New Scots: integrating refugees in Scotland's communities 2014-2017 final report

Report on collaborative work which has taken place under the New Scots refugee integration strategy from 2014 to 2017.


Key Achievements:

  • Despite the speed and scale of the response to Syrian resettlement in Scotland, the use of temporary accommodation was largely avoided, enabling refugees to settle into suitable long-term accommodation as soon as they arrived.
  • Recognition that the needs of refugees must be incorporated into housing options approaches across Scotland.
  • Improvement of understanding of refugees' rights amongst housing practitioners across Scotland through training, awareness raising and the updated practitioners guide produced by Scottish Refugee Council.

Policy Context

Under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, the Home Office has a duty to provide asylum seekers with housing if they have nowhere else to stay while their claim is assessed; this is provided through regional accommodation contracts to asylum dispersal areas throughout the UK.

Once a person has received refugee status they have the same rights to access housing as anyone legally resident in Scotland.

Scotland's housing options approach means that, when a person approaches a local authority with a housing problem, they will be advised about their housing options in the widest sense and made aware of the choices available to them. This enables early intervention and explores all possible tenure options, including council housing, housing association housing and the private rented sector.

Social landlords have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 and the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 to promote equal opportunities and to ensure that all people, including refugees, receive fair access to their housing and housing services.

Scotland has some of the most progressive homelessness legislation in Western Europe. Unlike elsewhere in the UK, in Scotland a refugee is not considered to have formed a local connection with the local authority area where they lived in dispersal accommodation. This makes it easier for newly recognised refugees in Scotland to seek homelessness assistance from any Scottish local authority. Priority need was abolished as part of Scotland's 2012 homelessness commitment, meaning that a new refugee, if homeless, can access assistance without having to demonstrate that they are particularly vulnerable. Housing benefit, administered by the local authority, provides the means for most new refugees to cover the cost of their new home.

As part of the Scotland's response to the refugee crisis, the Refugee Taskforce established the Accommodating Refugees Subgroup in late 2015. This subgroup had a specific focus of working to assess housing capacity support for the resettlement of refugees to Scotland. In May 2016, as resettlement had become established, this subgroup merged with the New Scots Housing Group. Since then the group has continued to meet with an ambition to widen the focus on housing issues for refugees from being Glasgow focused to Scotland wide as refugees are now living across Scotland.

Strategy Outcomes

In 2014 the New Scots strategy set out three outcomes for Housing:

1. Refugees are supported to fully understand the housing options available to them by a range of agencies, and as a result are able to make the best possible choice for them.

2. Suitable housing options are available to new refugees in Scotland.

3. New refugees are supported to move from asylum accommodation to a more permanent home during the 28-day period by agencies working together to ensure they are aware of their long-term options and are not left without somewhere to live.

1. Refugees understand their housing options and can make the best choice

Under Scotland's housing options approach, local authorities provide advice in the widest sense to make people aware of the choices they can make to find the best housing option for them. To ensure understanding of the particular challenges for refugees, Glasgow City Council invited the Scottish Refugee Council to input into their housing options training for community casework team and other housing associations. This learning is already being extended beyond Glasgow through links which have been developed with West of Scotland Housing Options Hub to open up referral pathways for refugees.

Awareness of the challenges facing refugees has also been raised through events and initiatives which have reached out to housing professionals in Scotland. Scottish Refugee Council has presented information at the Chartered Institute of Housing ( CIH) and Homeless Action Scotland conferences. Scottish Refugee Council and CIH have also provided training to housing options hubs across Scotland and through open courses which are due to continue. Housing Options Hubs will develop the Housing Options Toolkit, which is designed to enable frontline staff to attain the skills and knowledge necessary to deliver housing options advice, to include a section on refugees. To do this, in 2017 a working group including representatives of the Housing thematic group will agree content for a module on refugee issues and identify the work needed to ensure specialist advice is delivered on the front line.

2. Refugees are able to access suitable housing options

New referral pathways for refugees have opened up as stronger partnerships with Registered Social Landlords have developed. This improves the housing options available, providing refugees with more choice over where they live.

The launch of the Scottish Refugee Council Housing Practitioners' Guide [41] was well attended by organisations from across Scotland and will be a useful tool for housing practitioners working in Scottish local authorities, housing associations and the third sector who are assisting the integration of asylum seekers or refugees. The Guide aims to help support housing practitioners to understand the needs and experience of asylum seekers and refugees to improve engagement with them.

The Syrian Resettlement Programme saw use of temporary furnished properties largely avoided, enabling the majority of families to move into secure, long-term accommodation on arrival. Local authorities participating in the scheme sourced a variety of types of accommodation from the public and private sector. This provided a wider pool of properties which allowed a quick response to requests from the Home Office regarding specific families in the programme, and also allowed local authorities to balance the needs of the existing community.

Case Study

Housing Practitioner Guide

In August 2016, Scottish Refugee Council published an updated Housing Practitioner's Guide to Integrating Asylum Seekers & Refugees. [42] An original action of the New Scots strategy was to distribute the 2011 version of the guide to all local authorities in Scotland, but an update became necessary because of key developments in Scottish homelessness policy, changes in how asylum accommodation was provided and the growing number of refugees being resettled to local authorities across Scotland.

Scottish Refugee Council updated the guide with the support of the Scottish Government and the Chartered Institute of Housing. The new guide provides essential information about people's rights and entitlements in relation to housing, homelessness and welfare benefits. It includes guidance and examples of good practice aimed at reducing homelessness among refugees, increasing housing options and improving tenancy sustainment. It also highlights refugees' strengths and the important contribution they can make to communities. The guide is relevant to those who come through the asylum route as well as resettled refugees.

"A safe, secure home is so fundamentally important for all of us but especially so for people who are new to Scotland and trying to navigate their way through complicated systems and may be recovering from torture, trauma and violent human rights abuses."

Jamie Stewart, SRC Housing Development Officer

"When people arrive in our country through difficult and dangerous circumstances, front line housing staff play a key role in helping them access the support and services they need… [the guide] will assist them in doing their best for the asylum seekers and refugees they are working with."

Marian Reid, Deputy Director at CIH Scotland

The guide has been well received. The launch event in Glasgow was attended by housing practitioners from across Scotland. The guide will be updated regularly to reflect the ever changing environment facing asylum seekers and refugees.

3. Support to secure a home during the move-on period

A number of efforts to improve the experience of refugees during the 28 day move-on period have been tried over the lifetime of the New Scots strategy. However, outcomes have been limited by significant structural issues which are barriers to refugees accessing permanent housing quickly (these barriers are not unique to refugees and they share this experience with other people in a similar situation). For example, Glasgow City Council explored an option to work with private sector asylum accommodation providers to enable smooth access to the private rented sector, but this could not be rolled out for legal reasons.

In 2017 Glasgow City Council will pilot a new arrangement negotiated with Registered Social Landlords whereby new refugees will receive an offer from a Registered Social Landlord within the 28-day period. 2017 will also see the launch of a system developed by Glasgow City Council for early intervention through assertive housing options and early allocation of accommodation.

Continuing Challenges

According to the Scottish Refugee Council's Holistic Integration Service report [43] , homelessness remains one of the main issues facing refugees. The report also highlights issues for refugees accessing temporary accommodation and considerable delays in obtaining permanent accommodation. There has been some positive work which is showing success, for example Scottish Refugee Council nomination agreements with 12 housing associations throughout Scotland which provide referral pathways for refugees.

A Scottish Refugee Council Community Conference highlighted the importance of holistic advice and advocacy but also the important role of alternative sources of support such as peer support.

Case Study

North Lanarkshire Resettlement

North Lanarkshire Council committed to helping 180 Syrian refugees as part of the UK Government's Syrian Resettlement Programme. The first families arrived in November 2015.

To help the families settle into North Lanarkshire, a multidisciplinary team was set up with representatives from the Council, NHS, local housing associations and the voluntary sector. The team adopted the indicators of integration set out in New Scots as a framework. Each family has a core support team which includes housing, social work and health professionals tasked with ensuring the refugees' wellbeing and support needs.

"As well as the formal recognition this [ CIH Team of the Year] award provides for the excellent work being carried out in North Lanarkshire, we've also received extremely positive responses from the refugees themselves and their experience of settling in to North Lanarkshire Communities. This is what makes everything we do worthwhile and allows us to be proud of the positive difference we're making to people's lives."
Councillor Barry McCulloch, Convener of Housing & Social Work Services

The core teams help families settle into their homes, assists with welfare advice, registering with health services and getting to know the local area. A team of volunteer befrienders also support the refugees in developing social connections.

The refugees are adapting well in their new surroundings. The children are thriving in school and the families are engaging with people and groups within their local communities.

One year after the first Syrian families arrived, the hard work in North Lanarkshire was recognised as the Syrian Resettlement Project Team received the Chartered Institute of Housing's 'Team of the Year' award.


Email: Scotland's Refugee Strategy

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