Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group minutes: March 2022

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

Attendees and apologies


  • Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government
  • Mike Callaghan, COSLA
  • Alison Watson, Shelter Scotland
  • John Mills, ALACHO
  • Matt Downie, Crisis
  • Janice Stevenson, LGBT Youth
  • Sally Thomas, SFHA
  • Maggie Brünjes, Homeless Network Scotland
  • Kate Polson, Rock Trust
  • Shea Moran, Aff the Streets
  • Aaliya Seyal, Legal Services Agency
  • Ruth Robin, Healthcare Improvement Scotland
  • Alan Robertson, Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership
  • Jo Ozga, Scottish Women’s Aid
  • Martin Boyle, Change Team


  • Cllr Kelly Parry, Co-Chair and Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, COSLA
  • Angela Keith, SOLACE
  • Lorraine McGrath, Simon Community Scotland/Streetwork
  • Susanne Millar, Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership

Also in attendance

Janine Kellett, Scottish Government

Melanie Goodfellow, Scottish Government

Karen Grieve, Scottish Government

Marion Gibbs, Scottish Government

Matt Howarth, Scottish Government

Items and actions

1. Welcome and introductions

The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government welcomed all members to the call.

As there was a full agenda, members were advised that the link to the published minutes from the last meeting in November had already been circulated and any requested amendments were to be sent directly to Melanie Goodfellow.

2. Group updates

Ms Robison invited John Mills to give members an update on the latest Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan (RRTP) subgroup meeting (paper 1). He highlighted that there had been a lot of good work happening in collaboration with Welsh Government colleagues regarding RRTP development.

He also advised members that the first three modules of the housing options training toolkit were launched in January and the final three modules were going to be launched in April. He briefly touched on the Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) masterclass that is planned to be delivered to ensure EQIAs are underpinning all local authorities RRTPs and that they are robust.

John also wanted to highlight that council staff employed to implement RRTPs were being made permanent in many local authorities (including Fife) and this has been made possible in part because of the recent confirmation of the next two years’ funding by the Scottish Government.

Alison Watson asked if housing options hubs written updates could be shared with HPSG members and also raised concerns about City of Edinburgh Council’s recent suggestion that it could take up to 10 years for them to fully implement their RRTP. John asked Marion Gibbs to facilitate the sharing of the written updates with members. He then advised that his view was that RRTPs should go beyond the initial five year plan in some form and reminded everyone that the delivery of RRTPs has been interrupted by Covid-19, but discussions and work will continue past year five.

Ms Robison then invited Marion to speak to the RRTP report (paper 2), which has been circulated to members prior to the meeting. Members were invited to provide feedback on this at the meeting, but were also asked to share this in writing with Marion by 31 March.

Marion covered the key points from the report and reminded members that Covid-19 and Brexit presented significant challenges, but did highlight how impressive it was to see just how much work had been progressed, particularly around prevention. Marion noted that the role of housing options hubs was critical for this. Marion noted that the report could only include information the Scottish Government had received, and that the activities and spend templates would be amended to include a section on impact/outcomes as this was identified as a gap.

Alison noted that it was very useful to see this first report, but suggested there was still progress to be made and commented on reaching a point where there were agreed metrics to better monitor progress in future.  Maggie Brünjes asked HPSG members to consider if there was a shared understanding of pace and scale in rapid rehousing.  John took the opportunity to remind members that this report was a retrospective view on the work that had been done.

Jo Ozga asked members to consider how organisations could monitor how far EQIAs are informing policy.

Ms Robison highlighted Scotland’s solidarity with people in Ukraine, and noted that while the situation is evolving rapidly, it is expected that the arrival of those fleeing the war will impact on the current numbers and availability of temporary accommodation in Scotland. Ms Robison advised members that the Scottish Government (SG) and partners were working with local authorities to mitigate the impacts as far as possible. Marion also advised members that SG officials are meeting daily to discuss the impact of this and are doing as much planning as possible to address concerns.  

The Cabinet Secretary then invited Martin Boyle from the Change Team to give members an update on the work that had taken place since the previous HPSG meeting (paper 3).

Martin noted that the Change Team were pleased to see the continuing growth of the Housing First programme across Scotland and noted that there were a lot of positive outcomes from this. He also highlighted that there were some concerns around the changes to support staff, which can sometimes mean that relationships between Housing First tenants and support services see a set-back until trust is built.

One particular point Martin wanted to share with members was around services continuing to ask people to relive their trauma, highlighting how damaging this could be.

He also provided a brief overview of the work the Change Team is undertaking in collaboration with the SG on:

  • Local connection and removing barriers (to ensure that people, particularly in rural areas, can access the treatment and support services they need).
  • The SHORE standards to ensure people have the right support network in place when they leave prison.
  • Positive meeting with Kevin Stewart, Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care to discuss homelessness and the proposals for a National Care Service.

Martin’s final point was on the meeting the Change Team had with Ms Robison on 16 March. Ms Robison commented on how useful this was and how other areas of the SG could draw on the model of the Change Team to inform other policies.

Finally, Sally Thomas from the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) gave members a brief update on the Homelessness Prevention Fund (paper 4). Sally highlighted that the two main aims of this fund were to prevent homelessness and reduce child poverty and that funded projects focused on families with children. The full report was shared with members prior to the meeting and Sally asked that members pay particular attention to the learning points.


  • Marion to facilitate circulating the written HO Hubs updates for the RRTP sub-group with members.
  • Members to share their thoughts in writing on the RRTP report with Marion by 31 March.

3. Task and finish groups

Janine Kellett invited members to consider the task and finish groups covered in paper 5 and agree the topics to prioritise as well as group remits, membership and timescales.

It was agreed at the last meeting in November to have task and finish groups to dig deeper on some key topics. There had been consensus on three of the main challenges: how to stop the rise in temporary accommodation placements; how to ensure successful implementation of the homelessness prevention duties; and how to develop a better outcomes monitoring framework.  Members agreed that these three topics were the right ones to focus on initially and offered support and input in to these groups.  

Alison said Shelter Scotland had an interest in all three groups and offered to chair the temporary accommodation group and provide secretariat services.  Matt Downie said that Crisis was particularly interested in the prevention duties and outcomes monitoring groups.  Matt noted that a conversation is needed with COSLA in light of the outcome measures agreed as part of the settlement with local government.  Crisis is willing to support the prevention duties group in whatever way is required (whether chairing or servicing).  John said that he was interested in being a member of the temporary accommodation group.

Janice Stevenson offered to provide input from an LGBT perspective to any of the groups.  Jo said that Scottish Women’s Aid would provide similar input on women’s experiences of domestic abuse. 

Maggie asked if a task and finish group on shared spaces/supported accommodation could be prioritised alongside the other three and said that Homeless Network Scotland would be willing to chair and facilitate this group.  There was also interest from some members in a group on migrant homelessness.

Ruth Robin added that there was a risk of being insular and that membership of the task and finish groups should be drawn from a wider pool of experts.  Shea Moran noted the importance of including people with lived experience of homelessness.

On the draft remits, Aaliya Seyal asked if the practice of charging for temporary accommodation could be included in the remit of the temporary accommodation group.  Kate Polson added that suitability and affordability might usefully be considered by this group.  Jo asked that the group consider the relevant recommendations in the improving housing outcomes for women and children experiencing domestic abuse report.

On the numbers of groups, there was broad agreement that there should be no more than three or four. 

Ms Robison suggested that, in the interest of time, discussions would be taken offline and members have been invited to send their thoughts in writing to Janine.


  • Janine to circulate revised remits, timescales and membership of groups and HPSG members to send any further feedback to Janine.

4. Prevention of Homelessness Duties consultation

Matthew Howarth provided members with a brief update on the progress of the consultation, published in December, and next steps.

Following a series of ministerial bilateral meetings Ms Robison held on the consultation at the end of last year, SG officials have primarily focused on organising events during the consultation period that address the ‘public bodies’ aspect of the proposals. A number of these events have taken place in recent weeks, including one for GP representatives and another on the Justice proposals, involving prisons and police representatives.

An event was held on 10 March for stakeholders, co-chaired by the Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care and the Minister for Drugs Policy, with focus on the health and social care aspects of proposals, particularly in relation to people with more complex needs. This event identified existing good practice on prevention happening in Scotland and Ministers have asked for those who attended to reconvene to explore this aspect further. Officials have also attended events hosted by SFHA, Homeless Network Scotland, A Way Home Scotland and the local authority practitioners’ forum and continue to have discussions with a wide range of stakeholders.

Matt noted that the consultation ends shortly, but stakeholder discussions will continue and the publication of the consultation analysis is expected in spring/summer. The plan is to include the new duties in a Housing Bill, that will be brought forward during year 2 of the Parliament. Matt noted that the primary theme across the various events had been a general agreement that the new duties were a positive development, but that clarifying detail of what will be required and potential resource implications would be important.

Matt mentioned a whole systems approach and that shared responsibility was needed to ensure this approach would work and that it could also bring more flexibility to the system.

Some members asked that the unintended consequences were considered and addressed and Matt agreed. Aaliya agreed to share examples of these with Matt, who noted that these are part of the wider considerations and discussions on addressing these are ongoing.


  • Aaliya will share examples of unintended consequences with Matthew Howarth.

5. The Unsuitable Accommodation Order (UAO) and Local Connection

Karen advised that UAO temporary exceptions put in place in response to Covid-19 had led to inconsistent recording and reporting of breaches by local authorities.  Investigation of UAO breaches data by the SG homelessness statisticians had found that the majority of local authorities were recording breaches at placement level rather than at application level.

One option considered to address this was an interpretation article to clarify article 7 of the 2014 Order and what constitutes a breach.  However, engagement with the local authority UAO working group and external stakeholders found that this did not provide the required clarification.  Instead, SG officials issued clarification to local authorities in January on the wording of the amended legislation.  This stated that breaches should not be reported at placement level but instead at application level as this is what is stipulated in the legislation. 

Since then, work has been ongoing to revise the HL3 and UAO guidance in advance of the implementation of the policy to record breaches at application level from 1 April.  Local authorities have advised changes to their management information systems are likely to be required.  As such, caveats on the reporting of breaches in the Homelessness in Scotland statistical publication will apply for a period beyond the implementation date.  Homelessness statisticians are investigating whether or not there is a way to identify and report breaches from the data currently provided through the HL3 return.

Alison is going to contact Karen about revising the guidance to discuss this further.

Ms Robison noted that the arrival of Ukrainian refugees in Scotland could add to the pressures faced by local authorities and make UAO compliance, temporary accommodation usage and suspension of local connection more challenging.

Local authorities have expressed concerns around the timing for laying the local connection SSI and the difficulties this could create for them.  Mike Callaghan asked about scope for an exception or exemption clause to be inserted into the SSI to allow local authorities under extreme pressure to refer households presenting as homeless back to their originating authority. Ms Robison reiterated the SG’s commitment to move forward with the local connection SSI but acknowledged that it was potentially a challenging situation.  She will seek soundings from local authorities on the potential impact on their ability to fulfil their statutory homelessness duties.  This work is moving at pace and the issues for local authorities need to be better understood. NB

Ms Robison advised members that she is working closely with Neil Gray MSP and meeting with local authorities to hold ongoing discussions on this. Ms Robison highlighted how quickly the situation is developing and that some initial funding for this has been agreed.

Members raised concerns about challenges that came about as a result of the Syrian/Afghan settlement schemes. Aaliya noted that there was a lot of useful learning from the Syrian resettlement programme.  Ms Robison reminded members that this was led by UK Home Office, which meant that the SG was restricted in what action it could take. However, this will not be the case for the Ukraine resettlement programme as the Scottish Government has more control and the ability to manage the process this time.  

John suggested it was important to ensure that we ‘cluster’ people fleeing the war, particularly women and children, to try and ease further trauma and make it easier to resettle. Matt Downie also highlighted that Crisis UK were pushing hard for these individuals to be able to access welfare.

Maggie said that credit was due to the SG for its willingness to respond swiftly and support those fleeing Ukraine.  She suggested HPSG revisits this to see what can be learned from the way we respond to such crises and apply that learning in our response to homelessness and destitution.  


  • Alison will contact Karen directly about the UAO guidance.

NB: Officials wrote to local authorities following the HPSG meeting to seek comments on the potential impacts of the Ukrainian refugee settlement programme on temporary accommodation in relation to the local connection SSI.  Around two thirds of local authorities provided responses which were used to inform the Cabinet Secretary and First Minister of the challenges local authorities are experiencing at present.  Due to the ongoing uncertainty, it was agreed that the laying of the local connection SSI should be delayed.  The SG remains committed to introducing the changes to local connection but a new date for laying the SSI has still to be identified.

SG officials will continue to engage with local authorities on a regular basis, including at Housing Options Hub meetings, to capture the impact the Ukrainian refugee programme is having on homelessness services.  This evidence will be used to inform future policy decisions on the timing of laying the SSI.

6. AOB and close

The next HPSG meeting date will be arranged following the local government elections that are due to take place in May. We aim to have the next meeting sometime in June and this will be confirmed nearer the time with members.

Ruth shared some helpful updates with members, particularly on her work on the HL1 data linkage project for health and social care and has requested to bring this work to be discussed at a future meeting, which SG officials will take forward.

No other points were raised.

Ms Robison thanked members for their time and input and closed the meeting.  


  • Melanie will arrange the next meeting date for June.
  • Homelessness officials will link in with Ruth about bringing an update to the next HPSG meeting on relevant health and homelessness data linkage work with the drugs death taskforce.
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