Homelessness: Temporary Accommodation Standards Framework Working Group minutes - 25 November 2021

Minutes from the working group meeting held 25 November 2021.

Attendees and apologies

  • Jim Hayton, Scotland’s Housing Network (Chair)
  • Ashley Campbell, Chartered Institute of Housing
  • Brian Stewart, Edinburgh, Lothian’s and Borders Hub
  • Eileen McMullen, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
  • Gary Quinn, West Hub
  • John Mills, ALACHO and Fife Council
  • Hugh Hill, Simon Community Scotland
  • Karen Grieve, Scottish Government
  • Lisa Borthwick, Shelter Scotland
  • Lorraine Stewart
  • Mike Callaghan, COSLA
  • Moira Bayne, Housing Options Scotland
  • Yvette Burgess, housing Support Enabling Unit


  • Myra Quinn, Scottish Government
  • Olga Clayton, The Wheatley Group
  • Rhiannon Sims, Crisis
  • Allan Jones, North and Islands Hub
  • Lorna Cameron, Horizon Housing

Items and actions

Welcome and minutes of previous meeting

Jim welcomed everyone to the third meeting of the group and referenced the two supporting papers that would inform discussions.  Members agreed the record of the previous meeting was accurate.

Any Other Business 

John had raised the charging for temporary accommodation under AOB following publication of the Legal Services Agency report the previous week, which Jim took at the start of the meeting.  John set out that the affordability of temporary accommodation and rent setting is done by each local authority.  These matters were considered by HARSAG and John wrote a paper on behalf of ALACHO which recognised that, although local authorities set one rate, they don’t set differential rates.  There is an expectation that claimants will be supported through the Treasury and that they are only required to pay a contribution towards the rent that is affordable to them.  HARSAG endorsed the view that, if rents for temporary accommodation is to be genuinely affordable for everyone, these should be reduced to the Local Housing Allowance equivalent.

There was recognition that charging, and costs are reserved and that without devolution of Housing Benefit to Holyrood, the Scottish Government is unable to pay a housing support grant to reduce rents to an affordable level.  There was acknowledgement that some local authorities do subsidise rents from their general funds but that if standards are to be increased across temporary accommodation, a workable solution has to be found so that the cost does not fall to the tenant. 

While the affordability of temporary accommodation is outwith the remit of this short life working group, members felt a comment should be made on this to reflect the importance of not excluding anyone from temporary accommodation on the grounds of cost.  Jim noted the limitations here and suggested that the framework includes text to reflect the complexities, limitations and possible avenues of exploration of this issue. 


  • to include text on the affordability of temporary accommodation which should be of a good standard and affordable.

Although the devolution of Housing Benefit to the Scottish Government is not an option, the suggestion was made that the Scottish Government could create another benefit or top-up benefit.  Karen responded that the Scottish Government has pushed for more social security powers and outlined the challenges of getting to the current position.  She advised that a team in the Homelessness Unit has responsibility for housing-related social security and she would raise this with them.  

Gary asked if this issue could be looked at as part of the work to refresh the Code of Guidance which is within the Scottish Government’s remit, and that this issue should be in the remit of a group looking to develop a shared understanding of affordability.


  • Karen to explore the creation of another benefit or top-up benefit with the housing-related social security team.

Group discussion on comments and suggestions of Temporary Accommodation Standards made at 28 October meeting

Supporting paper 2 which Myra had prepared summarised the key points made by members at the previous meeting.  Jim led the group through these and invited further discussion.  

Further guidance for local authorities on community hosting, rapid access and shared accommodation and case studies required on what is classified as ‘unsuitable accommodation’. 

Ashley had made this suggestion following direct feedback from local authorities who advised they would appreciate further examples.  Although there are examples in the UAO guidance, the feeling was that these had not yet been embedded, and that the guidance could benefit from further examples and that local authorities could contribute more good practice.


  • More case studies and examples of good practice should be included where possible in the UAO guidance.

Energy efficiency should be considered including clarity on energy suppliers as some tenants are missing out on discounts where the local authority retains the account for energy supply. Some local authorities charge a flat rate given difficulties with accessing energy supplier accounts on departure due to GDPR.

The supporting paper had set out that it was for individual local authorities to consider energy suppliers.  Lisa felt that this should not be the case and that this group should ensure the best outcomes for individuals on the issue of energy supply which is wider than the warm homes discount.  

John summarised the difficulties experienced in Fife in trying to connect households with an appropriate supplier after the default provider pulled out and reminded the group that local authorities have the discretion to give households in temporary accommodation fuel cards.  Gary added that the likely reason for local authorities to have the account in their name was to re-let voids as quickly as possible and that if the account were to stay with the tenant, they need to understand the consequence of doing so.

Moira stated that the vulnerability of people in temporary accommodation should mean that they are considered in the same way as access to healthcare is, emphasising the positive impact that the right type of temporary accommodation and being moved onto the right type of permanent accommodation can have.  Yvette added that this issue was considered in the housing support needs assessment due to differing levels of vulnerability and that because fuel poverty has not been defined in terms of health needs, there needs to be a standard energy package at an affordable rate.  

Jim stated that although this group has been tasked with identifying issues that need to be resolved, it is not necessarily within their gift to resolve every issue identified, which could be for another group or Ministers instead.

There should be clear communication about tenants’ rights and what tenants can expect to ensure people have redress.  The complaint process should be clear and accessible.

Myra’s paper had set out that legislation exists to address this and suggested that a link was provided, and reference made within the standards framework and in the updated UAO guidance.  John felt that the fact most temporary accommodation is underpinned by an occupancy agreement is where local authorities get into difficulty and that it would be good to have a discussion on occupancy standards vs short Scottish secure tenancies.

The contract between landlord and tenant is to help ensure people fully understand their rights and responsibilities.  Lisa responded by outlining that the barrier to housing support duty only happens once a decision has been made and there is a duty to provide permanent accommodation.  She has more detailed notes on what the rights mean and their relevance to the standards being delivered and will circulate these.


  • Lisa to circulate her notes on what the rights mean and their relevance to the standards.

There needs to be greater consideration for the access needs of all disabled people, including those that are not physical, e.g., autism appropriate standards.  Social policy changes should be included, e.g., National Autism Strategy review 2021. B&Bs may not be appropriate for an autistic adults, e.g., lack of privacy/personal space, training of support staff, etc.

In response to Jim’s question if a definition of disabled needs were required, Lisa thought that it would be helpful to clarify that disability can relate to physical or mental impairments.  She also suggested that reference should be made to the Equality Act 2010 and what should be taken into account when determining disability, and that local authorities should be mindful of the Public Sector Equality Duty when carrying out their functions and take steps accordingly.  Moira warned against listing disabilities which risks potentially excluding some people, and instead that local authorities should look at clients’ needs and what they require.

The group agreed that frontline staff need to be more aware of a range of sensory impairments.  They also felt that when tenancies are flipped, there is a need to ensure that properties are a good fit long-term and that significant adjustments do not need to be made at a later date.

The group discussed the general commitment to review the housing support assessment process.  It was proposed that this group recommended that this should be done every six months, although there was recognition that local authorities might find it challenging to resource this in practice. 

Digital inclusion, e.g., access to devices in shared areas and the availability of broadband. This is more difficult in scatter flats, easier in shared accommodation.  Consider top-ups and devices, especially for young people.

The group had discussed and acknowledged the importance of digital inclusion at a previous meeting which rendered further discussion on this issue unnecessary.

Definition of ‘affordability’ should reflect that temporary accommodation should be affordable to all households based on reasonable costs.  A lot of funding is through housing benefit which may not be compatible with community based services.

This issue had been discussed earlier in the meeting.

A person-focused approach to assess the household’s needs is required rather than this being dictated by the system.

Jim set out the useful case studies on housing support provision in the guidance and asked if there was anything else other than being person-focused and rights based that should be considered.  Ashley asked that this – along with support duties – was articulated clearly and should be obvious and upfront near the start of the framework.  

Moira pointed out the resources required to support a person-centred approach, including ongoing training and support for staff, while Yvette made the point that this should be a working document with ongoing assessment and communication with the support provider around potentially changing needs.

Can we define what is meant be adequate cooking facilities in the physical standards and name specific appliances?  Access to a kitchen with a stove and oven, fridge, microwave, washing machine, etc.

The group agreed the existing definitions of acceptable cooking facilities were sufficient. 

Service standards, needs assessments and framework need to be consistent and reflect existing legislation as well as be flexible to support proposed/future changes, e.g., the prevention duty. 

John advised that the Prevention Review Group had acknowledged the role of respite accommodation.  He wanted the framework to recognise that if local authorities have a duty six months before the homeless household is in crisis, temporary accommodation may not always be appropriate.

An overarching set of principles as to how people are treated (i.e., with dignity and respect) should be created as part of the standards, incorporating a human rights based approach.

Ashley reiterated the importance of a really clear statement as to what is needed which, although cannot be incorporated into a legally binding contract, could be set out in guidance.  John added that enshrining human rights in legislation would make provision for this, and that there was work underway in the Scottish Government to look at this.

Temporary Accommodation Standards Framework processes, legislation, timescales, and support

On consideration of the necessary processes in supporting paper 3, Ashley felt that the proposed process of monitoring and enforcement of the framework was missing and that the view of the Scottish Housing Regulator and their role here would be helpful.  Karen advised that the Regulator had been approached for their views and that officials were awaiting a response to what role they may potentially play around the framework.

Ashley felt that this could not be achieved through RRTPs as they are not statutory documents and local authorities are not legally bound to report, but John disagreed and suggested that making temporary accommodation standards an integral part of RRTPs should be a recommendation from the group.  John felt that any consultation should be led by the working group as they have been tasked to develop a framework, but that local authorities could be asked if they want to host some events, potentially utilising the Housing Options Hubs.

Hugh emphasised the importance of the experiences of people living in temporary accommodation influencing best practice in addition to being part of the monitoring, and Gary suggested that this is taken forward in conjunction with Homeless Network Scotland.

Lisa felt that legislative changes are needed to implement the framework as, without legal pressure, local authorities might not prioritise this among the numerous other pressures they are facing.  Gary disagreed, stating that he saw the Code of Guidance as a powerful tool and that local authorities continuously have regard to it. 

On the question of accountability, Ashley felt there was no appetite in the consultation for financial penalties, and that legislation did not necessarily guarantee adherence.  Instead, she felt that resource was needed to implement the necessary changes.  John was of the view that legislation would raise the political profile for the need for investment into temporary accommodation and referenced the merging of current funding streams for RRTPs and homelessness prevention and responses. 

The group agreed there was a clear role for the Scottish Housing Regulator here.

On the timescales for implementing the framework, Karen advised that the legislative timetable is very full so timescales would be influenced by whether we went down the legislative route or not, and also the Regulator’s response.

Lisa felt that agreeing, publishing, and implementing a framework should be done as soon as practicable and that feedback from local authorities would determine how much of their existing stock meets the standards.

On the issue of support, John felt that local authorities have enough expertise to implement RSLs, but their ability to do so depends on materials, labour, etc. to increase temporary accommodation over a reasonable period of time.  He felt that the development of the standards and framework was needed to inform costings of refurbishing a property, and that a continued commitment to the £23.5 million from the Scottish Government was needed.

The group discussed the challenges of relying on external partners to provide related support, and that this should not be done on the basis of the specific types of accommodation or support required.  Eileen set out the dilemma facing local authorities in relation to housing support for the individual to stay in temporary accommodation or for the support to continue when move into other accommodation.  These individuals have high support needs and more investment in this is needed to prevent homelessness.

The group agreed that a decision on what the Scottish Government can do to ensure compliance with the framework would be informed by how much the Regulator will be involved.  However, there was a preference for local authorities to take control of an informal network where best practice could be shared rather than a formal task force.  The work on Gypsy/Travellers site standards was suggested as a model of good practice.

The group agreed that local authorities should be obliged to produce a plan around how they will introduce a new framework and that this should be achieved through their RRTPs.

Lisa asked to what extent was the overarching review of statistics being undertaken by the Scottish Government would look at temporary accommodation metrics.  Karen advised she would put Lisa in touch with her statistical colleagues to discuss this directly.


  • Karen to put Lisa in touch with Scottish Government statisticians.


In summary, Jim suggested that he work with Scottish Government officials to develop a route map for future meetings and tasks to be accomplished, including the development of milestones for meetings in the first half of 2022.

The next meeting will take place from 10.30 to 12.00 on 13 January 2022.


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