5. Housing roles and responsibilities under NASSO
5.1 Key housing contacts
The key housing contacts under this Strategy are the SOLO in each local authority and Link Officer in every RSL.
Local authorities (including local authorities who have transferred its housing stock to an RSL) are responsible for the development of a strategic response to the housing of sex offenders under MAPPA, this should include an assessment of the need for accommodation and support services in their area. This assessment needs to cover the contribution of RSLs. To do this local authorities must involve and talk to RSLs in their area.
5.2 The role of the local authority Sex Offender Liaison Officer
The main role the Sex Offender Liaison Officer (SOLO) is to be the initial point of contact for housing enquiries relating to sex offenders under MAPPA, and to be the link between the Responsible Authorities and RSLs under a duty to co-operate. The SOLO will:
- Identify housing providers who could potentially assist with rehousing using information about the sex offender from the Responsible Authorities.
- Make sure that the housing provider is included in liaison arrangements for identifying manageable housing and supporting the management of risk by the Responsible Authorities.
- Liaise pro-actively with the Responsible Authorities and housing providers on ongoing risk management and community safety issues.
The main responsibilities of the SOLO before housing a sex offender are to:
- assist with revising Memorandum of Understanding’s and Information Sharing Protocols;
- establish and maintain good working relationships with local authority allocations staff and with RSLs and liaise with Link Officers to help identify manageable housing;
- be the first point of contact for housing a sex offender;
- give sex offenders advice on their housing options and, where any other support needs are identified, liaise with the appropriate services;
- contribute to environmental risk assessments;
- take part in discussions and decisions on identifying manageable housing for sex offenders under MAPPA; and
- process and hold secure information on sex offenders to assist with future allocation issues and ongoing tenancy management.
Once a sex offender has been housed they are responsible for:
- helping the Responsible Authorities to ensure that when a sex offender needs to move to another local authority area, the transfer operates smoothly;
- liaising with Community Justice Partners and any multi-agency groups the Responsible Authorities set up;
- ensuring that the local housing strategy and operational plans consider the need for housing sex offenders under MAPPA;
- contributing to the review of the local authority’s and RSLs’ housing policies to ensure issues relating to sex offenders are considered; and
- monitoring, with the Responsible Authorities, where sex offenders under MAPPA are housed and identifying any issues relating to the over-concentration of offenders in particular areas.
5.3 The role of an RSL Link Officer
RSLs have a duty to co-operate under the MAPPA arrangements and their role is to contribute and support the Responsible Authorities’ management of risk. Individual RSLs should have in place a Link Officer (or staff who will undertake the duties of a Link Officer) to liaise with the SOLO and Responsible Authorities.
The main roles of the RSL Link officer are:
- exchanging information on housing with the Responsible Authorities;
- identifying and allocating housing that has been assessed as manageable by the Responsible Authorities;
- liaising with the Responsible Authorities on any issue relating to their ongoing management and monitoring of the risks the offender may pose; and
- having clear arrangements in place with the SOLO and the other Responsible Authorities to deal with situations where a property is no longer manageable.
- take part in the review of Memorandum of Understanding and information sharing protocols with the Responsible Authorities;
- provide information on housing stock and voids to the SOLO when requested to assist with potentially providing housing.;
- respond to specific requests by the SOLO about the availability of potential housing for sex offenders under MAPPA, and have processes in place for responding to requests from SOLO’s for housing;
- ensure arrangements are in place within the RSL for the secure management of information;
- provide information to support environmental risk assessments;
- keep the SOLO advised of any proposed house moves by sex offenders under MAPPA and any information which comes to light about the offender which may affect community safety;
- keep the SOLO advised of any applications for housing made directly to the RSL by sex offenders where this is disclosed during the application process and of any tenancy issues or disputes and potential legal action/or proceedings for possession/tenancy complaints etc. involving sex offenders;
- take part in relevant case conferences and multi- agency arrangements; and
- make sure processes are in place within the organisation to protect staff dealing with the sex offender under MAPPA, for example, where home visits are being made.
SOLO and RSL Link Officer Forums have been established by Scotland’s Housing Network (SHN) to support their members to discuss emerging issues and share practice. Further information can be provided by contacting SHN. http://www.scotlandshousingnetwork.org/
5.4 Dealing with enquiries and concerns
Local housing offices are often the first port of call for tenants or members of the public who wish to raise enquiries or concerns about sex offenders. Their position at the heart of communities makes housing providers ideally placed to alert the Responsible Authorities to any concerns that are raised.
Depending on the nature of the enquiry or concern being raised the SOLO or RSL Link Officer should consider what action to take. This could include:
- reporting the concerns to the police for further investigation and possible action; where there are concerns about the behaviour of a tenant or other person living in the community reporting the concerns to social work services where there may be a risk to children; and
- where it is a general enquiry about housing policies and procedures in relation to housing sex offenders these should be made available and discussed. If this does not resolve the concern they should also be given an opportunity to talk about concerns or issues with the Responsible Authorities.
When dealing with enquiries or concerns it is important that details about who sex offenders are, or where they are housed, are not divulged at any time. The SOLO or Link Officer should only confirm that they have passed on the concerns or enquiry for investigation.
All local authority landlords and RSL’s should:
- make sure that housing staff know who they should refer enquiries to in the Responsible Authorities;
- know who the Responsible Authorities’ community or media points of contact are and make sure that all staff know to refer all media enquiries to them for liaison and action;
- be open and transparent about the organisation’s protocols for housing sex offenders under MAPPA;
- liaise with the Responsible Authorities where a tenant is involved in any incident reported in the media;
- make sure that sensitive information on sex offenders under MAPPA is stored, flagged and managed in line with MAPPA guidance; and
- make sure that elected members and committee members are aware of the local multi agency public protection arrangements.
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