Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group minutes: September 2018

Minutes of the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group meeting in September 2018.

1. Introductions and apologies

The Chair welcomed everybody to the meeting and drew everyone’s attention to the previous week’s publication of the new Programme for Government which included reiteration of the commitment to tackling and ending homelessness from the First Minister. 

2. Minutes of last meeting

The minute of the last meeting was agreed. 

3. Developing an Action Plan

Paper 2: Draft Outcomes

Members agreed it would be important that they collectively took ownership of the Action Plan to support successful delivery. It was felt important to ensure that this is more than simply the Scottish Government’s internal plan, but rather is clearly positioned as a national, strategic document.

The group discussed the Draft Outcomes paper provided by Scottish Government for review, comment and additions from group members. The discussion centred around the language in the document and the importance of framing of the message. The root causes of homelessness need to be reflected within the document which must also include clear, continued commitment to ending homelessness. It was agreed that tackling youth homelessness is an important area, and the need for tailored approaches for young people, as well as other particular groups at risk, will be reflected in the Action Plan. There was a view that it was important that the document is not seen to dilute the work HARSAG was tasked to do – ‘to end homelessness’. SG officials will revise the outcomes document in light of the comments received, to ensure these aims are realised.

ACTION: SG team to redraft, reflecting on comments from members. 

Paper 3: SG forward look

Members then discussed the forward look document. It was agreed that the rights based approach for homeless people throughout the drafting was welcome. The following comments were made on each section.

Rapid Rehousing

Members raised concerns around how rapid rehousing should be considered alongside and inform the affordable homes programme. The Minister spoke of the Affordable Housing Supply Programme (AHSP) which seeks to employ a common sense approach, building what is required and allowing flexibility around benchmark funding.

AHSP is in its third year and benefits are now being seen in extra housing supply. The programme gives opportunities to local authorities and housing associations to increase their supply of affordable housing. Housing associations who are benefitting need be persuaded to review their allocations policy and see how they can contribute to the agenda. All social landlords accessing funding through AHSP will be expected to contribute to the Rapid Rehousing agenda and the proportion and number of lets will be indicated within the rapid rehousing transition plan The Minister confirmed he will be interested to see the interactions between AHSP funding and numbers of offers and homeless lets from housing associations. It is essential that offers are also considered, as not all Section 5 Referrals and offers translate to a let. Local authorities and housing associations should be interrogating their housing lists and seek to be building what they know they will need in future, now.

The Minister was also clear that come March 2019 the Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans will directly influence the distribution of the £21m (now £23.5m) made available to support their implementation. However, local authorities should prioritise establishing what they judge they need in order to bring about transformational change in their areas, rather than planning on the basis of the money they judge may be available to them.

A discussion took place about the potential unintended consequences of increased proportions of social housing allocations to homeless households. The Minister stated the importance for flexibility to get this right, suggesting that increases in housing supply should help. Concerns were also raised over the readiness of care providers within temporary accommodation. Members questioned how aware they are of the changes coming and if they have been included in this conversation. A risk was identified that local authorities could end up commissioning services not fit for purpose if the changing context is not well understood early enough. It was considered care providers needed to be included in the conversation sooner, rather than later. It was highlighted that various joint meetings with COSLA have taken place with SG and this provides a platform for getting these messages across. Housing associations and the private rented sector should be included and considered when taking forward rapid rehousing planning.

The Minister thought it would be beneficial to arrange a follow up to the Housing Convenors meeting that took place in late June, along with Finance Convenors to continue the conversation about what is required to deliver rapid rehousing. 

ACTION: SG team and COSLA to arrange meeting with local authority Housing Convenors and Finance Convenors.

(Work has begun on looking beyond 2021 with COSLA hosting an event on 25 September).

Frontline Services

Members recognised the expertise and knowledge that already exists at the frontline – and the importance of providing good training and support to maximise the impact of this, including enabling people to work across the traditional statutory and voluntary sector boundaries in pursuit of good outcomes for people.

There was a discussion around the importance of the learning and the experience already on the frontline and framing that as tightly as possible. The frontline needs a good standardised training package that gives them the confidence to act. The Housing Options Hubs training toolkit will support this, in part, but has been subject to difficulties with the procurement process. The training offer needs to set out clearly where the lines of statutory duty lie in relation to the third sector and how that sits within an integrated response that makes clear who is the decision maker, who has the power to take action based on those decisions.

ACTION: SG team to provide an update to members on progress of the training toolkit. 

Discussion took place on the importance of supporting people when leaving institutions. Unstructured housing journeys need to come to an end and the approach should be woven in to RRTPs.

The Minister noted that the SHORE standards have now been in place since December last year. He would like to understand the impact of the standards and what progress has been made by local authorities and the prison service in implementing the standards to date.

 ACTION: SG team to work with justice colleagues to review implementation and progress of the SHORE standards.

 ACTION: Evidence of plans for implementation of the SHORE standards should be included in the RRTP evaluation criteria

Looked after children and young people leaving care institutions were also discussed. It was highlighted that when a young person turns 26, support comes to an end, which could be a vulnerable time and cause people to hit crisis – even though the period for which support is provided was recently increased from 21 to 26, there is still a point at which a young person is no longer eligible. These reforms have not been in place for long enough for a whole cohort of young people to experience uninterrupted support to their 26th birthday, and looked after children policy officials continue to monitor the implementation of the legislation.

The point was made that we should be talking about the care ‘experienced’, and that goes for all people with experience of institutions e.g. prison experienced. The risk of homelessness is due to the experience, the risk is not only present immediately upon leaving the institution. Members agree that with regard to care leavers, a national and local government strategic response was required.

ACTION: The Minister and Cllr Whitham to send joint letter to local authorities on care leavers, including reference to care leavers being exempt from council tax.

A question was asked regarding what framework is going to be used to monitor progress towards delivery. The Minister agreed further thought was required and asked the team to take forward.

ACTION: HPSG members to consider how to measure progress.

Temporary Accommodation

Members were content with the section on temporary accommodation. The Minister mentioned the caveated HARSAG recommendations where the levers of change sit with the UK Government. SG officials are in the process of gathering data in partnership with COSLA and considering what representation can be made to the UK Government regarding these recommendations.

Housing System

Members were content with the section on the Housing System. A point was raised about the interplay between the Local Housing Strategies, the Strategic Housing Investment Plans and Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans. Work is ongoing to ensure alignment and additional information will be developed for HPSG members in conjunction with More Homes Division regarding these interactions.

ACTION: SG team to discuss a paper with More Homes colleagues to make clearer the interplay of the different plans and strategies, to be circulated to HPSG members for information.


Members agreed this section properly captures what steps need to be taken and where to start – legislation should backstop a rights-based approach. Dedicated resource has been assigned within the SG team, and the importance of the work being done through consultation and partnership was acknowledged. It was recognised this may take time to get right.

Members heard that the Code of Guidance is currently being updated. Timing of re-publication requires consideration within the array of changes coming through as the HARSAG recommendations are delivered e.g. rapid rehousing. However, it was pointed out that local authorities should not wait on the legislation; progress should continue in tandem with the legislative process. The Guidance should be refreshed regularly rather than waiting for steady state before formally publishing a finalised version.

It was recognised that there is a potential for confusion between the proposals for the Code of Guidance to be refreshed, and the new Code of Practice being developed. It will be important to provide clear messaging.

The Minister pointed out the risk of Brexit; Parliament may need to legislate on a lot of things it was not expecting to, which in turn could influence the homelessness legislative timetable.

There was a discussion about regulation of standards in temporary accommodation. It was highlighted that as a significant amount of provision is contracted through the voluntary sector, rather than housing associations and councils, the voluntary sector should be consulted alongside other housing providers and finance directors. The Minister would like to see parity of standards in all types of housing.

A discussion around temporary accommodation reminded members that housing associations are not public bodies. Wording in legislation and communications needs to reflect this. It was suggested instead to use the wording “public bodies and other delivery partners”.

Across the expected legislation, members agreed it was important that no one should be ‘waiting’ for legislative change but should be actively moving towards the new system now. This message should be foregrounded in communications.

ACTION: Incorporate into communications that no one should be waiting for legislation to be enacted before making the required changes.


A question was raised about a possible working group to review data collection, analysis and potential data linkage. The Minister felt sub-groups can delay action and would prefer decisions regarding measurement are made directly through HPSG, with additional discussion taking place off line when required.

It was pointed out that discussions are required with the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) as there may be issues with void loss and measurement of tenancy sustainment as part of the overall approach.

SG officials said tenancy sustainment and how rapid rehousing goes into the Charter could be raised in terms of measurement with SHR.

ACTION: SG team to meet SHR to discuss issues raised. A meeting has subsequently taken place on ensuring the SHR is fully up to speed on the development of RRTPs and the implementation of HARSAG recommendations. It was agreed there would be regular meetings to ensure effective collaboration going forward.

National Strategic Alignments

If this section is not properly positioned, members recognised a risk that it would continue to imply that homelessness is a housing issue, without achieving a recognition that it needs a wider contribution from partners including Health, Justice, Education and Social Work in order to bring about meaningful change for those experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Members discussed that Integration Joint Boards are currently redrafting housing contribution statements and there may be opportunities for local authorities to join up between policy areas here. 

ACTION: HPSG members to consider how this section can be reframed to ensure it supports the implementation of the spirit of the HARSAG recommendations.

4. Rapid Rehousing Sub Group Update

 John Mills updated members on the first Rapid Rehousing sub group meeting that took place on 6 September. Gaps in membership were identified and will be addressed ahead of the next meeting. The messaging coming through suggests that local authorities are by and large on board with the premise and principles of rapid rehousing, although there is a lot to work through and there are some specific concerns in rural areas. Further work will continue virtually in between meetings. ALACHO are continuing to support local authorities following their health check survey which was sent to all local authorities. As at 6 September, 28 replies had been received. Concerns were also noted about the timescale of the plans but it was noted that a full and final plan is not required by December, this could be sent with a caveat of being subject to committee approval. Local authorities have also been reminded there is support available from SG, COSLA & ALACHO. Future meetings will take place at least two weeks before HPSG to allow written updates and papers to be put to HPSG for consideration in advance. The next meeting of the sub-group will take place on 6 November.

ACTION: John Mills to ensure RRTP sub-group minute of 6 September meeting is shared once available.  (Complete, this was sent to HPSG members on 14 September).

5. Winter Actions

Lorraine McGrath presented her paper on winter actions. Members found the paper useful and agreed that learning from what worked last year should help shape plans. The proposal is to establish a group of operationally experienced individuals, including those involved in last year’s winter initiative and others, seeking to gain representation from across Scotland. The group will focus on ensuring all areas are ready to deal with winter challenges. Members agreed early communication would be important. They noted there is some feeling that public perceptions are shifting, with greater understanding of the complexity. There was recognition that media and public attention on this year’s winter response will increase soon, and a coordinated response and a shared script across partners would be useful. It was noted that the Scottish Resilience Partnership needs to get the message out at a national level that filters down fast, as they can link into winter initiatives.

ACTION: Neil Hamlet to connect with NHS Resilience machinery and SG to contact Scottish Resilience team about the winter actions and severe weather planning to ensure good join up.

 ACTION: Members to support connections across communications functions to join up comms on winter actions and severe weather planning in order for messages to start circulating, helping inform the public and let them know who to contact if they see people in difficulty. (Complete, a meeting took place on 30 October to coordinate putting in place activity). 

6. AOB

  •  Members agreed to future meetings being extended to 3 hours and possibly to be more frequent as actions move forward.
  • SFHA have an event on 13 December ‘Homeless to Housed’.

Action: Sally to send detail to members. (Complete, details sent to all members)

  •  Neil Hamlet informed members that the Faculty of Public Health is hosting a 2 day event. Homelessness and housing features well on the programme. He welcomed members to attend if possible.

Date of next meeting

Tuesday 4 December

9am – 12 pm.

Dunedin Room at the City Chambers, 235 High Street Edinburgh.|

Attendees and apologies

  • Kevin Stewart MSP (Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning Co-Chair)
  • Cllr Whitham, COSLA (Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, Co-Chair)
  • Nicola Dickie, COSLA
  • Peter Barry, SOLACE
  • David Duke, Street Soccer
  • Neil Hamlet NHS Fife
  • Lorraine McGrath, Streetwork/Simon Community
  • Adam Lang, Shelter Scotland
  • John Mills, ALACHO
  • Jon Sparkes, Crisis
  • Janice Stevenson, LGBT Youth
  • Charlie MacKenzie-Nash, LGBT Youth – Lived experience
  • Sally Thomas, SFHA
  • Gavin Yates, Homeless Action Scotland
  • Tony Anderson, Aff the Streets
  • Catriona MacKean, Scottish Government
  • Marion Gibbs, Scottish Government
  • Lynsey McKean, Scottish Government
  • Lindsey Mckenna, Scottish Government
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