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Fairer Scotland action plan: progress report 2019

Progress made on the Fairer Scotland action plan published in 2016.


Housing

Housing has a vital role to play in meeting many of our ambitions for Scotland, including eradicating child poverty and homelessness, ending fuel poverty, tackling the effects of climate change and promoting inclusive growth.

That is why we are proud of our record on delivering affordable homes since 2007 – over 87,000 to June 2019.  And we are on track to deliver on our ambitious commitment in this Parliamentary term to deliver 50,000 affordable homes, including 35,000 for social rent.  Our housing aims also support around 10,000 to 12,000 jobs in the construction and related industries each year.

The Energy Efficient Scotland programme will transform our buildings so that they are warmer, greener and more efficient by 2040.  Energy Efficient Scotland delivers across two key areas: removing poor energy efficiency as a driver of fuel poverty, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions through more energy efficient buildings and decarbonising our heat supply.

Our Fuel Poverty (Targets, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Act 2019 sets statutory targets to reduce fuel poverty, and we are set to spend £0.5 billion in this parliamentary term on energy efficient measures to make homes warmer and bills cheaper.

In July, the Scottish Government published ‘Housing to 2040’, the draft vision and principles of how Scotland’s housing system should look and feel in 2040.  This longer term, whole systems approach presents our aspirations for a well-functioning housing system that meets people’s needs and includes high quality, energy efficient, affordable homes situated in sustainable communities. 

We have also increased funding for Discretionary Housing Payments to £64 million in 2019-20 as part of our overall welfare mitigation measures to support people who have been impacted by UK Government welfare cuts.  This investment is helping to protect households against freezes to Local Housing Allowance rates and includes over £50 million to mitigate in full the bedroom tax – a policy that the Trussell Trust has said contributes to need for food banks in the rest of the UK[28].  Meanwhile, we have provided £351 million in funding for the Council Tax Reduction scheme, which helps nearly half a million households meet their council tax bills.

Our Ending Homelessness Together Fund of £50 million over 2018-23 along with our Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan aims to support prevention initiatives to end homelessness, eradicate rough sleeping and homelessness, and transform temporary accommodation, and progress has been made with the transition to rapid rehousing and Housing First Pathfinders. 

Affordable housing

StC 7. Build more social housing

We are investing a record £3.3 billion to support our ambitious target of delivering 50,000 affordable homes, including 35,000 for social rent, over the current Parliamentary term.  Official statistics to the end of June 2019 show that we remain on track to meet the target, with a total of 26,581 affordable homes already delivered, including 17,071 for social rent.

Support for tenants

FSAP 15. We will deliver improved services for tenants in the private rented sector (PRS) in 2018 
Life Chances 13. Improve housing advice for young people
Life Chances 15. Ensure that tenants and landlords understand the arrangements for enforcing private rented sector regulations, and that monitoring is in place to make sure the new arrangements work as intended
Life Chances 16. Encourage social landlords to make the social sector easier for young people to access

To help deliver improved services for tenants in the private rented sector and to drive up awareness of the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords over the last year we have:

  • introduced legislation to require private landlords from 16 September 2019 to confirm that they meet the individual obligations in letting houses in Scotland as part of registering as a landlord;
  • worked in partnership with Young Scot to develop the New Digs[29] microsite, which provides information and advice tailored to young renters aged 16-24;
  • amended the tenancy deposit regulations to ensure tenants are aware of the sanctions available where a landlord fails to comply with their duties under the tenancy deposit scheme regulations to help support compliance and enforcement; and
  • continued to implement the regulation of those carrying out letting agency work.

In addition, the Scottish Government has developed a monitoring and evaluation framework to guide our examination of the impacts and outcomes of the new Private Residential Tenancy, the most significant change in private renting in Scotland for almost 30 years.  We are also working closely with the Nationwide Foundation whose major longitudinal, qualitative and quantitative research project on the impact of the new Private Residential Tenancy on low income tenants is now under way. 

The lower rents in the social rented sector – a particularly important tenure for lone parent households and disabled people – are important in protecting the after-housing costs income of lower income households.  During 2019-20, funding of £10 million will be provided to Registered Social Landlords to carry out housing adaptations that will help older and disabled tenants live safely and independently at home.  In February 2019 the Scottish Government published an updated Social Housing Allocations in Scotland – A Practice Guide[30] which includes guidance and good practice for social landlords on providing easy access to information and advice for all applicants, including young people. 

Young people’s housing

FSAP 40. We will ensure that support for housing costs is not taken away from young people aged 18-21
Life Chances 14. Deliver more affordable housing options for young adults

This year we will launch a £150 million national pilot scheme to provide support of up to £25,000 for deposits for first-time buyers.  The scheme will be open to all first-time buyers, regardless of income or eligibility for other existing schemes.  The new scheme adds to existing equity programmes – Help to Buy (Scotland) and the Open Market Shared Equity scheme – which supported over 4,000 people into home ownership last year.  Recent figures[31][32] show the support these schemes provide in helping young first time buyers get onto the property ladder: more than 80% of households are first-time buyers and more than 70% are aged 35 and under.  The Open Market Shared Equity scheme, in particular, targets buyers on low to moderate incomes, with over half of the sales in 2018-19 in the 40% most deprived areas of Scotland. 

The Scottish Government used the Scottish Welfare Fund and social security legislation to mitigate UK Government cuts to housing support for young people aged 18-21 until the cut was revoked by the DWP on 31 December 2018.

Fuel poverty and warmer homes

FSAP 14. We will deliver more warm and affordable homes in this parliament
StC 8. Ensure fuel poverty programmes are focused to support those on low incomes, and do more to tackle the poverty premium in home energy costs

In May 2018 the Scottish Government launched the Energy Efficient Scotland Route Map, supported by funding of £145 million in 2019-20, which set out our vision that by 2040 our homes and buildings are warmer, greener and more efficient.  We are on track to deliver our 2016 Programme for Government commitment to make £0.5 billion available over the four years to 2021 to tackle fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency.

The Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH) is progressing well with 85% of social rented homes already meeting the first 2020 milestone.  Our programme for EESSH-post 2020 sets a challenging and ambitious target that, by December 2032, all social housing will meet, or to be treated as meeting, Energy Performance Certificate Band B or to be as energy efficient as practically possible.  A variety of funding sources are available to help social landlords achieve these targets, including an additional £2.9 million additional funding confirmed on 5 November through the second round of the Decarbonisation Fund.

The Fuel Poverty (Targets, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Act 2019 establishes in law our commitment to tackle the root causes of fuel poverty and to transform houses to be warmer and more energy efficient.  It introduces a challenging, but importantly achievable, set of targets that, by 2040, no more than 5% of households in Scotland are to be in fuel poverty, no more than 1% in extreme fuel poverty, and the median fuel poverty gap of households in fuel poverty is no more than £250 in 2015 prices before adding inflation.  All of these targets must be met not only nationwide, but within every local authority area to ensure that no part of the country is left behind.  Interim targets at 2030 and 2035 will ensure we maintain momentum towards meeting these ambitious goals. 

By setting targets for reducing extreme fuel poverty and implementing a definition which, by using the UK Minimum Income Standard (MIS) as a benchmark, is closely aligned to income poverty, we are prioritising households in the greatest need.  The new definition also takes proper account of the cost of living issues faced by those living in Scotland’s islands and other remote communities by including tailored uplifts to the MIS for households in these areas.

We are developing an ambitious Fuel Poverty Strategy to tackle fuel poverty, which will be laid in Parliament no later than September 2020.  As part of this Strategy we will be setting out the characteristics of fuel poor households and considering what changes could be made to our funded schemes to better target support at those who need it most.  We will work with stakeholders, including local authorities and those with lived experience of fuel poverty, to develop and publish the strategy over the coming year, and then to implement it.

By the end of 2021 we will have allocated over £1 billion since 2009 through energy efficiency programmes to make homes warmer and cheaper to heat.  This includes  £23.75 million allocated to Warmer Homes Scotland in 2019-20 to install energy efficiency measures to help fuel poor households make their homes warmer and easier to heat.  During 2018-19 the scheme assisted 3,818 households, with each household saving an average of £313 per year on their energy bills.

Average funding per fuel poor household for our Area Based Schemes has increased by 10% in 2019-20 from the previous year.  This increase reflects both a reduction in the number of fuel poor households overall, but also better targeting of resources to tackle fuel poverty.

The First Minister launched the Energy Consumer Action Plan[33] in May 2019.  The action plan establishes a framework to place consumer considerations at the heart of Scotland’s energy policy – from local energy to energy efficiency and electric vehicles – and to influence change across Great Britain.

Ending homelessness

FSAP 16. We will build on Scotland’s world-leading homelessness rights

We continue to progress the work outlined in our Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan[34], which is backed by a £50 million Ending Homelessness Together Fund.  £32.5 million of this funding, together with funding from the Health portfolio, supports local authorities in developing and implementing their Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans and to roll out the Housing First approach to provide people with permanent, settled accommodation and help their longer term needs.  We have also provided £613,700 in 2018-19 and £164,000 in 2019-20 from the fund to support frontline interventions, directly supporting people who may be at risk of rough sleeping. 

Two new funds were announced in our 2019-20 Programme for Government: up to £4.5 million over three years to support third sector transformation to help end homelessness, and £1.5 million over three years for the new Homelessness Prevention Fund to support registered social landlords help low income families prevent housing crisis.  These schemes draw in funding from the former Housing Voluntary Grant Scheme and the Tackling Child Poverty Fund respectively, in addition to the Ending Homelessness Together Fund.

Following consultation earlier this year, the Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 (Commencement No. 4) Order 2019[35] came into force on 7 November.  It implements changes to intentionality and local connection legislation which aims to remove the barriers people face in getting the support they need when they experience homelessness.  To assist staff in local authorities and other partners to adopt a person-centred approach to tackle, prevent and relieve homelessness, we published a factual update of the statutory Code of Guidance on Homelessness[36] on 7 November.

Another consultation earlier this year on improving temporary accommodation standards informed our Programme for Government 2019-20 commitment to extend the Unsuitable Accommodation Order to all homeless households, effectively ending the use of B&B accommodation for anything longer than seven days.

A Way Home Scotland Coalition was commissioned in February 2019 to take forward work on developing pathways to prevent youth homelessness, including for care leavers, young LGBT people and young people more generally.  A paper[37] setting out recommendations for change to prevent homelessness for care leavers was published on 12 November.

Council Tax

FSAP 31. From April 2017, our proposed reforms will make the current Council Tax system fairer for low income families
FSAP 49. Our planned reforms to council tax will protect older people on low incomes
StC 9. Be bold on local tax reform

We are providing £351 million in 2019-20 to support the Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTR).  CTR ensures that nearly half a million households who would otherwise struggle to pay their full council tax are instead required to pay only what they can afford.  On average CTR recipients saved over £700 a year, and almost eight in 10 of those who get CTR receive a 100% reduction, so pay no council tax.

Our 2019 budget confirmed our endorsement of the Commission on Local Tax Reform’s conclusion that “the present council tax system must end”.  We have therefore convened cross-party talks on replacing the current council tax, which are ongoing.  If there is agreement on a replacement for the present council tax, we will publish legislation by the end of this Parliament, with that legislation taken forward in the following Parliament.

Contact

Email: sjsu@gov.scot

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