A note on interpreting the figures
As local authority needs differ, it is appropriate to tailor service provision to the needs specific to each local authority. Therefore, the use and implementation of Housing Options varies greatly between local authorities.
For that reason, it is not appropriate to make direct comparisons between local authority Housing Options figures. Instead, local authority figures should be used to understand the delivery of Housing Options at an individual local authority level only.
A Quick Guide to Housing Options
Local authorities have a statutory duty to ensure advice and information is available free of charge about:
(a) homelessness and the prevention of homelessness, and
(b) any services which may assist a homeless person or assist in the prevention of homelessness
When households seek assistance for housing-related issues from their local authority, they may be presented with advice on a range of housing options, including the opportunity to make a homelessness application. This is known as Housing Options and began to be implemented from around 2009.
The aim of this approach is to make households better informed of their options for accommodation, and ensure they are able to make a more informed choice.
However, it is important to note that Housing Options is not a statutory function, but local authorities can use it in the delivery of their statutory duties.
Impact of coronavirus
This is the first annual PREVENT1 statistics release for which COVID-19 restrictions and changes in practices were in place for the full reporting period. Where it is believed that COVID-19 has had an impact on the data and trends shown in the publication, these have been highlighted with explanations where possible.
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All tables and charts from this publication are available online at: https://www.gov.scot/collections/homelessness-statistics/
Approaches for housing support
There were 36,514 approaches (from 34,124 unique households) in 2020/21. This was a decrease of 13% from 41,936 compared to 2019/20, and of 35% since 2015/16.
In contrast, the number of open cases has been increasing over time, reaching 21,075 as at 31st March 2021, an increase of 4% from 20,235 as at 31st March 2020.
These trends are similar to those experienced for homelessness applications over the last year. Local authorities reported a reduction in homelessness applications as a result of remain at home COVID-19 guidelines, emergency coronavirus legislation temporarily extending eviction notice periods, the temporary ban on home repossessions and mortgage payment deferrals. The increase in open housing options cases could be due to COVID-19 restrictions limiting the ability to undertake necessary action to enable case closure, similar to the inability of LAs to move homeless households in to settled accommodation resulting in the increase in open homelessness applications.
Conversely, North Lanarkshire has experienced a sharp increase in housing options approaches with 1,524 in 2020/21 compared to 458 in 2019/20 (233%). This was due to an increased focus on prevention activity both by the creation of a centralised team to handle housing options approaches and to align with Rapid Rehousing Transition work.
Glasgow accounts for the largest share of approaches at 24% of the total, followed by Edinburgh with 11%. The national rate of approaches is 7.5 per 1,000 population, which varies in mainland local authorities from 47.3 in Edinburgh to 0.4 in Highland. These highly varying rates are likely to be reflective of the fact that different local authorities use a different approach to providing their statutory duties.
94% of households made one approach; with only 1% making three or more.