- 8 Sep 2020
Attendees and apologies
- Katey Tabner, COSLA (Chair)
- Douglas Whyte, Argyll & Bute Council
- Tony Cain, ALACHO
- Anil Gupta, COSLA
- David Goldie, Highland Council
- John Mills, ALACHO
- Ashley Campbell, CIH
- Andy Mosely, Shelter
- Catriona MacKean, SG
- Caroline Dicks, SG
- Marion Gibbs, SG
- Angela O’Brien, SG
- Margaret Irving, SG (Secretariat)
- Katrina Reid, PHS
- Naeem Bhatti, SG
- Peter Barry, SOLACE
- Eloise Brown, COSLA
- Michael Cameron, SHR
- David Simpson, Dundee City Council
Items and actions
1. Welcome and update to previous minutes
No changes were recorded for the previous minutes.
Scottish Empty Homes Partnership – Andy Mosely, Shelter
Andy gave an update on the Empty Homes Partnership. Main points of the presentation and discussion were as follows:
- There is capacity among EHO to look at bring empty homes back into use to help economic recovery and increase available rented housing stock.
- The process needs a mechanism within the council to help set up agreements. There are already a range of schemes operating and noted Perth and Kinross and North Ayrshire as examples of good practice.
- There are an estimated 40,000 empty homes in Scotland but some will need grant funding to bring up to standard and need longer to bring them back into use. Location is also important e.g. less accessible locations likely to have lower demand.
- Holiday homes now off the agenda as lockdown is easing.
- Next steps include establish baseline in LAs and provide best practice examples.
- Where councils don’t have EHO look at kick start funding for EHO to look at bringing empty homes back into to local housing stocks.
- Bringing empty homes back into use is in line with HARSAG recommendations.
- Maximising housing options is key to building capacity to move people on from temporary accommodation.
- Temporary accommodation such as Airbnb may also provide a solution in some areas.
- If landlords are unwilling to work with EHO, compulsory purchase or compulsory rental order may be an option.
- COSLA confirmed they will be drafting a letter from Councillor Whitham to housing convenors about using the Empty Homes route to increase the number of available properties.
Action - SG to clarify changes to funding. E.g. can EHO work with PRS if not empty for 6 months as is the requirement just now?
Action - Highlands Council and Andy Mosely, Shelter to have an offline discussion about a kick start scheme.
Standing Agenda Item – VOIDs processing/Supply
A fourth RAG survey has been carried out. ALACHO members did not report a significant increase in homelessness numbers and most LAs are reasonably confident about coping with any increase. However 4 or 5 LAs were indicating red a week ago. They have concerns about managing demand if there is a spike in homeless presentations. The group also noted the pressure LA staff are under on a day to day basis. It was agreed that it would be helpful to invite more LAs along to the meetings to get a more detailed picture.
Action – COSLA to look at bringing additional members onto the group to share local experience.
HARSAG Update - SG
SG confirmed the HARSAG recommendations had been accepted in principle by Ministers and now it is a case of addressing the “how” “when” and “who”.
Discussion included the following points:
- Merits of a weekly audit of numbers of people accommodated in hotels.
- Housing for domestic abuse victims should be seen as a priority to free up refuge space.
- Many of the HARSAG recommendations are already underway.
- If people leave temporary accommodation we should find out why they want to leave rather than put them back in the same accommodation.
- The report does not mention health services such as alcohol and drug support which have been run down during the pandemic.
- Need to address the needs of those in temporary accommodation at the beginning of the Covid crisis not just those arising from it.
- Many actions are dependent on location, some recommendations will be easier to implement in central belt areas as opposed to rural areas.
Action - COSLA to look at the LARG recovery planning document and discuss at next meeting.
Action - SG to provide advice on the input required from LARG on the HARSAG recommendations.
Early Prisoner Release – SG
Representatives from SPS had attended previous homeless hub meetings. The view from the Hubs is that overall the EPR programme went well with good joint working locally. In advance of a further EPR programme it would be good to share learning from this process. Areas that might benefit from further detail include the supply of temporary accommodation, tracking those that didn’t ask for assistance on release.
Checks around domestic abuse were made but not around the safeguarding of children. The prison governor’s veto should cover this if they were aware that it was an issue.
Social Renewal Housing Policy Circle - SG
The second meeting of this group took place on 16 July. The meeting focused on bringing in lived experience and making a start on the group’s submission to the advisory board. It also included discussion about the government’s plans for the coming year. There was a wide ranging discussion using real life examples.
Much of what is needed is well known and already established such as Housing to 2040, ending homelessness plans, rapid rehousing.
3. Action Log – review current work for week ahead, identify actions and emerging areas
- COSLA will be taking forward work to consider how to prevent underspends this year
- Action – add the next emergency bill as a substantive item for the next meeting and SG to update on progress.
- Homeless hubs – continuing to meet every two weeks. Mr Stewart has now attended meetings with each of the 5 hubs. HARSAG questions will be taken to this week’s hub meetings.
- No update on ABS or fuel poverty
- COSLA will update on gypsy / travellers issues at the next meeting.
- PRS meeting held on 20 July- a letter going out to private tenants and will include links to sources of help. Future risk to tenants living in tied accommodation which are more likely to affect rural councils.
- Test and protect – overall very little activity in terms of accommodation for isolation and hotels reserved by some LA have now been released as tourist activity has increased as lockdown eased. Concern over some areas where there will be high tourist numbers such as the Highlands in case there is a surge in demand for test and protect accommodation. COSLA are working on a Covid note for tourists.
Action - COSLA to feed back to the group on further guidance being prepared.
4. AOB – General Updates/Emerging Issues
No other business.