Publication - Minutes

Local Authority Housing Resilience Group minutes: 3 November 2020

Published: 26 Jan 2021
Date of meeting: 3 Nov 2020

Minutes of the Local Authority Housing Resilience Group meeting on 3 November 2020

Published:
26 Jan 2021
Local Authority Housing Resilience Group minutes: 3 November 2020

Attendees and apologies

Participants

Laura Caven, COSLA (Chair)

Tony Cain, ALACHO

Clare Mailer, Perth and Kinross Council

Ashley Campbell, CIH

David Goldie, Highland Council

AnnMarie Carr, West Lothian Council

Douglas Whyte, Argyll and Bute

Katrina Reid, Public Health Scotland

Phil Daws, East Renfrewshire Council

David Simpson, Dundee City Council

Gillian Findlay, Stirling Council

Catriona MacKean, SG

Marion Gibbs, SG

Angela O’Brien, SG

Mandy Brown, SG (Secretariat)

Apologies

Eloise Nutbrown, COSLA

Iona Macphail, Argyll & Bute Council

Stephen Clark, Stirling Council

Lorraine Smith, HSC Fife

Michael Cameron, SHR

Angela Keith (SOLACE)

John Mills, ALACHO

Naeem Bhatti, SG

Connie Smith, SG

Caroline Dicks, SG

Items and actions

1. Welcome and approval of previous minutes

COSLA opened the meeting and welcomed participants.  The note from the previous meeting was agreed.

COSLA reminded members that have until 6 November to contribute to the Independent Review of Adult Social Care.  COSLA are submitting a response and can share this with the group.

Action: COSLA will share their response with the group

2. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Strategic Framework

Scottish Government updated on the different protection levels, and the impact this may have on housing and related services.  SG document published on the five tiers and LAs will move between tiers depending on the current Covid situation within each LA. Key messages are that changeable situation and focus on supporting services to continue in a safe way.

Councils noted the following:

Message is to continue gradual, stepped approach to recovery and edging forward with reintroduction of services but keeping close eye in case need to move back.  The expectations of public is that return to normal but far from case.

A lot of services are WFH until March, which will be a year since lockdown began, so accumulation of issues which may cause problems in future, such as non-payment of rent and anti-social behaviour.

A drop in resilience in regards to workforce was noted by several councils especially in front line staff with some workers reluctant to go into people’s homes.

ALACHO queried whether a national guidance framework for repair services is required.  COSLA will discuss with employer team, heads of HR and heads of housing.

Action: COSLA to consider potential for a national guidance for repair services.

Action: circulate the updated SG Moving Home guidance and SFHA Restarting Services guide

Tenant Hardship Loan Fund

Update from Scottish Government:

  • For PRS and social tenants facing difficulties with rent cost due to Covid
  • Up to 9 months of rent costs will be available with a maximum of 3 months for future rent, subject to consideration of affordability of repayments
  • The period covered will be from 1 Jan 2020 as could potentially have lost employment before Covid but been unable to get another job due to Covid.
  • Any tenant in arrears prior to 1 January won’t be eligible as this fund is part of the emergency response due to Covid
  • Repayment terms will be five years and repayments will be deferred, although the period before repayments start has still to be agreed. 
  • Will require confirmation of tenants circumstances from landlord as the fund relates to paying rent
  • With regard to the income threshold: SG were asked to consider the student loan approach where repayment is tied to an income threshold.  SG have looked at this but don’t think that approach reflects the circumstances of the THLF. 
  • This will be a one off loan per tenancy agreement/tenant.
  • We have been finalising our legal position on aspects of the loan, including eligibility for people with No Recourse to Public Funds
  • While we expect applications to be submitted via the online portal, once this is available, we are looking at what offline processes might be established for use in the exception
  • We continue to work with our administrators in developing the supporting IT platform

Comments/queries:

  • What would maximum payment be?
  • What would timescales be for getting a payment made following application?
  • How will the affordability assessment work – on what factors?
  • How will advice be built in to the process and how will referrals work?
  • With regards to arrears pre-January 2020 – tenants who do have arrears pre-January but then also went into further arrears (due to Covid) after this date – could they still get help for the former arrears?
  • What are alternatives if people can’t get a loan, can’t get DHP – what other forms of support could people look to?
  • What happens if someone doesn’t repay?
  • Can tenants appeal if refused?
  • The group also provided helpful comments on considering the tone and language when communicating details of the loan.

Action:  SG will consider these queries and provide further updates on the THLF

Developing Accommodation Pathways for Destitute EEA nationals and People with No Recourse to Public Funds

COSLA has been working with the Scottish Government and Collective on Ending Homelessness. Discussion paper has been produced to support implementation of the accommodation route-map for ending homelessness and rough sleeping for people with No Recourse to Public Funds. Working groups are being established to progress delivery with a focus on clarifying the legal basis for provision; funding streams and partnerships. 

Comments:

In terms of setting out analysis of different groups this is a good paper, however this  is essentially a funding issue - who funds and whether social work or homelessness expense. This needs more work in the paper as a fundamental issue.

Action: Provide any comments on the paper to COSLA by 13 November

5. Scottish Housing Regulator September data

September showed a decrease in the number of homeless applications to local authorities for the second month in a row, 3% lower than August. There has been a small drop in the numbers in temporary accommodation, but 14,200 households remain at the end of September. Lets increased by 17% from August, with 38% of these going to people who are homeless. Arrears figures are down marginally for the first time since April.

Councils noted the following points:

East Renfrewshire Council: high numbers for both voids and homeless presentations

Highland Council: rent arrears figures have dipped, think due to timing of payments for new claimants, underlying trend is upwards

Dundee Council: demand for temporary accommodation is high, homelessness not increasing much, voids higher than would want them to be

West Lothian Council:  slight reduction in homelessness presentations, voids are moving but about 60% down on previous year

Argyll and Bute Council: getting a high percentage of lets for homeless but the issue is that overall down about 50-60% in available properties

Stirling Council: great pressure on temporary accommodation, increased void times due to extended processes introduced and impact of Covid restrictions, material shortages, etc.  Allocating a higher percentage to homeless and also transferring a higher than normal percentage for temporary accommodation.  Services remain under great pressure as everyone has described.

East Renfrewshire Council advised that WFH means they are unable to replicate the systems normally used many of which are paper based.

COSLA queried whether LAs were having IT capacity issues - would be interesting to hear, or if any councils have adopted new / different IT which makes working from home easier.

Action: COSLA will speak to IT colleagues to see if anything can share on good practice.

6. VOIDS processing – Standing Agenda Item

SG advised the main topic of discussion at recent Homelessness Hubs meetings had been issues around the management of registered sex offenders. Colleagues are currently working to develop some more protocols on this issue.

SG will send Hubs updates to the group. Homelessness now starting to settle to similar figures pre-Covid in many places, although requirements for temporary accommodation still higher.

SG commented that increase in temporary accommodation to meet demand and the

Unsuitable Accommodation Order (UAO) puts keen lens on this. RSLs have also given voids for temporary accommodation. Due to staff changes in SG homelessness team, the UAO work will be taken into Marion’s team.

Some councils advised they have been dealing with vulnerable tenants with mental health issues, and helping to keep people at home or get access to health services and hospital as required.

The SG mental health - transition and recovery plan might be useful for the group.

PHS advised there will be a webinar on housing and mental health in January with a focus on social isolation and homelessness.  PHS will follow this up with the group. 

Some noted changes to policing practice which had some impact on housing management / homelessness service, such as people not being arrested for breach of the peace.  This is possibly linked to resource issues within Police Scotland and due to monitoring Covid compliance.

Huge challenges noted around recovery of the justice system, with the numbers on remand, electronic monitoring and accommodation, including bail hostels. Also, evidence that pathway for woman is different and risk of homelessness is higher. 

7. Action Log

PHS Data and intelligence for resilience and recovery: Recovery plan is currently being updated and is due to publish asap.  Work is ongoing to update the new research project.  Organising meeting between PHS, COSLA and SG on the ending homelessness together action plan.

Inclusion Health Principles and Practice: Paper shared for information.  PHS will support anyone who wants to take these principles forward and happy to discuss further.

Unsuitable Accommodation Order: COSLA Community Wellbeing Board had paper and the working group is meeting on 18 November.

Local connections consultation: discussion for future meeting.

8. Resilience Group Chairs meeting 11 Nov 2020

The next meeting is 11 November.  Please contact COSLA with any issues to be raised.

9. AOB

Housing to 2040: will now be published in early 2021 in order to ensure respond to everything learned this year from Covid.

Fire and smoke alarm standard:  there has been an extension to these fire safety measures and the regulations will now commence from February 2022.  This will apply to the social sector as well.  ALACHO stated would be useful to get the information circulated regarding these measures and the extension.

Action:  SG team to get in contact with COSLA and ALACHO and agree the next steps

10. Date of next meeting

The next meeting is 17 November 2020 from 10:30 am until noon.