1 Having somewhere to call home is a basic human right and housing is one of the most important factors in any person's quality of life. In this regard, Scotland already has some of the strongest rights in the world for people experiencing homelessness, and everyone who is threatened with homelessness is entitled to help from their local authority to secure a stable home.
2 We know, however, that not everyone is able to access those rights and that there are some who still contend with barriers to support when faced with homelessness. The Scottish Government is determined to remove these barriers. We want people who are facing homelessness to have the freedom to settle where they choose, with access to the support they require, wherever they find themselves in housing crisis.
3 Last year, the Scottish Government issued a consultation paper inviting views on a recommendation from the original sitting of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) to commence the provision in Section 8 of the Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 ("the 2003 Act") to give Scottish Ministers the power to modify, by statutory order, referrals for local connection. HARSAG also recommended that Ministers use the new power to suspend referrals between local authorities in Scotland. The consultation also sought views on the HARSAG recommendation to commence the provision in section 4 of the 2003 Act to change the duty for local authorities to investigate for intentionality to a power to investigate, and this was commenced in November 2019.
4 Following the consultation, the Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 (Commencement No. 4) Order 2019 commenced the local connection provisions, giving Scottish Ministers the power to modify the operation of referrals between local authorities within Scotland. The provisions also required that Scottish Ministers must publish a statement setting out the circumstances and general criteria by reference to which modifications will take place.
5 This Scottish Government consultation paper invites your views on our joint commitment to address barriers for people facing homelessness by taking forward the power to modify local connection referrals, and by effectively monitoring any changes which are to be introduced. In particular, we would like to receive views on the core content of the draft Ministerial statement and our proposal to suspend local connection referrals, as set out at Section 2.
6 People working in local authorities and with delivery partners across Scotland will be at the forefront of making this change and ensuring barriers to support are addressed; and people facing homelessness are at the heart of why the Scottish Government is committed to making these changes. We want as many people as possible to share their views and would encourage you to respond to any or all of the questions in Section 3 where you feel you have a contribution to make. However, in responding to this consultation, please do not feel constrained by the questions set.
7 The paper contains 4 sections:
- Section 1 sets out the background to the provisions contained in the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 as they currently apply; the approach recommended by HARSAG; the powers contained within the Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 and effect of commencing Section 8; and details of the further consultation which has taken place since HARSAG reported.
- Section 2 sets out the proposed content of the Ministerial Statement on exercising the power to modify local connection, as well as details of a proposal to suspend referrals for local connection and future monitoring arrangements. Consultees are asked for their views on these issues.
- Section 3 contains the consultation questions; information on how to respond to the consultation; a copy of the respondent information form; and accompanying information on Scottish Government consultation exercises.
- Section 4 (Annex A): contains statistical data tables on local connection referrals.
8 The main pieces of primary legislation involved are the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 and the Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 - these are referred to throughout this paper as "the 1987 Act" and "the 2003 Act" respectively.
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