The national indicator
4.1. Table 1 provides the main summary statistics on the progress of homelessness applications, analysed by the year in which the application was received by the council. The year of application is also the basis by which we measure progress against the national indicator - "Improve access to suitable housing options for those in housing need"3. However, it takes time for councils to assess a homelessness application. As a consequence, 1,283 applications in 2011-12 have yet to be assessed.
4.2. Of the 45,322 applications in 2011-12 for which assessment details have been received, 34,302 were assessed as homeless or potentially homeless and 31,183 were assessed as priority need. (Table 1). Those with a priority assessment represent 91% of those assessed as homeless, an increase of three percentage points over 2010-11. The percentage of homeless assessed as priority has increased by 18 percentage points since 2003-04 and by 14 percentage points since 2006-07.
Chart 11: Scotland: Percentage of homeless applicants assessed as priority homeless
4.3. To provide a clearer picture of patterns of assessment the remainder of this section presents analyses of assessments based on the year the assessment was made, rather than the year of application.
4.4. In 2011-12, councils assessed 35,515 applications as either homeless or threatened with homelessness. This is a decrease of 6,443 (a 15% decrease) since 2010-11. The reduction in assessments reflects the reduction in applications discussed in the previous section.
The 2012 homelessness commitment: National picture and impact
4.5. The Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 set the objective that by 31 December 2012 all homeless applicants would be entitled to settled accommodation. This objective is generally referred to as the 2012 homelessness commitment. At present, those with a priority assessment are entitled to settled accommodation, while those assessed as non-priority are entitled to temporary accommodation, advice and assistance only. Progress towards the commitment can be tracked by the number and proportion of homeless applicants assessed as priority; with the aim that 100% of homeless will be assessed as priority by 31 December 2012.
4.6. Of the 35,515 homeless assessments in 2011-12, 32,243 (91%) were assessed as priority need. Nationally the proportion of homeless/ threatened with homelessness assessed as priority has increased in each year since 2002-03.
4.7. Chart 12 shows the impact of the move towards the 2012 commitment on the number and characteristics of priority households. In 200-01, the largest group in priority need were single parent households with parent aged 26 or over. By 2011-12, single people aged between 26 and retirement were the largest priority group, their numbers having increased from a little over 5,000 in 2000-01 to just under 11,000 in 2011-12.
Chart 12: Number of applicants assessed as priority by broad household type: Scotland: 2000-01 and 2011-12
4.8. As the number and proportion of priority assessments has increased the number of non-priority assessments has fallen - from around 10,800 in 2002-03 to just under 3,300 in 2011-12. Table 6d shows that, of the 3,272 non-priority homeless assessments in 2011-12, 2,447 (75%) were single male households. A further 649 (20%) were single females, with another 126 (4%) being couples without children and the remaining 50 being other households without children.
4.9. Homelessness legislation also prescribes particular circumstances in which a homeless household should be accorded priority. Reflecting this (Chart 13 and Table 6c) shows that:
- Of the 4,112 applications assessed as homeless in 2011-12 where the main reason for presenting as homeless was a violent or abusive dispute within the household, 4,072 (99%) were assessed as priority homeless.
- Of the 611 homeless households where the main reason for presenting as homeless was harassment, 592 (97%) were accorded priority.
- Of 913 homeless households fleeing non-domestic violence, 900 (99%) were assessed as priority.
- There were 230 households assessed as homeless where the main reason for presenting was the loss of service/ tied accommodation, of whom 203 (88%) were assessed as priority.
Chart 13: Applications assessed in 2011-12 by main reason for application: Scotland
The 2012 homelessness commitment: Progress by local authority area
4.10. In their December 2005 statement on progress towards the 2012 commitment Scottish Ministers chose not to prescribe nationally the ways in which priority categories should be extended. Instead the Government left it to individual councils to set their own plans and to widen priority categories according to local policy4. Paragraph 4.14 below discusses some of the factors which may have affected local policies.
4.11. Table 6a shows each council's progress towards the 2012 commitment annually from 2009-10. As we near the December 2012 target date the proportion assessed as priority can change markedly from quarter to quarter as councils review and update their policies. Table 6b gives the quarterly position for each council over the past two years and Chart 14 shows the position in the latest quarter. Key points are:-
- In the latest quarter, January - March 2012:-
- 14 local authorities assessed 100% of homeless as priority;
- 9 local authorities assessed between 90% and 100% of homeless as priority;
- 6 local authorities assessed between 70% and 80% of homeless as priority; and
- 3 local authorities assessed under 80% of homeless as priority.
- The 14 authorities which assessed 100% of homeless as priority in the latest quarter were Angus, Dundee, Orkney, Renfrewshire, Stirling and West Dunbartonshire - which abolished the priority need test over a year ago, together with East Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, Moray, North Ayrshire, Perth and Kinross, Scottish Borders, Shetland, South Ayrshire and West Dunbartonshire.
- Nine local authorities assessed 90% or more of homeless as priority and these were Dumfries and Galloway (99%), Glasgow (97%), East Ayrshire (96%), Midlothian (95%), Highland (95%), South Lanarkshire (92%), Argyll and Bute (92%), West Lothian (92%) and Fife (90%).
- Six local authorities assessed between 80% and 90% of homeless as priority and these were Aberdeenshire (89%), Falkirk (89%), Clackmannanshire (88%), East Dunbartonshire (86%), Aberdeen City (83%) and Edinburgh (81%).
- The 3 authorities which assessed under 80% of homeless as priority in 2011-12 were East Lothian (69%), Eilean Siar (69%) and North Lanarkshire (79%).
4.12. Of the 18 local authorities which did not assess 100% of homeless households as priority in the January - March 2012 quarter progress towards meeting the target over the past year has been as follows:
- In four local authorities, the proportion assessed as priority need is less than in the same quarter one year ago. These authorities are Eilean Siar (-11 percentage points), Edinburgh (-4%), North Lanarkshire (-3%) and East Dunbartonshire (-1%).
- In five local authorities, the proportion assessed as priority need has increased by between zero and two percentage points. These authorities are Aberdeenshire (0%), West Lothian (1%), Argyll & Bute (1%), Clackmannanshire (1%) and Aberdeen City (2%).
- In nine local authorities, the proportion assessed as priority need has increased by three or more percentage points. These councils are Glasgow City (4%), Highland (5%), Midlothian (5%), Fife (6%), Falkirk (7%), South Lanarkshire (7%), East Lothian (7%), Dumfries & Galloway (9%) and East Ayrshire (9%).
4.13. For small councils such as Eilean Siar small differences in the number assessed as priority can have a big impact on the percentage assessed as priority. Thus there is considerable quarter to quarter variability in the % priority in Eilean Siar. Over the past 2 years this has varied from 88% of homeless assessed as priority in July- Sept 2010 down to 56% in Oct-Dec 2011.
4.14. As noted in paragraph 4.10 councils have been free to determine the speed at which they move towards the target of assessing all homeless as priority. In addition to councils' own policies and priorities, there are a number of factors which will have affected councils' decisions over the period since the commitment was entered into. These factors may also continue to affect decisions in the period to December 2012. These factors include:
- The supply of available lets in the local authority area: In some areas councils may have judged that at particular times they had insufficient lets to meet the additional needs for social housing for priority homeless households from widening the priority criteria when set against the needs of others to whom they had a statutory duty to re-house. This may be due to a shortage of supply in some areas or difficulty in accessing a sufficient supply of lets from some RSL partners.
- The impact of homelessness prevention. Reductions in homelessness from increased prevention reduces the total need for social lets for homeless households. Over the period councils have adopted, developed and implemented housing options and prevention work at different times and at different speeds. Over the past few years following the formation of the housing options hubs, homelessness prevention has had a significant impact in most local authority areas. It is notable that in the last year, while the percentage of homeless assessed as priority has increased the number of priority assessments decreased in 26 of Scotland's 32 local authorities.
- The need for and availability of temporary accommodation. Once a priority need assessment is made, local authorities have a duty to provide temporary accommodation until suitable settled accommodation can be secured. As a result, priority need cases may spend much longer in temporary accommodation. For some local authorities the pace at which priority need categories were extended may have been constrained by the need to procure additional units of suitable temporary accommodation.
4.15. The Scottish Parliament's Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee's recent inquiry into the 2012 commitment gives a useful insight into the issues surrounding the 2012 commitment. The written evidence provided by local authorities and other bodies details the types of issues which councils have faced, and are facing, in moving towards meeting the target. All this information can be found on the Scottish Parliament's website at ICI Committee Evidence and Report.
Chart 14: Percentage of homeless assessed as priority: Jan to Mar: 2012
4.16. For applicants assessed as priority, councils record reasons why the household has priority. Councils must identify at least one reason for the priority assessment, but more than 1 reason can be given. In 2011-12, the main reasons for priority assessment were that the household had dependent children (32% of all priority assessments), the household was fleeing domestic violence or abuse (12%), mental illness or personality disorder of a household member (10%) and a household member vulnerable for other special reasons (15%). Nearly 30% of priority assessments in 2011-12 were because of local policy compared with 8% in 2007-08, the first year this category was identified in the statistics (Chart 15).
4.17. A consequence of extending priority assessments through local policies is that councils have moved towards the 100% target at different rates at different times. As explained in paragraph 4.10 above, the proportion 'according to local policy' has been growing as councils have developed and implemented local policies to extend the scope of priority assessments in moving to achieve the 2012 homelessness commitment.
Chart 15: Scotland: Reasons for priority assessment: 2011-12
4.18. The percentage of homeless assessments identified as repeat cases (i.e. where a previous application from the household had been closed less than 12 months before the current assessment5) has fallen from 9.8% in 2002-03 to 5.8% in 2011-12. Whilst the proportion of repeat cases has increased slightly (5.8% of homeless assessments were repeats in 2011-12 compared with 5.6% in 2010-11) the actual number of repeat cases has fallen over the past year (2,050 repeat cases in 2011-12 compared with 2,328 repeat cases in 2010-11). (Chart 16)
4.19. Comparing rates of repeat homelessness by household type, 9% of applications by single males were repeat applications, 6% of applications by single females were repeats, while single parents and couples with or without children had lower rates of repeat homelessness.
4.20. The rate of repeat homelessness varies by local authority area, from 9.9% in Stirling to around 1% in East Dunbartonshire and Orkney (Chart 17).
Chart 16: Scotland: Percentage of repeat homelessness assessments
Chart 17: Repeat homelessness assessments as a percentage of all assessments by local authority area: 2011-12
Support needs of homeless households
4.21. Of the 35,515 households assessed as homeless in 2011-12, 12,184 (34%) were assessed as having one or more support needs. (Table 7 and Chart 18) A higher proportion of applicants in priority need (37%) were assessed as having one or more support needs. Of those with support needs, 4,601 (13% of all assessed as homeless) required support because of mental health, 4,463 (13%) required support on skills for independent living and 4,000 (11%) required support because of alcohol or dependency problems.
Chart 18: Identified support needs of homeless households: Scotland: 2011-12
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