Section 2: Statement on Modifying Local Connection
2.1 As required under section 33B of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987, this statement sets out the circumstances and the general criteria, by reference to which, Scottish Ministers would exercise the power, under section 33A of the Act, to modify the operation of section 33 of that Act. Local authorities currently have the power, in certain circumstances, under section 33, to refer households who are homeless or threatened with homelessness and who do not have a local connection with them to another local authority where they do have such a connection.
2.2 The statement is prepared in the expectation that those who are experiencing or threatened with homelessness are more likely to resettle successfully, and avoid repeat homelessness, if they are living in an area of their choosing where they can access the specific services and person-centred support they require and where they are able to integrate successfully into the local community. Additionally, for some households who are homeless or experiencing homelessness, the ability to have a fresh start in another area can be a vitally important factor in helping them to sustain a safe and settled home.
Circumstances for modifying local connection
2.3 The circumstances, by reference to which, Scottish Ministers would exercise the power to modify the operation of local connection referrals between local authorities within Scotland would be:
To increase the rights and ability of households who are experiencing or are threatened with homelessness to choose where to apply for assistance so that they may receive the level of person-centred support they require; taking account of available evidence on any detrimental effect which may result in terms of the capacity of particular local authorities to meet their homelessness duties, or outcomes for individuals or communities.
General criteria for modifying local connection
2.4 The general criteria, by reference to which, Scottish Ministers would exercise the power to modify the operation of local connection referrals between local authorities within Scotland would be:
- To improve options for households experiencing or threatened with homelessness;
- To improve outcomes for households experiencing or threatened with homelessness;
- At the same time, to maintain the capacity for local authorities to fulfil their statutory homelessness duties and their duty to house people in housing need, and to respond to:
- significant undue pressures related to an increased level of households being assessed as homeless, where this pressure is due in part to the pressure of applications from households with no local connection to the local authority area(s);
- significant undue pressures resulting from increases to the scale/frequency of homelessness applications from households experiencing homelessness with no local connection to the local authority area(s).
- significant issues identified in impact assessments, including an island communities assessment carried out under the terms of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018
Assessing and monitoring any impacts
2.5 The Scottish Government acknowledges, however, that it is important to balance the desire to reduce burdens and increase options for people or households who are homeless or threatened with homelessness, with the need to ensure that these are sustainable in terms of accommodation and support capacity within local authorities. We have noted the apprehension of some local authorities with regard to the potential impact should the power to modify local connection referrals be exercised, particularly those in rural and island communities and city areas.
2.6 While existing data shows that local connection referrals are used very infrequently, the Scottish Government will, prior to introducing any legislation to modify local connection referrals, carry out a full range of impact assessments, including an island communities assessment under the terms of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018. The Scottish Government will also monitor the impact of any changes on an ongoing basis and in close consultation with representatives of the relevant local authorities and other partners.
2.7 The Scottish Government would look to determine any adverse impacts on the capacity of a local authority to meet its homelessness and housing duties, as well as the impact on wider services,of any modification to local connection and take swift remedial action, where appropriate. This would be undertaken in full consultation with local authorities and COSLA to consider all available options and whether legislative or some other form of intervention or support is needed. The factors to consider, in consultation with local authorities and others, as part of the arrangements to assess and monitor this would include:
- number of applications/assessments and number with no connection to the local area
- number of social lets required to house statutory homeless people and associated impact on waiting lists
- number of households experiencing homelessness in temporary accommodation and time spent there
- number of breaches of temporary accommodation duties
- sustainability of solutions for households experiencing homelessness
- ability to meet support needs
- ability to prevent homelessness
- capacity of local health and social care services to meet the needs of homeless applicants with particular health care or support needs
- the tenancy sustainment rates and repeat homelessness of those moving into an area as compared with established residents and the reasons for any disparity
- impact on wider services such as education, health and social care, drug and alcohol services and social work
- achieving effective housing and support outcomes for those discharged from prison
- ability to maintain effective processes for public protection arrangements and the management and supervision of high risk offenders
2.8 The Scottish Government will use existing homelessness statistical data collections, such as HL1 and Prevent 1 data, to monitor the impact of changes, as well as from collecting information and evidence from local authorities, housing options hubs and households who choose to settle in a new area. From August 2020 onwards, local connection data is now published as part of the Homelessness in Scotland Statistics. This will provide important up to date evidence and help ensure a timely and appropriate response is undertaken should any local authorities experience significant and undue pressure.
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