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 and end homelessness. Ministers subsequently established the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) to make recommendations on how these transformational changes could be achieved.
In June 2018, HARSAG completed their work, producing a comprehensive set of recommendations aiming to secure strategic changes at both national and local level which would help support delivery on the front-line. In November 2018, the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) published the Ending Homelessness Together High Level Action Plan which sets out the actions we will take in partnership with others to act on the HARSAG recommendations and realise our shared ambitions to end rough sleeping and homelessness.
The Scottish Government ran a consultation on improving Temporary Accommodation Standards from 22 May until 14 August 2019 which sought views on extending the seven-day restriction on time spent in unsuitable temporary accommodation to all people experiencing homelessness, new advisory standards for temporary accommodation and what a legally enforceable temporary accommodation standards framework should look like. A full report on the consultation analysis was published on 10 January 2020.
The Programme for Government (PfG) announced on 3 September 2019 that the Scottish Government would legislate to extend the Unsuitable Accommodation Order (UAO) to all homeless households this parliamentary year and that it would come into force in this parliamentary term. The extension means that the maximum number of days that local authorities can use unsuitable accommodation for any homeless person is 7 days and has the effect of ending stays in unsuitable accommodation, such as B&Bs, apart from in emergency situations
On 5 May 2020 legislation SSI 2020/139 was laid in parliament that amended the 2014 Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order. These changes were made in response to the Coronavirus outbreak and to give effect to the PfG commitment. While the legislation was introduced in advance of when originally planned, the temporary exceptions have provided time for Scottish Government and local authorities to work together to prepare for the change.
A Local Authority (LA) UAO Working Group was set up in May 2020 to:
- take forward preparatory work in advance of the commencement of the permanent changes to the UAO.
- establish what support can be provided to local authorities over the coming months in order to facilitate alternative accommodation options.
- support the preparation of non-statutory guidance to provide clarity around the application of the Order in practice and help to set the parameters that will ensure that in extending the Order to all homeless households that no group is disadvantaged as a result.
Wider stakeholder views were also sought and their feedback has also helped to support the development of this guidance.
On 1 September 2020, SSI 2020/268 was laid which extended the temporary exceptions of the 2020/139 SSI in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. More information is provided in section 1.14 of this guidance and at Annex A.
As the Working Group were developing this supporting guidance to sit alongside the Order, members and wider stakeholders identified issues around the drafting of the 2020/139 Order and as a result a further SSI (Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Amendment (No.2) Order 2020) was laid on 11 December 2020. Details of the SSI 2020/419 are provided at Annex B.
Due to the continuing impact and repercussions to the housing and homelessness system of the ongoing pandemic and that the virus remains a significant threat to public health, along with the unknowns around winter pressures and Brexit, it has been necessary to extend the temporary exceptions for a further 5 months.
This means that on 13 January the Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) (Modification and Revocation) (Coronavirus) 2021/10 was laid and extends the temporary exceptions in response to the coronavirus pandemic until 30 June 2021. More information is provided at Annex E of this guidance.