Annex 4 - Development of Housing Options in Scotland
1 The Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 introduced a new duty on local authorities, that by 31 December 2012, all unintentionally homeless households would be entitled to settled accommodation.
2 Following a Ministerial statement in 2005, setting an interim target in 2009 to show progress towards achieving the 2012 target, and in order to facilitate the ability of local authorities to meet this new duty, a Scottish Government/ COSLA 2012 Steering Group was set up. It included the Housing Minister, the COSLA spokesperson, SOLACE, SFHA and ALACHO. It was chaired by a COSLA elected member.
3 This Group met to determine the extent of homelessness and to explore how best homelessness could be prevented. The Housing Options approach was seen as having merit to be fully introduced in Scotland; some local authorities were already implementing this approach. A conference was held in 2010 which showcased Housing Options and the Scottish Government committed resources to support its development in Scotland.
4 After a series of meetings across Scotland, five local authority led Housing Options "hubs" were established in 2010. All 32 local authorities are a member of a hub. The hubs were awarded grants to undertake joint training, commissioning joint research, developing joint approaches to prevention, benchmarking and sharing practice. These are supported by quarterly seminars which bring the hubs together to discuss their own developments, receive a Scottish Government update, discuss topical issues of the day and enable other organisations access to the hubs to explain their work and the benefits they can offer. An annual conference with a wider invitation list is also held to promote prevention across all interested organisations.
5 The approach to prevention is welcomed by local authorities and other stakeholders. This is having an impact on the official statistics, showing a reduction in applications and assessments - see figure. This focus on prevention builds on the Code of Guidance and the Scottish Government and COSLA's statutory guidance for local authorities on preventing homelessness. The hubs work together to share best practice, have developed joint training, commissioned research on their local areas and work together to improve the focus on the prevention of homelessness and the sustainability of the outcomes for homeless people. The development of Housing Options has recognised that local authorities and their partners operate in their local contexts with local challenges. Consequently, it was important that locally tailored services developed sufficiently before the development of broader guidance.
6 The Official Statistics on the Operation of the Homeless Persons Legislation in Scotland: 2013/14 states: "the reductions are a consequence of a major Scottish wide approach to prevent homelessness. Through this, councils have been developing services, generally described as 'Housing Options services' in which staff assist households to consider the range of options available to address their housing needs. For example, councils might provide mediation services to assist in resolving disputes within the household, or they might assist households to secure a private let by guaranteeing the rent deposit. As a consequence, some of the households who might previously have made a homelessness application will now have their housing needs met without first becoming homeless or being threatened with homelessness."
7. Following the achievement of the 2012 homelessness target, the Scottish Government/ COSLA Joint 2012 Steering Group was renamed the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group. It was expanded to include Shelter Scotland and Homeless Action Scotland. It had the role of overseeing the development of this guidance.
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