What is the National Accommodation Strategy for Sex Offenders?
1. The National Accommodation Strategy for Sex Offenders, or NASSO for short, forms part of the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements ( MAPPA) and explains how housing contributes to those arrangements. The NASSO sets out the arrangements for housing offenders subject to the sex offender notification requirements, also known as registered sex offenders. Throughout this document such offenders are referred to as "sex offenders under MAPPA". In particular, the NASSO focuses on assessing and managing the risks that sex offenders under MAPPA may pose by living in a particular community, location and property.
2. The MAPPA minimise the potential risk each sex offender may pose by requiring the police, the Scottish Prison Service and local authorities to work together to assess and manage such risks. Social housing providers have a duty to co-operate with them. The arrangements for each offender will depend on their offence and the level of risk they may pose.
3. This Strategy is part of, and must be read with, the arrangements which are set out in full in the MAPPA guidance available on the Scottish Government's website:
4. This Strategy covers sex offenders managed under MAPPA. Sex offenders who are not registered, because they committed an offence and had been released and completed any period of supervision before the register came into force or because the time period for which they were ordered to register as a sex offender may have passed, are not subject to MAPPA.
5. This Strategy does not cover the arrangements for housing young people who display sexually harmful behaviour dealt with through the Children's Hearings system. Guidance on the expectations, roles and responsibilities of housing providers for such young people is available at:
Why is housing important?
6. The clear and consistent advice from experts  is that stable housing arrangements and effective monitoring make a key contribution to minimising the risks sex offenders under MAPPA may pose. Research in this area has found that:
- Support, coupled with stable accommodation, can help to address the risk factors associated with further offending, and allows individuals to benefit from supervision and other forms of treatment  ; and
- placements in stable accommodation can support on going risk management by all of the agencies involved where formal protocol arrangements are in place to allow the exchange of sensitive information about individuals  .
7. Sex offenders under MAPPA live in their own homes, the private rented sector and in affordable rented housing. This Strategy sets out the role of local authorities and Registered Social Landlords ( RSLs) when such offenders seek affordable rented housing. It also sets out the roles that the Responsible Authorities (see below) have when sex offenders under MAPPA live in their own home or rent housing in the private rented sector.
Who assesses the risks that a sex offender under MAPPA may pose?
8. The Management of Offenders etc. (Scotland) Act 2005 ('the 2005 Act') placed legal duties on local authorities, the police, the Scottish Ministers (in relation to functions exercised by the Scottish Prison Service) and health boards or Special Health Boards - collectively known as Responsible Authorities - to jointly set up arrangements for assessing and managing the risks certain offenders pose (see MAPPA Guidance). The 2005 Act is available here:
9. One of the Responsible Authorities is the local authority. The responsibility for carrying out the joint arrangements lies primarily with the Chief Social Work Officer. However, other local authority services, such as housing, also have responsibility to contribute to carrying out the corporate responsibility by virtue of section 10(7) of the 2005 Act.
10. Under the 2005 Act the Responsible Authorities have to co-operate with each other and with other key agencies placed under a duty to co-operate ('duty to co-operate agencies') by the Management of Offenders etc. (Scotland) Act 2005 (Specification of Persons) Order 2007. The key agencies under a duty to co-operate include Registered Social Landlords ( RSLs).
11. The 2005 Act defines 'to co-operate' at section 1(2)(a):
" 'to co-operate' may, without prejudice to the generality of that expression, include to exchange information ('co-operation' being construed accordingly)."
12. The MAPPA guidance includes more information on co-operation. In summary, the Responsible Authorities have to assess and manage the risks sex offenders under MAPPA may pose. Registered Social Landlords do not have to assess and manage the risks, but they do have to co-operate with those who do. Registered Social Landlords and the information they hold about housing and the local community are central to both the assessment and management of risk. Co-operation includes, but is not restricted to, the exchange of information.
13. The 2005 Act did not put a legal obligation on RSLs to provide housing for sex offenders under MAPPA. They do have obligations, under housing law, towards homeless persons that are set out in section 2 of this Strategy. Beyond this, there is an expectation that where social landlords have identified housing, and the Responsible Authorities have agreed that it is manageable, then social landlords will make an offer of housing. Such an expectation is consistent with the generality of the expression 'co-operate' in the 2005 Act. The duty to co-operate is reciprocal and the Responsible Authorities and RSLs must work together to make sure that they are each able to satisfy this duty.
14. In exchanging information, the Responsible Authorities provide RSLs with information on sex offenders under MAPPA and housing providers provide the Responsible Authorities with information on available housing, the location and nearby households. Information sharing between the Responsible Authorities and RSLs should be agreed in information sharing protocols.
15. The key housing contacts under this Strategy are the Sex Offenders Liaison Officer ( SOLO) in each local authority and Link Officers in every RSL. Those undertaking these roles may have a wide variety of other duties. They may also have a different job title, for example a MAPPA Housing Liaison Officer or MAPPA Housing Co-ordinator may have the SOLO role. For consistency, however, the terms SOLO and Link Officer are used throughout this Strategy. A detailed explanation of each of these roles is set out in section 5.
What are the key principles underlying the Strategy?
16. The Strategy is founded upon the following key principles, which are based on those endorsed in the Report of the Expert Panel on Sex Offending (Cosgrove Report 2001 http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2001/06/9284/File-1):
- sex offenders under MAPPA cannot be excluded from housing. Blanket exclusions of such offenders are illegal (since everyone in Scotland aged 16 or over has a legal right to be admitted to a housing list or register), while their suspension from receiving offers of housing will undermine risk management arrangements by increasing the risk of an offender going missing;
- social housing providers should not give sex offenders under MAPPA priority for housing merely because they are such offenders. But sex offenders may be allocated housing where they have been assessed as in need of housing and where the Responsible Authorities have assessed them as being a risk to the community and providing housing would minimise that risk. Any decision to provide housing for a sex offender is in the context of managing risk and improving public safety;
- sex offenders under MAPPA should normally be housed in mainstream housing within the local authority area from which they originate, although exceptional circumstances may occasionally mean that arrangements are made to house an offender in other local authority areas ( see section out-of-area placements).
Who should read this Strategy?
17. This Strategy replaces earlier versions of the Strategy and accompanying practice guidance. So, the Strategy is essential reading for the Responsible Authorities as well as RSLs as duty to co-operate agencies.