permanent accommodation that I have lived in previously was in a place I wanted to stay. I had enough space for me and my children to live in (comfortably). We could see our friends and family regularly and whenever we wanted. My kids could go out and play etc. I didn't have to share any of the accommodation. I didn't have to worry about my stuff being stolen or workers going into my room when I wasn't there. I didn't have to pay for travel for my children to attend school etc. I was able to buy shopping in bulk not on a day to day basis. I could do my laundry when I needed to. I could come and go as I pleased. I didn't have to worry about getting back to the accommodation by a certain time. If I wanted friends or family to come round and sometimes stay over, they could. I could stay out overnight if I wanted, there was no threat of losing the accommodation etc." [Individual]