Attendees and apologies
- Jim Hayton, Scotland’s Housing Network (Chair)
- Ashley Campbell, Chartered Institute of Housing
- Brian Stewart, Edinburgh, Lothian’s and Borders Hub
- Gary Quinn, West Hub
- John Mills, ALACHO and Fife Council
- Yvette Burgess, Housing Support Enabling Unit
- Allan Jones, North and Islands Hub
- Lisa Borthwick, Shelter Scotland
- Hazel Young, Wheatley Group
- Moira Bayne, Housing Options Scotland
- Jill O’Rourke, North Ayrshire Council
- Karen Grieve, Scottish Government
- David Pentland, Scottish Government
- Myra Quinn, Scottish Government
- Hugh Hill, Simon Community Scotland
- Rhiannon Sims, Crisis
Items and actions
Welcome and update on legal advice.
Jim welcomed everyone to the sixth meeting of the Temporary Accommodation Standards Framework Working Group (WG).
Jim reminded the WG that it had been agreed by members to postpone the meeting scheduled for 10 March to allow time for updating the TA standards in advance of wider circulation for comment.
He advised that the draft standards had been circulated to a range of stakeholders and that members will be discussing the comments received at item 3 of the agenda.
We will go on to discuss the supporting paper which covers assessment, monitoring etc of the Temporary Accommodation Standards Framework.
Karen Grieve provided an update on discussions with SG legal colleagues and SG colleagues responsible for publishing the new Scottish Social Housing Charter.
As the Charter is to be laid this July and that the temporary accommodation standards framework is still at a draft stage then it was agreed that the Charter shouldn’t make reference to the framework.
Karen outlined the potential options in order to legally enforce the TA Standards -
- to include the approved standards framework as part of the next review of the Charter in up to five years’ time (2027, having first consulted adequately with the consultees as required in statute)
SG’s policy preference is for the standards to be enforced by the SHR. If the standards are included in the Charter, they can only be enforced by the SHR who can assess and address performance. Policy will shortly meet with the SHR to discuss this further.
- take legal enforcement forward through the Year 4 Housing Standards Bill (introduced in 2024-25)
Taking legal enforcement forward via primary legislation means the standards would be enforceable by anyone.
Based on the available options, Karen advised that the TA Standards would likely not be legally enforceable for a number of years. While this could be problematic from a Ministerial presentational perspective, it is recognised that having a longer implementation would be helpful to LAs as they’re not in a position to make the physical improvements and implement new processes at pace due to a variety of factors (response to displaced Ukrainians, budget cuts, inflation).
Members agreed and said that without resources to improve TA, LAs’ ability to implement the standards will be constrained. In order to meet the costs of upgrading accommodation to the standards level could mean that LAs may need to increase rents.
John Mills stated that standards are the way forward, with the key question as always being how to improve the service to homeless people. He spoke about the work of the Task and Finish Group (TAFG) on Temporary Accommodation that he co-chairs with Shelter Scotland and that part of the group’s work is to look at the charges for temporary accommodation. Jim suggested that it would be helpful for him as chair of the TA standards WG to meet with John and discuss potential synergy between the two groups. John confirmed his willingness to do that.
Members raised and discussed the issue of the standards which are already legally covered under the Unsuitable Accommodation Order.
A member suggested that LAs will be aspirational and will progress issues that can be improved without significant financial investment, but LAs would appreciate a period of time to make these changes before they become legally enforceable.
Members agreed that it will be hard and will get harder still, but we should not lose sight of the things we can do, even with pending additional resources and the introduction of a legally enforceable framework when legislative timetables may permit this in the years’ ahead.
Temporary Accommodation Standards Framework – Section covering assessment, monitoring etc.
Jim advised the WG that the supporting paper provides information as part of the framework which aims to help landlords to implement the TA standards framework. In addition, the paper has prompts on the outstanding issues that the WG needs to reach agreement on.
No initial observations were made by members on the supporting paper. Jim moved on to discuss the outstanding issues.
- The SHR Role. WG response – The WG was content with the SHR role as discussed in previous papers
- Other suitable and straightforward measures other than sanctions and fines that could be introduced in order to support LAs to achieve the standards framework. WG response – It was noted there was no appetite for sanctions etc. There were no comments on alternatives to penalties and sanctions other than that SHR should continually monitor LA performance and compliance in regard to the provision of temporary accommodation. The WG concluded that a decision on this not required at this stage
Other comments – any monitoring needs to be transparent and information on findings on performance on the standards needs to be made available for scrutiny.
Karen mentioned that the SHR board is really interested in homelessness and undertaking a thematic review that would look at the wealth of data and information out there to inform a narrative. It is anticipated this would include temporary accommodation, which was welcomed by the chair.
- WG members to make a recommendation on the timescale for all social landlords, including local authorities, to become compliant with the framework. WG response - Members linked this action to the outstanding action (below) where local authorities will need to audit their current stock first and have a set of standards in place before a timeline can be considered
Members also commented that conversations around resource packages would be required.
Jim suggested that perhaps a survey performed through ALACHO or the existing housing option hubs to establish reasonable timescales might be useful.
John Mills advised that the TAFG will pick up anything that is not covered by this WG, and he will share the TAFG terms of reference with Jim.
- WG members discussed at the 10 February meeting whether an informal network of social landlords meeting on a regular basis would provide the best opportunity for local authorities to support each other and to share best practice. Allan Jones suggested the informal national temporary accommodation group which he runs could be expanded to include representation from other local authorities. WG response - Allan Jones advised that the national temporary accommodation group met and are happy to expand and include other local authorities as long as the group remains at an informal level
Members agreed that there is no need to create something else when this exists.
Jim advised that he believed Scotland’s Housing Network could help with cascading the information to local authorities, and that he would speak further with Allan about how the group might best be supported and its potential maximised.
- Members suggested that local authorities would need to audit their current stock and assess practice against the new standards to identify any gaps. An audit may have been undertaken as part of each local authority’s response to displaced Ukrainians. WG members need to provide their view on this. WG response - Agreed.
- Are there other types of support that WG members can suggest to help local authorities meet the new Temporary Accommodation Standards Framework? WG response - To be considered by members and discussed at a later date when the framework is completed.
WG members to:
- discuss and agree whether Scottish Government should be responsible for the framework and what the frequency of the review period should be. WG response - Members agreed that SG should retain responsibility for the framework
- discuss and agree that formal evaluation should be undertaken every two years by Scottish Government and/or SHR. WG response - Members agreed that a formal evaluation should be undertaken every two years
- suggest independent organisations who might be involved in the evaluation; decide on who they are and suggestions as soon as possible. So that we can approach them to see if that is viable. WG response - Members to give some thought to which independent organisations could be involved in the evaluation
- consider how the Scottish Government’s statistical data review could feed into the temporary accommodation metrics to provide an accurate overview of national performance on meeting the new standards. WG response - Members discussed and a range of comments were provided, which included:
- there is already a limitation of UAO breach information
- there are operational practicalities of how LAs record
- there isn’t one solution, to move to modern IT platforms takes time
- adopting personal housing plans to make sure it is person centred and these are crossed reference with HL1. However, this doesn’t correspond completely since there are two levels of information - the LA and the person
- need to consider the individual‘s experience and how we will be able to get that information on TA
- asking people sounds good but needs to be done correctly, as there can be a stigma associated with homelessness
- gathering the lived experience needs to be collected by someone independent
Temporary Accommodation Standards Framework – Section on Draft standards.
Jim advised that the purpose of this item was to:
- discuss the comments from wider stakeholders – summary of main points raised provided in supporting paper 3
- discuss WG members’ comments on draft standards
However, as the document sets out 122 key comment’s received it was not possible to get through all of these at the meeting.
WG response - Some members felt that the terms Management and Service should be better defined and that more clarity and guidance should be provided on what service standards mean and should include.
Others felt that there is already sufficient guidance available on these terms, such as the 2011 published Guidance on Standards for Temporary Accommodation by CIH Scotland and Shelter Scotland. It was also noted that standards presented in the 2011 guidance, were subsequently used as the basis of the advisory standards published in 2019 in the revised Code of Guidance (CoG) on Homelessness and in the standards framework that the WG are working on.
Although the standards have been updated, many are not new, but build on and consolidate those set out in the Code of Guidance on Homelessness as well as existing standards covered by legislation.
Lisa Borthwick suggested that some standards are already covered by legislation via the UAO and asked how the standards framework would work in practice without being included in legislation. However, as the legal enforcement options are not yet agreed the WG will need to consider this at a later meeting.
It was decided that SG officials will try to consolidate the stakeholder comments into what can be achieved and what is out with the remit of the WG.
Although the WG briefly discussed the notion of creating a smaller sub group to look at the stakeholder comments offline, the chair advised that although he wishes the content and nature of the 122 comments made in recent days to be considered, in particular any critical or previously overlooked points being advanced, but given the body of previous work on the standards, and the efforts of the current WG, he did not think it would be productive at this stage to spend a significant amount of time dissecting the standards and putting them back together again.
In his view, it was more important to work towards ensuring that all LAs can demonstrate evidence of an effective set of TA standards capable of improving the situation for homeless people, perhaps in the form of local leaflet or digital version. This he felt should be supported by a robust framework to monitor LA performance in delivering the standards and include publicising means of redress for anyone who believed they had not received the promised standard(s). In his view this was likely to mean LAs undertaking to publicise both their TA standards locally and an annual performance appraisal or similar. Indeed, this had been pretty much what he understood SHR to say they would be looking for in due course. He agreed to return to this at the next meeting
SG will issue a doodle poll to establish the availability of members for the next meeting in either July or August.
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