Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group minutes: March 2019

Minutes of the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group meeting held in March 2019

1. Minutes and actions of last meeting
Minutes of the previous meeting on 4 December were agreed. One action remains outstanding, which Kate will take forward with SFHA regarding Section 5 review.

2. Forward look
Catriona introduced the Forward Look document. The aim of this document is to anchor the work of the group. Catriona welcomed views and discussions and reiterated that this is a live document, which will be updated on an ongoing basis.
Members welcomed the ambitious nature of the plan. There was discussion around setting out our ‘ask’ of welfare ahead of the UK Government spending review. The Group highlighted the particular importance of flexible housing assessments and prevention pathways. Members also commented that this work needs to align with Beyond Housing 2021 to contextualise it in the bigger picture about housing supply and the wider housing system. Migrant homelessness could be explored further also, and other portfolios’ roles need to be drawn out more explicitly, specifically health and criminal justice.
Mr Stewart advised he had met the Cabinet Secretary for Health and would shortly write to health partners.

3. Emerging Strategic Approach to Challenging Public Perceptions
Hazel summarised activities to date on developing an approach to shifting public perceptions of homelessness, and advised that a group from the sector with communications experience had met on 6 March. The main aim of the approach is to challenge misconceptions about homelessness. The group is currently at the information gathering stage. An early suggestion is to have quarterly ‘themes’ to help organisations coordinate their communications activities around the same things to maximise impact. The communications group has begun discussions on how to support organisations within the sector to tell their stories, with what purpose, how and who needs to be involved.
Members reiterated the priority they place on challenging public perceptions, and that work needs to place people with lived experience front and centre. In terms of clarifying the aims of the activity, the discussion suggested we should seek to remove the judgement, stigma and prejudice that people who are homeless feel, which can prevent them asking for help. That will involve getting the public to see people for their potential, and to get behind the political agendas. The Minister commented that homelessness has remained a focus in the media long after Christmas this time, which suggests we are making some progress with raising the profile.
The Group was positive about the start made, and looked forward to hearing more detail and specifics in future papers, including more about specific channels and audiences for specific messaging.
There was general agreement that we should be communicating individual stories of lived experience, in a way which empowers the individual themselves and others who can see themselves in the same story.

 A focused session on practical/tangible actions to take place at the next meeting.

4. Action Plan Progress
Graham Thomson opened a discussion on the evidence and information required by HPSG that will enable it to track progress of the delivery of the High Level Action Plan, and in turn to meet shared ambitions.
The Group noted that the timeframes involved in collecting and publishing key statistics make it difficult to understand what is changing in real time. They further noted that the indicators would be adapted over time to ensure that the best available information is used to track progress. There are also perennial concerns about data integrity and accuracy. The group agreed that Common Housing Registers can help ensure data are complete, but not all local authorities take this approach and it would be counterproductive to compel this.
While the statistical data we have can be viewed as a useful baseline, we need to be mindful that our increased activity around homelessness could mean that at least initially the number of homeless presentations increases as people who would not have approached statutory services previously come forward because they have more confidence they will get help. This will be a positive development, but need careful handling to be seen as such.
There was agreement that indicators regarding the implementation of RRTPs should be included. Members of the RRTP sub group have been asked to work on this.
All members were in agreement that user satisfaction should be captured and is key to making changes.
A meeting with the Scottish Housing Regulator has been scheduled to discuss cross fertilisation with data the regulator holds on the measurement of homelessness.


  •  John Mills to feedback discussion at the RRTP sub-group regarding indicators on RRTP implementation.
  •  Update to be provided to the group following the meeting with SHR.
  •  Further consideration to take place regarding reporting to future meetings.

5. Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans
John provided an update to the group regarding the RRTPs. All plans were received by January. Scottish Government officials continue to review the plans. While there was always going to be more development needed on the plans and to understand the national next steps towards rapid rehousing, local authorities should be congratulated on making a significant inroads towards making this step change in their approach to homelessness. The Group thanked John Mills personally for his efforts in this. The quality of plans is generally good, and only a small number of local authorities were asked to make early revisions to their RRTPs. For the next step, local authorities have been asked to think further about collaboration with partners, and asking for contributions from all areas.
The review exercise is time intensive, but the initial phase will be completed by the end of March. A review template is being used to feedback to LAs, and local authorities have responded well so far to the approach. Housing convenors also need to be kept up to date, and there is more to be done to connect RRTPs with the Regulator. It is important to know what 'good' looks like, which will support the team to provide constructive challenge on RRTPs which need improvement – particularly on engaging with partners.
Some Group members expressed concerns around whether there has been truly effective engagement with the provider sector. There is some sense of disconnection from the process in frontline organisations, and uncertainty about what changes the provider sector will see in terms of new contracting arrangements as a result of the move to rapid rehousing. It was confirmed the review template covers engagement with voluntary organisations and LAs will be challenged to demonstrate meaningful engagement with housing and support providers.
There is further work to do to ensure local authority plans can all demonstrate credible estimates of their future housing need under the presumption of rapid rehousing, and this linked into the overall national approach to housing supply.
There were some instances of outdated language or approaches still being used in the RRTPs, including the phrase ‘tenancy readiness’. The adoption of rapid rehousing and Housing First presumes that everyone can and should have the opportunity to maintain their own tenancy with the appropriate support provided, rather than having to fulfil pre-tenancy requirements. Further work is needed to help local authority staff and their partners in other organisations and housing providers understand how this is achievable in practice and to communicate the overarching ambitions of HARSAG.

 Add RRTP sub group minutes to the HPSG Connect page.
 Share links to published RRTPs to show the variety of approaches.

6. Frontline interventions
Lorraine gave the group an update on frontline interventions. The frontline winter planning group has met in person twice and fortnightly conference calls take place to allow operational professionals to share their ongoing activities and network.
There are ongoing challenges around supporting people on the streets into safe housing. In particular, there are challenges around:

  •  supporting people with addictions to drugs and alcohol and specifically the recent proliferation of ‘street valium’ in Edinburgh, Glasgow and elsewhere
  •  offering immediate and qualified mental health support
  •  managing cases with immigration complexities where people have no recourse to public funds.

Multi-agency responses are paying dividends. The number of individuals using the night shelters in Edinburgh and Glasgow has increased, although the number of nights each person spends in the shelter before moving on, mostly to positive destinations, is reduced.
The additional provision of emergency direct access accommodation had immediate success in supporting people to safely exit street homelessness. The Edinburgh city council link worker, funded by the Scottish Government, is a secondee from Streetwork. This has had a positive impact in building links and improving intelligence led approaches.
The take up of flexible emergency funds/personal budgets is lower than last year, reflecting better understanding of how to use it and better links into funded services. However, it has been used proportionally more in NRPF cases, supporting the case for targeted approaches for this group. The Group noted the recent COSLA/Scottish Government publication of guidance on no recourse to public funds.
The Simon Community is planning to carry out a street count of people sleeping rough in Glasgow in the next month.
The frontline planning group is beginning to consider the components of a ‘national model of frontline outreach’ and will go on to consider how to embed the learning from this year going forward and in the operational context of RRTPs.
Fiona commented that Shelter Scotland are commissioning a report of mental health in homelessness in Glasgow, which will be published at the end of the year.

7. Lived Experience Programme
Graham set out the purpose, principles and aims for the lived experience programme, and explained it will support the development and implementation of the High Level Action Plan. He asked for members’ views on options for the implementation of the Programme.
The Group welcomed the approach and appreciated the role of the lived experience programme in supporting the Action Plan. The paper should emphasise that the lived experience programme will be how we ‘co-create’ and take forward solutions as part of delivering the Action Plan. Overall, members thought the programme should be run by a third party, but acknowledged all options would work to a greater or lesser extent. It was suggested that one group whose contribution should not be missed is frontline staff with lived experience, who are tuned into the people we are currently serving as well as their own experiences, and would be able to bring perspective nobody else has.
People experiencing homelessness are not a homogenous group, so there will need to be a sensible and sensitive approach to addressing segmentation for the purpose of ensuring we gather the variety of experiences from a wide variety of different perspectives. The Group considered whether it would be possible to engage those at risk of homelessness but not yet in the system; with the emphasis on prevention, we will be looking to shift our activities more to this group but it is difficult to suggest how best to understand their needs.
The lived experience work also needs to tie in with the RRTP process. A long-term attitudinal survey would be useful to understand how people feel about the programme over time. Equalities groups need to be considered and remove barriers for them to engage and create targeted opportunities.
Janice advised that LGBT Youth Scotland are going to conduct research on LGBT access to service and asked for members’ input in the design, as they want to ensure it is as useful as possible for the programme as a whole.
Mr Stewart noted that an exemplar of a lived experience work in recent time was the social security user experience programme. Graham assured the Minister and members that officials have been looking to learn lessons from how that work was undertaken.
To avoid losing people’s experience the group agreed that this could not all be electronic. The role of community groups in engaging smaller and potentially more diverse communities should be explored. The Housing Options Hubs also have a role here. Tayside, Fife and Central Hub already do a lot of work in this area.

 Cllr Whitham would like to do a blog on this having experienced homelessness twice.
 Members to feed into the design of LGBT Youth Scotland’s research work.

8. Prevention Pathways
Hazel advised the Group that a programme of development work for prevention pathways will begin shortly and that number of groups have been identified for whom pathways should be developed in the initial phase. A discussion took place around the paper.
The Group were supportive of the “getting on with it” approach. However, it was noted the paper may have underestimated how long each pathway will take. The Group agreed with the approach of developing pathways in sequence, although noted that in practice this was likely to mean the work is staggered because, once begun, there will be a long period of implementation as pathways bed in.
There was a comment on the language used in the paper, which should emphasise that these are prevention pathways, rather than aimed at people already experiencing homelessness. The work should build on the experience of the development of the SHORE standards, and also that none of this work will start from scratch. Some pathways may be quicker to make progress as there are already dedicated groups of stakeholders working in some areas with general agreement around the steps needed; some will require more work. It was agreed that we would want to move to implementation of some of this quickly in shortest period of time.
Regarding the domestic abuse pathway, the Group agreed that while the majority of victims are known to be women, the needs of other groups including male victims and victims of abuse in same sex relationships must be considered.

9. AOB
The Group were updated that the A Way Home Scotland Coalition have been offered a seat at HPSG. Liam McCallum was the original nominee but has since left his post – the Coalition will update on his replacement in due course.
COSLA are meeting with ALACHO and SPS to discuss SHORE standards and will report back.
Future 2019 meetings: 11 June; 12 September; 10 December – all 09:00-12:00

Attendees and apologies

  • Kevin Stewart MSP (Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning; Co-Chair)
  • Cllr Whitham, COSLA (Community Wellbeing Spokesperson; Co-Chair)
  • Kate Morrison, COSLA
  • Sally Thomas, SFHA
  • Jon Sparkes, Crisis
  • John Kerr on behalf of Peter Barry, SOLACE
  • Gavin Yates, Homeless Action Scotland
  • David Duke, Street Soccer Scotland
  • Fiona King, Shelter Scotland
  • John Mills, ALACHO
  • Lorraine McGrath, Streetwork/Simon Community
  • Janice Stevenson, LGBT Youth Scotland
  • Catriona MacKean, Scottish Government
  • Hazel Bartels, Scottish Government
  • Graham Thomson, Scottish Government
  • Lynsey McKean, Scottish Government
  • Lindsey McKenna, Scottish Government


  • Peter Barry, SOLACE (sent deputy)
  • Neil Hamlet, NHS Fife


Email: Lynsey.McKenna@gov.scot

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