National Accommodation Strategy for Sex Offenders in Scotland

The National Accommodation Strategy for Sex Offenders (NASSO) forms part of the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) and sets out how housing contributes to those arrangements.

3. Assessing and managing housing-related risk under MAPPA

3.1 Responsibility for assessing and managing risk under MAPPA

The Responsible Authorities have the legal and operational responsibility for assessing, managing and monitoring risk. Further information on how the Responsible Authorities assess and manage the risks that sex offenders under MAPPA may pose can be found in the MAPPA guidance

3.2 Environmental risk assessments

An “environmental risk assessment” (ERA) is carried out by the Responsible Authorities to identify whether there are any housing-related risks associated with a particular offender. This stringent assessment ensures every reasonable precaution has been taken to safeguard both the local community and the offender. The assessment brings together information on the offender, on any properties being considered for housing the offender the location and nearby households. This assessment informs the Responsible Authorities’ decision on housing the offender in a way that minimises risks to the community.

Environmental risk assessments must be undertaken collaboratively between individual agencies providing any relevant information that they hold.

The Responsible Authority is the lead agency in all cases. In the majority of initial cases the lead agency will be Police Scotland given that the process will start when an individual is convicted and their address registered. Criminal Justice Social Work will be the lead agency in all cases where the registered sex offender is subject to any Criminal Justice Licence or Order.

3.3 ERA Minimum standards

Where required and dependent on the offender and the risks they pose, the Responsible Authorities will need to consider on a case-by-case basis what level of checks are made when carrying out an ERA. However, individual agencies must ensure compliance with the minimum standards contained in this strategy which:

  • ensures national consistency of the data and information which is considered when carrying out an ERA across all Responsible Authorities; and 
  • sets out the information that must be checked when assessing the manageability of accommodation when housing registered sex offenders in local communities.

A model ERA template that is Violent and Sex Offender Register (ViSOR) compatible is provided at Annex 1. While Responsible Authorities are encouraged to use this template for consistency they can have their own arrangements and forms as long as these cover these principles and the minimum practice standards. *The full ERA should not be recorded on ViSOR; Police Scotland Offender Management Units will record only Parts C (approval) and where relevant, Part D (decision where partners cannot agree) of the completed ERA form to an Activity Log on ViSOR. They will also include details of where the full ERA document is held.

* See Annex 2.

An ERA must be carried out in the following circumstances:

  • for every new registered sex offender on initial registration and any subsequent change of address. 
  • Thereafter, an annual review will be carried out for the following offenders unless the Responsible Authorities record justifiable and defensible decisions for not completing one:
    • all offenders managed at MAPPA levels 2 and 3;
    • all MAPPA level 1 high/very high risk offenders;
    • those offenders who are subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order or a Risk of Sexual Harm Order;
    • those offenders who have committed contact offences against[1] children or adults at risk of harm[2]; and
    • any other offender who is subject to notification and it is deemed necessary to do an ERA. For example home leave addresses and additional registered addresses.

Where the Responsible Authority considers that an annual review does not need to be carried out they must fully consider the rationale for not doing so and must record their reasons for taking this decision.

3.4 MAPPA Review Meetings

An ERA is accurate at the time it is undertaken, and due to the continual changing nature of communities, Responsible Authorities must keep them under review.

MAPPA review meetings are held to review an individual offenders risk management plan. At these meetings members will verify if the actions have been implemented and assess their effectiveness. This includes consideration of any new information that changes the existing risk assessment and the level at which the offender is managed.

Housing circumstances must be discussed and considered at these meetings. All agencies involved with the management of the offender should be involved in review meetings, including local authority SOLO’s and RSL Link Officers.

Responsible Authorities must routinely discuss with registered sex offenders their current housing situation, including contact with neighbours and other visitors. When it becomes known that the circumstances of the registered sex offender or the environment in which they live has changed, Responsible Authorities on a case-by-case basis should consider whether the ERA should be reviewed. The frequency of reviews should reflect the risks posed. ViSOR and any relevant internal management systems should be updated to note any changes.

3.5 Timescales for carrying out an ERA 

Whilst it is recognised that some cases may be complex and require more in depth research the recommended minimum timescales are:




Initial where new accommodation is being sought or change of address

After notification, 7 clear working days

SOLO – 2 working days

Other – 5 working days

Initial where an offender is already resident in a property and new accommodation is not being sought

After notification, 12 clear working days

SOLO – 2 working days, other – 10 working days

Annual review

Within 21 clear working days of the date of renewal

By all

3.6 Partner Agency Involvement 

The following agencies, may be involved in providing information for an environmental risk assessment.


Contact (Recommended)

Local Authority:

  • Criminal Justice Social Work
  • Children and Families Social Work
  • Vulnerable Adults
  • Education

Team Manager (CJSW)

Local Authority Housing Service

Sex Offender Liaison Officer (SOLO)

Registered Social Landlord

Link Officer

National Health Service

Liaison Officers/ Designated Area MAPPA Lead


Detective Sergeant – Offender Management Unit

Scottish Prison Service

MAPPA Integrated Case Management Coordinator

Safeguarding Communities – Reducing Offending (or other organisations providing support where an offender has an intensive support package being provided)

Support Worker

3.7 Database Checks  

The following checks are recommended. Not all these databases will need to be checked in every case and this will be dependent on the offender and the property being considered. Which agency carries out the checks will depend on access to systems and local agreement for doing so. Checks on health information would usually only be provided in relation to the offender and in instances where this information was required to manage the case.


Database Checks

Local Authority Criminal Justice Social Work

  • Internal Case Management Systems (including children and Families Social work checks)
  • Adult Protection

Local Authority Housing (SOLO)

  • Council Tax
  • Housing Benefit Data
  • Electoral Register
  • Housing Management /Homeless systems
  • Private Landlord Registration
  • Care Inspectorate Website
  • Accommodation Information including; type, size, tenure type, entrance/door entry, room location and floor plans if available, any general location information considered relevant
  • Map

Local Authority Education

  • School Management Information System (SEEMIS)


  • Internal Case Management Systems

Scottish Prison Service

  • Prisoner Records Database
  • Prison Based Social Work File


  • Violent and Sex Offender Register (ViSOR)
  • STORM CALL Management System or equivalent
  • Criminal History System (CHS)
  • Police National Computer (PNC)
  • Scottish Intelligence Database (SID)
  • Vulnerable Persons Database (VPD)
  • Mapping
  • Community Officer Local Knowledge
  • Crime Recording Systems

3.8 Physical Checks

Once a potential property has been identified for an offender, a physical check of the property and surrounding area must be carried out to identify any potential risk to the community and to the offender. Any concerns must be documented in ViSOR and any other relevant internal management systems. The checks undertaken should take account of any risks that are identified and the specific victim profile.

Checks should include looking for children’s toys/equipment within gardens, children’s curtains or accessories at windows and any other significant evidence of a person fitting the victim profile. Checks should include the following:

  • Play Parks
  • Community Centres
  • Churches
  • Shops
  • Schools/Nurseries
  • Sheltered housing developments
  • CCTV Location
  • Licensed Premises

In the majority of cases checks will be completed by the Police Offender Management Unit in collaboration with Local Community Policing. These checks should be carried out by the best placed agency depending on the offender.

All staff carrying out home visits to registered sex offenders must be vigilant to any changes in surrounding areas/environment/residents. Where concerns are identified, the Responsible Authorities must review the risk assessment.

3.9 Minimum Parameters

When completing an Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA), the minimum requirement of the properties that should be included as part of the assessment are as follows:

Property type

Minimum Checks

Multi-storey properties

All the properties on the same floor as the address being reviewed.

Tenement properties

All properties within the same tenement close as the address being reviewed.

Shared accommodation

All occupants must be checked.

Cottage flats, semi-detached and detached properties;

This will be determined on a case-by-case basis but should include all adjacent properties and may include properties where the garden boundaries border each other.

Depending on the risk the offender poses and taking account of the physical checks undertaken the Responsible Authorities will need to consider on a case by case basis whether the parameters need to be extended beyond the minimum requirement.

3.10 Victims  

As highlighted in the MAPPA guidance the Responsible Authorities must ensure they have thoroughly considered the potential risks to any victim of the offender and put in place appropriate plans to minimise the likelihood of the offender causing further serious harm. By adhering to these practice guidelines when completing an ERA the Responsible Authorities will minimise the likelihood of an offender being accommodated within the same neighbourhood as a victim.

3.11 Completing an ERA and making a decision on housing  

Before proceeding with an allocation of a property or the annual review process, individual agencies are required to record their agreement of the ERA. The lead agency in each case must fully consider the views and comments provided by all agencies throughout the ERA process, including any concerns raised, and fully record their conclusion and reasons for the decisions they have made. The Responsible Authorities should agree locally who retains the completed ERA and have a weeding and retention policy to ensure accurate and current retention of data. The full ERA with housing complement and housing agency data should not be recorded on ViSOR.

On occasions where there is disagreement, a meeting/case conference or tele-conference should be held by the Responsible Authorities to discuss all the issues and considerations and reach a decision. This should include SOLOs and RSL Link Officers where appropriate.

The Responsible Authorities will consider the risk assessment and reach an agreement on whether a property is manageable for the offender. The lead agency will sign off the final decision on whether the house is to be offered to the offender.

Factors to consider when identifying housing include:

  • The risk the offender poses and to whom this risk applies may limit the type of housing that will be manageable.
  • The location of housing to schools, parks, community centres etc. that may increase the offender’s likelihood of re-offending must be considered.
  • Ensuring that an offender is not housed in accommodation which puts them unintentionally in conflict with a prohibition or an obligation within a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO). Any conditions of a SOPO should be taken into account when considering the manageability of a property.
  • The location of victims.

Decisions on where to house a sex offender under MAPPA will always be based on the most manageable housing available that minimises the risk an offender may pose to the community. If the housing on offer from a housing provider is not ideal, it is a requirement on the Responsible Authorities to adjust the monitoring and supervision arrangements to minimise and manage any risk.

3.12 Future Allocations  

Once an offender has accepted a social housing tenancy it is likely that at some point in the future surrounding households will change when properties become empty, and this may have implications for future allocations in the neighbourhood.

Whether there are implications, and what they may be, will depend on the particular offender and the ongoing risks they may pose. The Responsible Authorities should identify any implications for future allocations as part of the Environmental Risk Assessment process.

Landlords have to meet legal requirements when allocating social housing and therefore Responsible Authorities should make sure that any restrictions they identify for future allocations are necessary to minimise risk to the community.

Where there are implications for future allocations, the Responsible Authorities should disclose sufficient information to the social landlord providing the tenancy to allow them to make appropriate allocations in future when properties become available. Social housing landlords therefore need to have processes available in place to identify any subsequent vacancies and use a sensitive allocations approach when allocating these properties. They should also keep records of the decisions that are taken.

Information on sensitive allocations can be found in the “Social Housing Allocations in Scotland- a practice guide” 2019

Where landlords have any concerns about allocations in the neighbourhood they should be raised with the Responsible Authorities, via the SOLO. The Responsible Authorities may then consider the ongoing need for restrictions on future allocations and/or the need for an update to the environmental risk assessment.

Where there has been a review of the environmental risk assessment and the risk has increased, the Responsible Authorities need to consider what options are available to manage the risk. Increases in risk can occur for many reasons and this does not automatically mean that a change in housing is required, however arrangements need to be put in place to manage any risks identified.

The Responsible Authorities could consider:

  • the need for a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (see MAPPA guidance);
  • the offender moving to more manageable housing; or
  • disclosure of the offender (see MAPPA guidance).

3.13 Out-of-area placements

In exceptional or unusual cases a local authority may need to consider housing a sex offender in another local authority’s area under MAPPA. The responsibility for making the necessary arrangements for this lies with the placing local authority.

Out of area placements may be appropriate for a sex offender where, for example:

  • this would provide manageable housing which is not available in the placing local authority’s area; or
  • the offender or others might be at risk if the sex offender under MAPPA was to be housed in the placing local authority’s area.

Under no circumstances should a sex offender be placed in another local authority’s area under MAPPA without the knowledge and consent of that authority and without a plan in place to manage any associated risk.

Local authorities should ensure monitoring arrangements are in place to record the number of out-of-area placements. These arrangements will need to show that where a local authority has placed a sex offender in another local authority area under MAPPA ,that proper discussion between the relevant local authorities has taken place and agreement has been reached.

A number of areas in Scotland have protocols for out of area placements which facilitate the transfer of offenders and make a positive contribution to providing manageable housing. Where these are in place they allow quick decisions to be taken. These are based on a number of principles including:

  • Each local authority is responsible for accommodating its own offenders and only in exceptional circumstances – when local options have been exhausted – will an out of area transfer be considered.
  • No sex offender should be placed by one authority into another area without due process being followed.

Guidance on the transfer of cases is set out in the MAPPA guidance.



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