Attendees and apologies
- Jim Hayton, Scotland’s Housing Network (Chair)
- Debbie King, Shelter
- Rhiannon Sims, Crisis
- Eileen McMullan, SFHA
- Ashley Campbell, Chartered Institute of Housing
- Mike Callaghan, COSLA
- Karen Grieve, Scottish Government
- Myra Quinn, Scottish Government
- Hugh Hill, Simon Community Scotland
- Brian Stewart, Edinburgh, Lothian’s and Borders Hub
- John Mills, ALACHO and Fife Council
- Lisa Borthwick, Shelter Scotland
- Allan Jones, North and Islands Hub
- Hazel Young, Wheatley Group
- Moira Bayne, Housing Options Scotland
- Yvette Burgess, Housing Support Enabling Unit
- Andrea Elliot, North Ayrshire Council
Items and actions
Welcome and agree minutes from 25 August 2022
Jim Hayton (JH) welcomed everyone to the eighth meeting of the Temporary Accommodation Standards working group.
Jim advised all action points had been completed with only one point remaining. Myra Quinn (MQ) will contact Yvette Burgess separately to find out if she is in a position to share outcome monitoring tools.
25 August minutes agreed.
Temporary Accommodation Standards Framework
Proposed final framework – WG to agree/approve (final version of framework refers)
JH advised that the proposed version of the framework circulated with the agenda includes all comments and suggestions received from the WG members.
JH and MQ thanked members for providing useful edits and comments on the standards framework.
JH stated that it is key that the WG note that the standards framework is a ‘living document’ and that the Scottish Government will retain ownership of the framework. This will have mandatory review periods to ensure that the standards are relevant and up to date.
JH asked the members if they had any further final comments to make on the framework and suggested that every two years seemed a reasonable review period.
On the standard ‘Provide single-gender accommodation for households experiencing domestic abuse’ Eileen McMullen asked if the provision of single gender accommodation would exclude male children. MQ advised that if the accommodation is used to provide temporary accommodation to persons who have left their homes as a result of domestic abuse, then this accommodation is covered under article 6 of the Unsuitable Accommodation Order (UAO) and is exempt from having to meet the standards of article 5 of the UAO and the standards framework.
Members agreed that this standard was only applicable to adult homeless households and that ‘adult’ should be added into the standard in question. The revised standard will read ‘Provide single-gender accommodation for adult households experiencing domestic abuse’.
Debbie King commented that work outwith this WG will be required to help local authorities around resourcing and funding as some local authorities will never manage to meet the standards framework. In addition, work will be necessary to gather the experience of BME homeless households and the issues incurred.
Rhiannon Sims asked again about ensuring that the standards framework is clear about who is responsible for ensuring the standards are met. It was agreed that MQ would look to tighten the wording to provide more clarity.
JH advised that although the legal route is yet to be confirmed this should not stop the WG members from agreeing the content of the standards framework.
Members agreed the framework.
Update on enforcement route and next steps
SG colleagues met with solicitors on 24 November to discuss options to enforce the framework.
Section 13 of the proposed final framework document presents three potential options to enforce the standards framework. Karen Grieve (KG) gave a brief overview of the first two options, the Scottish Social Housing Charter and the Housing Standards Bill.
MQ had undertaken research on the third option, using Ministerial powers conferred under section 29(3) and (4) of the 1987 Housing Act, to establish if it was possible to use this route to legally enforce the standards framework. These Ministerial powers were used to extend the Unsuitable Accommodation Order to all homeless households and to add in new types of temporary accommodation deemed to be suitable (Shared Tenancy, Community Hosting and Rapid Access accommodation. Legislation 2020/139, 2020/268 and 2020/419 refers).
The Homelessness etc (Scotland) Act 2003 (Section 9) included the power to limit the use of bed and breakfast accommodation for families and children. This power was used to introduce the Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2004, which included standards and required local authorities to ensure that homeless households with children and pregnant women were not placed in unsuitable temporary accommodation unless exceptional circumstances applied.
The 2004 Order was replaced by the Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2014. The 2003, 2004, 2014 and 2017 Orders were made by Scottish Ministers in exercise of the powers conferred by section 29 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 in particular 29(3) and (4) and all other powers enabling them to do so.
The Unsuitable Accommodation Order (UAO) links to the standards of temporary accommodation. If a local authority places a household in temporary accommodation that does not meet the relevant standards within the UAO and the household is accommodated there for more than seven days, the local authority must record a breach.
Since the UAO and standards of temporary accommodation are interlinked, Scottish Government solicitors were asked whether Ministers could use the 1987 Act powers to introduce the temporary accommodation standards framework through an amendment/modification of the 2014 Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order via a Scottish Statutory Instrument.
As the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) currently monitors UAO breaches through local authority performance in relation to existing legislation, it would follow that if the temporary accommodation standards framework was implemented through similar legislation using the same powers, then the SHR would be able to monitor local authority performance here as well.
Enforcing the framework in this way would also align with views of stakeholders and WG members that, if local authorities did not meet the framework standards, rather than imposing fines or penalties, the SHR would instead engage with the local authority to identify the issues and develop an improvement plan to support work towards achieving the standards.
KG and MQ met with the Scottish Government legal team who provided initial advice that this may be possible, but that they will need to review this option in greater detail.
- For the Scottish Government to consider the pros and cons of each potential enforcement option and associated timescales. This information would then be circulated to the WG via email. MQ will produce the paper.
KG advised that now the WG has agreed the proposed framework, a submission will be presented to the Cabinet Secretary, Shona Robison, seeking ministerial approval for the framework.
Any Other Business and close
JH spoke about the recent meeting of the Scottish temporary accommodation group set up by Allan Jones (AJ), which will be useful and will give local authorities the opportunity to share good practice and hear about issues to meet the standards. These meetings allow local authorities to discuss the challenges they are facing and provide a forum for them to share information and learn from others. AJ suggested that the Scottish temporary accommodation group could also act as a potential outlet for the Scottish Government and partners to meet with local authorities to discuss legislative changes and challenges.
In conclusion, JH thanked everyone present for their contribution to that day’s meeting and extended his thanks to everyone who had contributed to previous meetings of the working group. Above all, he was hopeful that the revised temporary accommodation standards would make a significant contribution to improving the circumstances of people experiencing homelessness.
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