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.

6. Community Engagement

6.1 Managing Community Concerns 

Communities may have strong concerns and fears about the housing of sex offenders in their local community and these may emerge from time to time, often following a high profile media case. Managing expectations is therefore an essential part of overall risk management.

The Responsible Authorities are expected to take the lead in managing community expectations with SOLO and Link Officer support.

Often fears and concerns arise from a lack of information or misunderstanding on how decisions on housing sex offenders are reached. People may also be unaware of the monitoring and risk assessment arrangements that are put in place once sex offenders are housed. Fears may also be intensified by media reporting and social media.

Well planned community engagement is a key method of addressing the fears and concerns of communities in relation to the housing of sex offenders. Where a case is publicised, communities and the media often focus attention on the local authority housing service or RSL that has housed the sex offender. However, the Responsible Authorities together with the local authority housing service and RSLs, must take a partnership approach to managing community expectations.

It is the role of the Responsible Authorities to take the lead on managing community expectations and they should work with local authority housing services and RSLs to deliver a strategy for managing community expectations.

On behalf of the local authority housing service and RSLs the SOLO is expected to work with the Responsible Authorities to:

  • implement a community engagement strategy aimed at developing community confidence in the processes for housing sex offenders in the community; 
  • use community education to work with communities in addressing their fears and concerns;
  • have agreed procedures in place for managing media enquiries and enquiries from the community; and
  • have an agreed procedure in place for dealing with public disclosure of a housed sex offender.

6.2 Community Engagement Strategy 

The strategy for managing community expectations should cover:

  • the importance of housing and why stable accommodation is important in minimising and managing risk;
  • how risk is being managed and minimised by ensuring that appropriate accommodation decisions are being made;
  • that NASSO is in place and being implemented at a local level;
  • the key aim of minimising risk to the community as well as the risk of the offender re-offending;
  • that there is a clear contact point within the Police and Criminal Justice Social Work (CJSW) for communities and individuals to get more information on managing sex offenders in the community and to raise any enquiries or concerns; and
  • the roles and responsibilities of the Police, CJSW and the local authority or RSL housing provider are clearly explained.

The strategy should include how to manage negative community responses, including vigilante action when it occurs. Negative community action may include:

  • outing of an offender on social media; 
  • damage to the accommodation occupied by the sex offender or person suspected by the community of being a sex offender;
  • picketing of the accommodation or the local housing office or demanding meetings with the social housing landlord;
  • lobbying local politicians; and 
  • encouraging media coverage.

The strategy should be kept under review. A standard review cycle is between three and five years.

6.3 Where an offender’s address becomes public knowledge? 

Housing staff often have the closest contact with local communities and when public disclosure occurs and the community finds out about a housed sex offender, it is often housing staff who have first contact with their tenants and others in the community who are seeking answers and reassurance.

While it is the role of the Responsible Authorities to provide this, housing staff will need guidance on reassuring people in the short term until their involvement. The community engagement strategy should include guidance on what housing staff should or should not communicate to tenants and other individuals in the community. Once the Responsible Authorities are involved the SOLO or Link Officer must continue to support them in managing the situation where appropriate.

6.4 Where a move is required 

Depending on the nature and urgency of the situation it may become necessary to remove the sex offender and place them in alternative accommodation. Support and advice from the Responsible Authorities will be required in identifying and making a suitable placement.

Where the current social housing landlord has no suitable accommodation available the SOLO and Link Officers should work together to identify alternative housing that is assessed as manageable by the Responsible Authorities.

Where the Police and CJSW believe there are serious risks to either the sex offender or the community, and a move is required immediately, this will generally be to temporary accommodation within the local authority area which has been assessed as being suitable by the Responsible Authorities. In extreme cases the temporary accommodation may have to be in another local authority area (see section 3.13). Where a full ERA cannot practically be undertaken due to the immediacy of the situation it should be carried out as soon as possible. The sex offender involved has to agree to any proposed move, unless the sex offender is subject to any restrictions by the Responsible Authorities.

Where the sex offender has a Scottish Secure Tenancy a social landlord cannot force them to leave without a court order for eviction. In such cases the Responsible Authorities should work with the sex offender to agree a voluntary move.



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