Homelessness: Temporary Accommodation Standards Framework Working Group minutes - 13 January 2022
- Local Government and Housing Directorate
- Part of
Minutes from the meeting of the group held on 13 January 2022.
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
- Rhiannon Sims, Crisis
- Scott Paterson, Ayrshire and South Hub
- Yvette Burgess, Housing Support Enabling Unit
- Allan Jones, North and Islands Hub
- Lisa Borthwick, Shelter Scotland
- Ian Brennan, Scottish Housing Regulator
- John Jellema, Scottish Housing Regulator
- Eleanor Sneddon, Scottish Housing Regulator
- Mike Callaghan, COSLA
- Karen Grieve, Scottish Government
- Myra Quinn, Scottish Government
- Moira Bayne, Housing Options Scotland
- Olga Clayton, Wheatley Group
Items and actions
Welcome and minutes from 25 November 2021.
Jim welcomed everyone to the fourth meeting of the working group and referenced the two supporting papers that would inform discussions.
25 November 2021 minutes - Jim advised that all actions had been cleared and SG officials will provide an update at a later date on the discussions around the creation of another benefit proposal.
Lisa Borthwick (Shelter) had provided a note on what the homeless applicants rights mean and their relevance to the standards, which was circulated to members today for discussion at the next working group meeting scheduled for 10 February.
WG members agreed the minutes.
Monitoring and regulation of the framework and the role of the Scottish Housing Regulator.
The WG discussed the supporting paper for this item which summarised the key points from the responses received to the 2019 consultation on proposed approaches to monitoring and regulation of temporary accommodation (TA) standards as well as the role of the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR).
At this item members considered:
- consultation responses on monitoring and regulation of a TA standards framework
- assessment of performance, recording and reporting this information
- SHR’s current role and legal powers and how a standards framework will fit into their assessment process
Monitoring and Regulation
The consultation responses provided an insight into some of the monitoring processes that local authorities undertake to scrutinise the quality of their accommodation. The WG discussed how those procedures and processes that are completed by local authorities when evaluating the condition of accommodation could be captured.
Summary of members’ comments:
- frontline housing managers have processes and procedures in place to undertake self-monitoring assessment of accommodation standards, but consideration needs to be given as to whether this can be improved and extended for use by all organisations
- there are already good examples of self-assessment frameworks within the context of supported accommodation settings that the Care Inspectorate has in place (although it was noted these are only for care homes). These could easily be adapted by organisations to assess various accommodation.
- independent scrutiny is required
- more systematic processes and procedures are required rather than sharing best practice
- a best practice tool should link to RRTPs as part of the evidence gathering process
- assessment/monitoring is weighted towards a check list of physical standards but should have a greater focus on listening to the experience of the people who live in the accommodation
- there is a need to engage with people in accommodation to capture their experiences while they are living there rather than after they have left. This could be achieved by face to face engagement via Homeless Network Scotland (HNS) and other local groups
- it is important to ensure people are aware of their rights when questions are being asked
- consider face to face entry and exit interviews with people
- some LAs use an independent organisation to carry out exit interviews with TA users
- some LAs aim to carry out a weekly visit to speak with tenants but due to the pandemic, this has happened less frequently
- we need to reconsider how we capture failures to meet accommodation standards and responding to complaints
- support agencies could have an assessment/monitoring role as well as undertaking an annual survey on whether LA practice is good/bad
- peer review among RSLs should be encouraged to help them learn from each other
The WG agreed that self-monitoring approaches used across Scotland are likely to have core elements but won’t be all the same, and that it would it be helpful to have some standardisation of approach.
In response to Jim’s suggestion that the standards should include a monitoring approach is put in place to evidence the self-evaluation approach taken by LAs, Ian advised that the requirement to have an evidence base is already part of the existing regulatory requirements.
The WG considered the assessment process followed by the SHR and the local authority role in assuring the Scottish Housing Quality Standards are met.
As required by section 31 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010, the Scottish
Ministers, in this Scottish Social Housing Charter, set the standards and outcomes that all social landlords, including local authorities, should aim to achieve when performing their housing activities.
Local authorities submit an Annual Return on the Charter to the SHR each year in accordance with their published guidance.
LAs need to provide assurance and evidence that they are meeting all of their legal obligations associated with housing and homelessness services, equality and human rights, and tenant and resident safety to support their Annual Return on the Charter and Annual Assurance Statement. The WG discussed whether the proposed standards framework would form part of the LA current performance assessment, given that the standards framework directly links into the Charter’s outcomes and standards.
Members did not raise any objections to LAs assessing the standards framework as part of their current performance assessment.
At the WG meeting of 25 November 2021, 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.
Members discussed whether it was necessary to include the assessment of local authority performance on the standards framework within their RRTP.
Those that were in favour of its inclusion within the RRTP felt that it would:
- reflect the transformation of accommodation
- allow LAs to set out meeting the standards framework
- be useful to include a plan of how the LAs will achieve the standards framework and that the assurance statement should provide the detail of LA performance
Others commented that including the standards framework assessment in their RRTP might create more of a burden on LAs.
Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR)
The 2019 consultation covered the SHR’s current role, legal powers and how a standards framework will fit into the LA assessment process.
Consultation analysis reported that although the majority of responses considered that the SHR already have sufficient powers to undertake their role to assess local authority performance of their legal duty around homelessness, some felt that the SHR did not use all of its power or that there needed to be a change in the way the SHR operates.
Ian Brennan (SHR) advised that the SHR are the independent statutory regulator of social landlords in Scotland. The purpose of the SHR is to monitor, assess and intervene as appropriate and their role is set out in statute and a framework. Social landlords are made up of RSLs: housing associations, co-operatives and local authorities that provide housing and homelessness services.
He told members that the SHR assesses if housing associations and co-operatives are meeting the outcomes contained within the Scottish Social Housing Charter (known as ‘the Charter’), using a series of Charter indicators. In May each year, housing associations and co-operatives submit an Annual Return on the Charter to the SHR which it then uses to make its assessment.
Ian stated that the SHR:
- continually assess each landlord to understand their performance and risk
- engage with landlords at different levels depending on their risk and performance profile
- engage with landlords in the least intrusive way possible to get the assurance that they need
- are transparent about why and how they engage with landlords
- give landlords the opportunity to improve where there are problems, unless the SHR needs to act quickly
- use their powers in a proportionate way. If issues with compliance are identified, it would be regulatory overreach for the SHR to dictate what should be done. Instead, it should be for the organisation to decide this through dialogue with the SHR as this is more likely to lead to more sustainable and enduring compliance
- take decisive, effective action to safeguard the interests of tenants and other service users when a landlord does not have the capacity or willingness to improve
- focus on the most significant risks to tenants, people who are homeless and other service users
Ian added that LAs need to assure themselves and then assure the SHR that they are meeting the relevant standards for their homelessness services. This same process would apply to whatever legally enforceable standards were approved for implementation following the Working Group’s conclusion.
He also advised that the SHR look at standards of the accommodation that homeless households are placed in and speak to LAs about TA regularly.
In response to whether the SHR provides support to LAs, Ian stated that if the SHR identifies non-compliance in an LA then it will expect that LA to become compliant on its own as it is up to each LA to comply.
Lisa Borthwick advised that Shelter is one of organisations that feel that the SHR doesn’t use all of their powers, citing Glasgow as an example. Lisa stated that Shelter had felt that there wasn't enough action being taken at a specific point in time during the Glasgow scenario but acknowledged the differing opinions of Shelter Scotland and the regulator.
In response to Lisa’s question as to what level of intervention should people expect to be taken by the SHR and when, Ian advised that it is a judgement that the SHR takes based on the information and evidence they have.
John Mills (Fife) asked when there is a new area of work such as self-monitoring of standards would the SHR carry out a thematic review and allow for a period of transition for LAs to achieve the standards? In response Ian stated that although the SHR are keen on thematic reviews as they consider them to be effective, but the lack of SHR resource to carry out a review is the issue.
John Jellema (SHR) advised that the SHR speaks to LAs about their UAO compliance, aligning with Scottish Government on this. The SHR needs assurance that LAs have a plan in place towards compliance even where we understand that some LAs are finding it very challenging to comply.
The WG discussed that, as local authorities already assess and record their performance on meeting the Charter’s outcomes for the purposes of providing their Annual Return to the SHR, it would seem sensible for local authorities to include the standards framework as part of that performance assessment process.
Members did not raise any objections to the SHR assessing the standards framework within their regular LA performance assessment procedures.
Ian Brennan advised that LAs need to assure themselves and then assure the SHR that they are meeting the relevant standards. The pandemic has led to a significant change in the way in which the SHR engage with LAs, extending this from 27 to all 32 LAs. The SHR is publishing an engagement plan setting out the way in which it engages with every LA.
Ian advised that where there are legally enforceable standards, there is a role for the SHR. If the standards are converted to legally enforced standards, then LAs need to meet these and advise the SHR if they are not.
He advised that the requirement for a mandatory assurance statement, a declaration by the landlord that they are meeting the standards, already exists. This isn’t needed in the standards but can be included if necessary.
The WG then discussed the SHR regulatory approach which is to ensure that the tenant is protected. A person-centred emphasis is fundamental to the work of the SHR.
Members considered whether the focus for LAs has been steered more towards meeting targets and statistics rather than considering the homeless household and the person’s experience of navigating the homeless system.
There was concern that LAs are being weighed down by having to meet targets and members reiterated that we all need to be mindful of the people involved in the process.
Temporary Accommodation Standards Framework WG considers sanctions and enforcement
The WG discussed the supporting paper on sanctions and enforcement, including the consultation responses.
Members noted that almost all housing providers disagreed with sanctions, whereas a majority of advocacy organisations expressed support for sanctions as an effective way to hold LAs to account.
Members agreed that financial penalties or fines are not appropriate and that a more collaborative approach would be more appropriate, although members did not suggest who should be involved in such a collaboration.
Some members felt that there should be repercussions if LAs breach the UAO, although there was no suggestion of what this might be or look like.
- Members to consider if there are any suitable and straightforward measures other than sanctions and fines that could be introduced to support LAs to ensure they are able to achieve the standards framework
Jim Hayton referred members to the timeline paper issued on 21 December 2021.
Jim explained that the timeline paper provides details of the areas discussed at each meeting and what the WG will be looking at going forward and when it is hoped outcomes will be achieved.
Any Other Business and close
Hugh Hill (Simon Community Scotland) requested that this work aligns with the New Deal for Tenants for consistency, for example, ensuring pets are covered in this guidance.
Next meeting is on 10 February 2022 (10:30 to 12:00)
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