Publication - Minutes

Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group minutes: December 2020

Published: 18 Dec 2020
Date of meeting: 8 Dec 2020

Minutes of the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group meeting held in December 2020.

Published:
18 Dec 2020
Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group minutes: December 2020

Attendees and apologies

 

Cllr Elena Whitham, COSLA (Community Wellbeing Spokesperson; Co-Chair)

Laura Caven, COSLA

Alison Watson, Shelter Scotland

Sally Thomas, SFHA

Lorraine McGrath, Simon Community

Jon Sparkes, Crisis

Sabrina Galella, A Way Home Scotland/Rock Trust Coalition

Shea Moran, A Way Home Scotland/Aff the Streets

John Mills, ALACHO

Janice Stevenson, LGBT Youth Scotland

Gavin Yates, Homeless Action Scotland

Jo Ozga, Scottish Women’s Aid

Ruth Robin, Healthcare Improvement Scotland

Callum Chomczuk – Chartered Institute of Housing

Joyce Juma-Phiri -  EHT Change Team

 

Janine Kellett, Scottish Government

Melanie Goodfellow, Scottish Government

Karen Grieve, Scottish Government

Ruth Whatling, Scottish Government

Marion Gibbs, Scottish Government

Matt Howarth, Scottish Government

Lee Bunce, Scottish Government

 

Apologies

Neil Hamlet, NHS Fife – Ruth Robin deputising.

Angie Wood, Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership

Items and actions

1, Welcome and introductions

Mr Stewart welcomed everyone to the meeting and thanked everyone for joining the call, particularly Joyce who is representing the Change Team, Ruth deputising for Neil Hamlet and Callum from CIH who joined to talk about the Domestic Abuse Prevention Pathway.

As there was a full agenda, members were advised that the link to the published minutes from the last meeting on 8 September had already been circulated and any changes are to be sent directly to Melanie to amend.

2. Regular updates

Jon Sparkes gave members an update on the phasing out of night shelters and the introduction of Rapid Rehousing Welcome Centres (RRWC) on behalf of the Everyone Home Collective. This was a positive update as there will not be any communal night shelters in Scotland this year thanks to the work of Glasgow City Mission and Bethany Christian Trust, who have both moved to using self-contained units. There is some feedback from partners in Edinburgh about people being turned away from the RRWC, particularly those with specific needs.

Lorraine also reported that this is similar to feedback that she has had regarding RRWCs and also gave an update on work being done to support those with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF). Three task and finish groups are meeting between now and February to develop a delivery plan for consideration by the full roundtable in March for implementation from April. This will aim to align with the overall SG/COSLA anti-destitution strategy which is under development.

The Minister thanked Jon and Loraine for this update and advised he was aware of one individual being turned away from the RRWC, but asked officials to look into this.

John Mills gave a quick update on the latest RRTP sub-group meeting and also brought the national framework for Housing First consultation to the attention of members. John highlighted that around 28 local authorities (LAs) are rolling out Housing First. Alison then highlighted her concerns about the resources needed to roll out Housing First across all LAs and the important need to ramp up prevention. John noted that there is some way to go to achieve this ambition, but reassured members that there is a desire to work in partnership to ensure this is successful. 

The Minister highlighted the additional £5 million for Housing First gives LAs some flexibility to get this right and hoped that COSLA Leaders will agree this.

Joyce was then invited to give an update on behalf of the Change Team. The update paper prepared by the Change Team was shared with members ahead of this meeting. The team are now celebrating one year of successful work. Joyce highlighted that being part of the Change Team has provided an opportunity to influence policy and be the voice of lived experience. Joyce noted there were still challenges around NRPF and this is something the group will continue to work on. Joyce also stated that Mr Stewart was very keen to engage with the team and that this has been very encouraging and useful. Mr Stewart agreed that the engagement with the team has been very helpful and thanked the team for their continuing hard work.

Cllr Whitham suggested it may be helpful for another letter to go to the UK Government regarding the concerns the group has around the lack of support from the UK Government for those with NRPF. Mr Stewart highlighted that a letter was sent just last week and this was shared with members as part of the papers. Mr Stewart suggested inviting a UK minister to a future HPSG meeting to hear concerns first hand. This was endorsed by the group and it would be helpful if this could be supported by real life examples and also show what the solutions are. Joyce also offered the support of the voice of lived experience for these meetings and Mr Stewart asked officials to work with the Change Team to collate examples of real life experiences.

Sally then gave members an update on the Homelessness Prevention Fund. The main ambitions of this fund include reducing child poverty and reducing homelessness, so has a strong prevention focus. A total of £408,000 has been allocated to Housing Associations and a significant amount of collaborative work will be undertaken to deliver these projects. More information on the projects can be found on the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations’ website. 

Finally, Marion gave members a quick update on re-launching the Third Sector Homelessness Fund. The intention is that the fund will be open to applications for five weeks in early January and funding decisions will be made and announced in March. Organisations will be asked to ensure that their proposed projects will align with the outcomes in the updated action plan.

ACTION:

  • SG officials to look in to the refusal of entry to the RRWC in Edinburgh.
  • SG officials to invite a UK Immigration Minister to a future HPSG meeting to discuss NRPF concerns.
  • SG officials to work with the Change Team to collate real life experiences of those with NRPF.

3. Adult Social Care Review: draft submission from HPSG

Lorraine gave an update on this paper and gave thanks to all those involved in drafting this, particularly Matt from the Homelessness Team. This paper is for members to sign-off and was broadly welcomed by members.

Jon suggested that it would be helpful to also involve the work of the Prevention Review Group and the paper will be shared with them so that they can add to this.

Ruth Robin highlighted the useful links between health and homelessness, but suggested a clearer indication of what parts of health a change was needed in to ensure accountability and allow these changes to be measured.

Gavin highlighted that self-directed support is very important and this is a key part of the submission. The Minister agreed that this is something we need to press for. Giving people choices is a very good thing and it allows them to get what they need.

Cllr Whitham agreed with connecting this with the Prevention Review Group work and how to shift the resource from Health and Social Care to Housing services. This paper broadly aligns with COSLA’s submission.

The Minister asked for flexibility because of the challenges that Covid-19 has brought to be added to the paper.

ACTION:

  • Members were asked to send final any comments to SG officials by 11 December. This has now been finalised and submitted.

4. Update on the Domestic Abuse Homelessness Prevention Pathway and gendered analysis

The minister asked Jo and Callum to talk to the Domestic Abuse Homelessness Prevention Pathway report, which has been shared with the group. Jo provided some background and context and Callum then covered some of the recommendations, challenges they faced and feedback the group received.

John Mills highlighted that ALACHO was disappointed that, following the launch of the Good Practice Guidance a couple of years ago, more landlords have not adopted this. The Minister shares this frustration and agrees that there is more to do here.

Sally also shares this disappointment and would like a meeting with Jo, Callum and others to see how this could be addressed and to discuss how to develop practice around this.

Janice also asked for a wider inclusion of LGBT people in this work as same sex domestic abuse has not been recognised to date.  Janice also offered to input to the working group from this perspective.

The Minister then invited Janine to talk about the work being done around the gendered analysis commitment in the updated Ending Homelessness Together action plan. Janine started by thanking HPSG members and the Change Team for their input into the updated action plan and stated that the gendered analysis is a key part of this.

The pandemic has highlighted that whilst we are all affected, we are not all affected equally. Janine then asked Lee to cover some of the headline statistics from the recently published equalities data, a paper on which was shared with members ahead of the meeting. These show that there are gaps in our data, which will hamper our ability to develop policy. A commitment to address this has been included in our updated action plan. Officials will undertake gender equality training in the new year, set up a working group to take this action forward and also commission research into hidden homelessness.

Ruth Robin suggested including justice in the working group to take forward preventative measures with offenders.

The Minister asked for the message around Good Practice Guidance for Landlords to be reiterated again as the work develops. Callum and Jo have taken this feedback on-board and will take this forward as the work progresses and the implementation plan is developed. Jo briefly mentioned one of the recommendations which was for setting up a group to drive implementation and monitor impact.

ACTION:

  • The Minister asked SG officials for a separate meeting to be arranged to talk the recommendations in the domestic abuse prevention pathway report through in more detail.

5. The updated Ending Homelessness Together action plan

The Minister said that as we move back towards some sort of normality, we cannot lose sight of all the work that has been done and ending homelessness needs to remain a priority. He asked Janine to speak to this item.

Janine highlighted that the pace of progress has been remarkable, for example, by reducing rough sleeping, taking advantage of reduced LHA rates to support people to move in to the private rented sector and closing night shelters. A huge amount of collective work has helped to achieve this, but now we need to ensure we maintain that focus and keep the momentum going. Janine asked members what they would like to see continue and how we shift from responding to the health crisis to preventing homelessness.

Jon suggested that going forward, the big building blocks such as implementation of RRTPs would go a long way in delivering the action plan commitments. In addition, the work of the Prevention Review Group will support the delivery of this work. Supporting the workforce and the targeted approach to support individuals through the prevention pathways will be key. Also, ensuring a steady supply of affordable housing remains important.

Lorraine provided an update on rough sleeping numbers in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Glasgow is still seeing people presenting on the street but the number remaining out there is down to four or five people at any one time. In Edinburgh, the numbers have come down again from around 100 at one point to 48, with intelligence suggesting that a big proportion of change relates to a group of Roma moving to Ireland this week. Lorraine also suggested that whilst we definitely do not want to lose too much momentum, there are definitely pressure points where we lean heavily on particular individuals, teams and organisations and capacity is stretched.

Alison stated that the Scottish Government has shown great leadership during the pandemic, but it’s important to turn that into sustainable progress. The action plan puts a big emphasis on rights, which is important, as is understanding blockages. Affordable housing supply was suggested as a major challenge here.

John Mills stated that the most important win next year is to continue to maximise housing options by implementing an aggressive approach to building, transfer-led allocations to create chains, and property acquisition. Prevention-led RRTPs are a priority for the Housing Options Hubs.

Jo considers a gendered approach to the delivery of the plan as critical. The Minister would like to see equalities at the heart of everything we do and there is a commitment to get this right as we move forward.

Lorraine also asked that the focus from an operational delivery perspective be on the frontline workforce, who have shown just what is possible and how we can best empower that to continue next year. Changing public perceptions will also help to support this work.

Cllr Whitham highlighted that delivering RRTPs and prevention is key, but we also need to remember the Hard Edges Scotland work and think about how this links to Housing First. The Housing to 2040 work and creating communities will really help to support tenancy sustainment going forward.

Ruth Robin provided members with an update on the development of the ‘Learning Lab’ on which she will share a paper with members with more details. There was also an update on the work being done to reduce harm in collaboration with COSLA and again more details will be shared with members.

The learning from both of these pieces of work will be shared with members as the work progresses.

ACTION:

  • Ruth Robin will send papers to SG officials following the meeting for wider sharing.
  • SG officials will link in with Ruth Robin about this work.

6. AOB and close

Mr Stewart raised one point under AOB. This is Cllr Whitham’s final HPSG meeting as she is ending her role as spokesperson at the end of this year. The minister extended his gratitude for all her hard work and commitment over the years and wished her all the best going forward, as did all the members of the group. Cllr Kelly Parry will be taking the role on full time in 2021 and we look forward to working with her.

The Minister thanked everyone for the huge amount of work that has taken place since the last meeting and indeed during the whole year. He wished everyone a lovely festive period and a safe new year!

Meeting dates for 2021 will be issued in early January.