Ending homelessness together: annual report 2022

This annual report sets out the progress made in the last 12 months by national government, local government and third sector partners towards ending homelessness in Scotland.

Progress against actions to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place

Preventing homelessness from happening in the first place is the best and most effective way to end homelessness. The Scottish Government’s plans to introduce new homelessness prevention duties as part of the forthcoming housing bill remain on track. This ground-breaking new legislation take us even closer to our goal of ending homelessness in Scotland. The new duties will allow people to get help earlier – up to six months before they are at risk of homelessness – and will require public services to ask about someone’s housing situation and then act to get them help if needed.

  • The Scottish Government and COSLA consulted on the new homelessness prevention duties between December 2021 and April 2022 and received 113 responses.
  • Independent analysis of the responses by social research agency The Lines Between found widespread support for the proposed new homelessness prevention duties. Respondents believed the proposals would strengthen existing practice, improve consistency and positively impact those at greater risk of homelessness. They also noted the potential long-term savings resulting from a focus on prevention.
  • The Scottish Government will draw on this evidence base when shaping the duties to be included in the housing bill and when developing the associated guidance.
  • Local authorities are already doing excellent work on homelessness prevention. In August 2022, Crisis published 75 ways to prevent homelessness, a compendium of examples showing that many services in Scotland are already operating in the spirit of the new homelessness duties.
  • A task and finish group of the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group, co-chaired by Matt Downie, chief executive of Crisis, and Ewan Aitken, chief executive officer of Cyrenians, will consider what groundwork is needed to ensure successful implementation of Scotland’s homelessness prevention legislation.

Our forthcoming housing bill will give new and strengthened rights to tenants. In the meantime, the need to help people through the cost of living crisis means the Scottish Government’s programme for government 2022 to 2023 has a strong focus on tenancy sustainment alongside measures to protect tenants’ rights and avoid evictions into homelessness.

  • The Scottish Government has introduced temporary emergency legislation to protect tenants by introducing a zero per cent cap on the level of rent increases served on or after 6 September 2022 and imposing a moratorium on evictions until at least 31 March 2023. The rent cap and moratorium on evictions will be for a six-month period initially, with the ability for Scottish ministers to vary, extend or expire measures as required. We recognise that the impacts of the cost crisis may also be felt by some landlords and so certain safeguards apply to both the rent cap and moratorium on evictions.
  • We are doubling our fuel insecurity fund to £20 million in 2022-23 to help households at risk of self-disconnection or self-rationing of energy supply.
  • We have widened eligibility for the £10 million tenant grant fund, originally launched at the end of September 2021. Over 4,400 grants have been awarded so far to tenants with pandemic-related rent arrears. Local authorities can now use any remaining funds to help those struggling with rent arrears due to cost of living pressures.
  • We are providing an additional £5 million to local authorities for discretionary housing payments (DHPs) so they have the flexibility to help people with energy costs as well as rental liabilities. This takes our expected investment in DHPs to £88 million in 2022-23.
  • Through the Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) Act, the Scottish Government is ensuring that further protections from eviction – introduced on a temporary basis during the pandemic – are made permanent from October 2022. This means private landlords should continue to follow the pre-action protocol in respect of any rent arrears cases – and the Tribunal will retain its discretion to decide whether an eviction case is reasonable or not.
  • The Scottish Government launched a new cost of living support website at the end of September 2022, which includes information on renters’ rights and the help available to tenants.

DHPs assist those struggling with housing costs as a result of the UK Government’s unfair welfare reforms and are an important tool for preventing homelessness. Scottish Government officials have consulted with local authorities on how to deliver more streamlined application processes for discretionary housing payments and how we can use information sharing powers to target people who are most in need of discretionary housing payments.

  • A series of DHP practitioners’ groups are planned to facilitate the sharing of good practice, including simplified application processes and efficient claims processing.
  • The groups will consider how data supplied by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) can be used more effectively and if additional data is needed.
  • In light of the differences we are making to the DHP scheme in Scotland, we will develop a Scottish DHP guidance manual during 2023 to replace the DWP guidance manual.

Our work to understand the impact of UK Government welfare reforms and mitigate against them has resulted in important policy commitments this year. Evidence shows that the benefit cap disproportionately affects single mothers with children, even though they find it most difficult to avoid the impact of the cap.[1] The benefit cap hits women harder because the majority of households receiving the highest levels of benefits are single parent households, and 92 per cent of single parents in Scotland are women.[2] The cap also penalises women and children who need to leave their home to stay safe.[3] The Scottish Government continues to put pressure on the UK Government by highlighting the detrimental impact of its welfare reform policies.

We work closely with the Scottish Fiscal Commission so we can forecast the impact of the UK Government’s bedroom tax and benefit cap policies in Scotland and put in place mitigation measures. In 2022-23, the Scottish Government expects to make up to £88 million[4] available for discretionary housing payments.

  • Recognising that the majority of households affected by the benefit cap are families (98 per cent of households affected), and mainly lone parent families (72 per cent of households affected), the Scottish Government has committed to mitigating the benefit cap as far as is possible within its powers as part of its second delivery plan to tackle child poverty, Best Start, Bright Futures.
  • In addition to providing £68.1 million to mitigate the bedroom tax in 2022-23 – helping over 91,000 households in Scotland – the Scottish Government has committed to increasing the DHP budget to cover the cost of benefit cap mitigation more fully.
  • The additional support to mitigate the benefit cap will help over 4,000 families with around 14,000 children sustain their tenancies and cope with the cost of living.
  • The Scottish Government has urged the UK Government to reconsider the decision to freeze local housing allowance rates at 2020 levels, a real-terms cut, and to take steps to restore rates to the 30th percentile as a minimum.

The Scottish Government is continuing with longer term work to improve affordability in the private rented sector. As a result of the Private Residential (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016, Scotland already has the strongest tenancy protections in the UK. There are strict legal processes a private landlord must follow to increase rent, including only being able to raise rent once a year and providing three months’ notice. Tenants can also challenge any unfair rises through Rent Service Scotland. We are working to ensure more tenants know about these rights and how to use them.

  • The Scottish Government is introducing a housing bill which will strengthen tenants’ rights further. The forthcoming bill will include a framework for the delivery of new rent controls in the private rented sector by 2025.
  • Between December 2021 and April 2022, the Scottish Government consulted on its draft rented sector strategy, A New Deal for Tenants, which seeks to improve accessibility, affordability and standards across the whole rented sector in Scotland.
  • The Scottish Government commissioned Craigforth to carry out independent analysis of the 8,346 responses received. A wide range of views were expressed, particularly on rent controls. We will consider these views carefully in taking forward our commitment to rent controls. The majority (90 per cent) of respondents thought that additional protections against the ending of tenancies during the winter period were needed. Most respondents (95 per cent) also agreed that enabling private landlords to initiate eviction proceedings to end a perpetrator’s interest in a joint tenancy was sensible, fair and reasonable, and would provide greater protection to victim-survivors of abuse.
  • The Scottish Government has committed to developing a shared understanding of housing affordability for Scotland and has convened a working group of stakeholders and experts, including tenants, to assist with this task. With an initial focus on the rented sector, the group is exploring the meaning of housing affordability and its different uses within housing debates, policy and practice. It aims to reach a shared understanding of housing affordability to inform future housing policy.
  • The group will consult with tenants in the social and private rented sectors to take account of opinion on the ground. Housing affordability was an important theme of the Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) Annual Conference in June 2022. The Scottish Government held a workshop at the conference to hear what tenants understand by the term ‘affordable housing’.

We also said we would support the First-tier Tribunal to improve transparency around outcomes for tenants through better use of data.

  • We continue to review the data provided by the President of Scottish Tribunals to monitor tribunal decisions and keep abreast of policy implementation.

We continue to develop, implement and review prevention pathways for groups at particular risk of homelessness. Five prevention pathways have now been developed. The Sustainable Housing on Release for Everyone (SHORE) Standards, published in 2017, set out steps to ensure that the housing needs of people in prison are handled at an early stage. The Improving Care Leavers Housing Pathways was published in November 2019. Improving housing outcomes for women and children experiencing domestic abuse was published in December 2020. The Youth Homelessness Prevention Pathway was published in March 2021. The Veterans’ Homelessness Prevention Pathway was published in January 2022.

As part of the review of the SHORE Standards, Scottish Government officials and partners are considering how to ensure an individual in prison receives the same quality housing support and advice no matter which prison they arein and which local authority area they are returning to on liberation.

We remain strongly focused on improving outcomes for women experiencing domestic abuse. We are making progress with plans to protect the rights of women and children experiencing domestic abuse to stay safely in their own homes if they choose. On 5 May 2021, the Domestic Abuse (Protection) (Scotland) Act received royal assent. This new legislation will help prevent women’s homelessness by barring the perpetrator of domestic abuse from the home and giving social landlords the ability to transfer tenancies to the victim-survivor.

  • The Scottish Government is currently developing the necessary secondary legislation and guidance and is working with the Scottish Court Service to develop changes to court rules and forms. The law giving social landlords the ability to apply to the court for an order to transfer a tenancy to a victim-survivor is expected to come into force later in 2023.
  • The Scottish Government has convened an implementation and monitoring group to drive change and oversee delivery of the recommendations in the Improving Housing Outcomes for Women and Children Experiencing Domestic Abuse report. The group has met four times since November 2021 and has grouped actions into five workstreams with assigned leads.
  • We will make it mandatory for social landlords to develop and implement a domestic abuse housing policy in our forthcoming housing bill.
  • The Veterans' Homelessness Prevention Pathway was published in January 2022 and is a resource aimed at reducing and preventing homelessness for veterans in Scotland.
  • In line with its gender-specific and trauma-informed approach to the management of women in custody, the Scottish Prison Service has built two new community custody units (CCUs). The Bella Centre in Dundee opened in August 2022. The CCUs are unlike any other facility in the prison estate and will enable women to foster closer links with relevant support agencies in preparation for successful reintegration into the community.

The Scottish Government remains committed to implementing all five existing prevention pathways and developing new prevention pathways in line with Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group recommendations. Due to capacity challenges, we are focusing on the prevention pathways for women and children experiencing domestic abuse and people leaving prison. This means that implementation of the prevention pathways for care leavers, young people and veterans has been temporarily paused. Scottish Government officials continue to liaise with the groups that were commissioned to develop the pathways and these partners have been asked to consider what actions they are in a position to take forward.


Email: Homelessness_External_Mail@gov.scot

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