1. The Programme for Government announced by the First Minister on 5 September 2017 set out a new commitment to eradicate rough sleeping, transform the use of temporary accommodation in Scotland and end homelessness.
2. The Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) was subsequently established to initiate these changes. HARSAG made 70 recommendations which led to the Ending Homelessness Together High Level Action Plan, which set out how the Scottish Government would work with partners to end rough sleeping and homelessness.
3. One HARSAG recommendation was to modify the operation of local connection by suspending the power of local authorities in Scotland to make referrals and the Scottish Government has been gathering views on taking this forward.
4. This is an analysis report of the Scottish Government’s consultation on a Ministerial Statement for modifying local connection referrals in Scotland, which ran from the 3 August to 23 October 2020. The consultation is part of taking forward a key action from the Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan, published jointly by the Scottish Government and COSLA and updated in October 2020.
5. The consultation paper invited comments on the content of a statement which Scottish Ministers are required to publish to set out the circumstances in which, and the general criteria by reference to which, their power, under Section 33A of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987, to modify local connection referrals is to be exercised. It also invited comments on the Scottish Government’s proposal to suspend local connection referrals between Scottish local authorities.
6. The consultation paper posed four questions and the Scottish Government received 44 responses (7 from individuals and 37 from organisations). Organisations responding included local authorities, third sector organisations, tenants groups and others.
7. There was general support in responses regarding the core content of the ministerial statement and the overarching aim of the proposed changes to give people experiencing or threatened with homelessness greater control over their journey from homelessness.
8. However, a majority of local authority responses noted concerns that the proposal to suspend referrals could negatively impact on the ability to deliver their housing and homelessness duties. The current power to apply the local connection test was viewed amongst a number of those responses as a useful tool to direct households to where they already have existing support and networks.
9. The responses to the consultation will be carefully considered and will help inform the final version of the ministerial statement and, after some further discussions with stakeholders, the decisions on implementing any legislative changes.
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