Attendees and apologies
- Jim Hayton, Scotland’s Housing Network (Chair)
- Ashley Campbell, Chartered Institute of Housing
- Brian Stewart, Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders Hub
- Eileen McMullen, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
- Hugh Hill, Simon Community Scotland
- Scott Paterson, Ayrshire and South Hub
- Allan Jones, North and Islands Hub
- Lisa Borthwick, Shelter Scotland
- Moira Bayne, Housing Options Scotland
- John MacMillan, Change Team
- Ryan MacDonald, Change Team
- Mike Callaghan, COSLA
- Karen Grieve, Scottish Government
- Louise Thompson, Scottish Government
- Emily Harris, Scottish Government
- Olga Clayton, Wheatley Group
- Gary Quinn, West Hub
- John Mills, ALACHO and Fife Council
- Rhiannon Sims, Crisis
- Yvette Burgess, Housing Support Enabling Unit
Items and actions
Welcome and minutes from 13 January 2022
Jim welcomed everyone to the fifth meeting of the working group and welcomed two new members of the Change Team – John and Ryan – who each gave a brief introduction and shared a little about how their lived experience and frontline service experience could support the working group.
Jim gave a brief summary of the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) input at the previous meeting and invited others to share their thoughts. There was a short discussion on the powers, funding, and role of the SHR in enforcing the Temporary Accommodation (TA) standards.
Jim also mentioned that the chair of the Domestic Abuse Implementation Group, Catriona MacKean, had invited him and Karen to a meeting on 25 February to discuss the suitability of TA for women and children and training for local authority staff. Domestic abuse is already covered in the services standards, but this meeting will provide the opportunity to ensure that this reference is strengthened where required. Jim advised he would report back on the meeting outcomes in due course.
The WG agreed the minute from 13 January 2022.
Review framework issues discussed at previous meetings:
consolidate issues on which there is agreement across the WG
discuss outstanding issues in order to come to a decision
Jim invited the group to comment on the paper (deadline extended to 18 February 2022) and thanked those who had already shared their observations.
Disability - the group agreed that the standards should be inclusive of all disabilities, physical and hidden. Specific disabilities should not be named but the standards should link to current relevant legislation (e.g., Equality Act 2010), SG guidance and any future legislation. People should be able to self-identify their disability and associated needs. The standards should refer to appropriate training of staff to ensure there is a flexible, person-centred approach and a needs based assessment undertaken for individuals based on their human rights.
Cooking facilities - agreed.
Energy efficiency - agreed.
Digital inclusion - agreed.
Affordability - agreed that this group does not have the remit to investigate this issue nor to recommend rent levels for temporary accommodation. However, the group also agreed it is critical and essential that TA is affordable, and people should be able to pay for TA without getting into financial difficulties.
Outstanding issues for 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’ - Jim asked members to forward case studies for inclusion in the updated guidance.
Tenants’ Rights - the group agreed that there is not always consistent communication by local authorities to raise awareness of tenants’ rights. There is also concern about when housing support duty applies (i.e., whether this is only when a household is assessed as entitled to accommodation following a homeless decision) but recognition that housing support can be used as a prevention tool. The framework will aim to strike a balance between the needs of the individual, ensuring they can exercise their rights, and the judgment of the local authority. The WG agreed that sharing good practice and knowledge exchange among local authorities would be beneficial and that an informal national TA group that Allan coordinates could provide the forum for this.
Overarching set of principles - do the standards need to be in legislation? The group responded with mixed views:
Yes – if we don’t have legislation, how does it change from the current situation? It was agreed that LAs should develop an evidence base required to demonstrate requirements are being met. The legal framework gives people a voice, particularly those who are excluded from services.
No – legislation takes time to enact, we need something quicker and more responsive to change (e.g., future legislation). Some principles are difficult to enforce, e.g., location requirement can be hard for rural areas.
Other comments - the SHR need to be involved in discussions about enforcement. Communication of engagement plans developed between the SHR, and local authorities would help increase visibility of action taken. Flexibility cannot be legislated for, so principles and rights need to be separated from legally binding practice. A proposal for local authorities to incorporate standards now and to be legislated for in a year or two once gaps/issues identified was discussed.
Monitoring and regulation - Jim invited views on whether registration with the Care Inspectorate should be a consideration. The WG agreed the Care Inspectorate would not be an appropriate body to be involved in monitoring TA, but support services should continue to register with the Care Inspectorate.
Sanctions - the WG agreed financial penalties were not appropriate. Transparency was important, as was clarity on the SHR’s involvement. The reputational damage to local authorities for not meeting the standards was considered a strong incentive. The WG agreed they need to determine legal status of the framework before considering proposed sanctions. The WG to identify which stakeholders should be invited to consider this issue.
Legislation - discussed under point 3.
Timescales - the WG agreed they would like to see standards in place at the earliest possible opportunity but there can’t be an agreed enforcement date until the framework is finalised as local authorities need clarity on what is expected of them.
Support for local authorities - informal sharing of best practice was recognised as an important tool. Local authorities will need to audit their current stock and assess practice against the new standards to identify any gaps.
Format of the framework - the WG agreed a range of materials should be produced, including digital and easy read versions. A leaflet outlining what peoples’ rights are, would be useful tool, and Allan offered to share the leaflet his team has developed to advise tenants on what their rights are with the WG.
Evaluation - what was meant by a review needed to be better understood – was this an independent review, one undertaken by the Domestic Abuse Implementation Group, a thematic review by the SHR or peer review? An informal, peer-based network and self-assessment will be useful for evaluation, potentially informed by the SHR, along with any learning that can be taken from the RRTP process. The Scottish Social Housing Charter, due to come into force on 1 April 2022, might be helpful here. Lived experience needs to be included in any evaluation framework.
How do we align the TA standards framework with the New Deal for Tenants? - the WG agreed to align where possible.
Pets - pets are included in the New Deal for Tenants, and some local authorities currently accept pets in TA, but not all do which impacts on choice for people. The WG discussed the importance of getting the balance right: people should be allowed to bring their pets with them to TA, but people also have a right to live in a pet-free home (e.g., allergies etc.). Having pets in hostels can be challenging and some private rented sector landlords won’t allow pets. Hugh circulated a link to the SSPCA’s pets and tenants together survey: Scottish SPCA Pets and tenants together.
Jim requested WG members share contact details including email addresses for stakeholders who should be invited to consider and comment on the draft framework.
Any Other Business and close
The DWP is introducing a new policy where people have four weeks to look for a job before sanctions can be introduced. Local authorities will be supporting at risk households but, as they can’t discuss Universal Credit cases directly with the DWP, it can be challenging for debt advisors to advocate for people unless the client is present.
Date of next meeting - the WG agreed that the proposed meeting for 10 March wasn’t required and that the next meeting would take place on 7 April. In advance of this, the draft framework will be amended in line with WG members’ views, circulated for comment and suggested changes incorporated.
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