Prevention of homelessness duties: consultation analysis

This report provides an analysis of responses to the joint Scottish Government/ COSLA consultation on proposed new prevention of homelessness duties, which ran from 17 December 2021 to 8 April 2022.

Executive Summary

A consultation on the prevention of homelessness duties ran from 17 December 2021 to 8 April 2022 and received 113 responses. The consultation asked 108 questions about the introduction of new duties on public bodies and landlords to prevent homelessness and changing existing legislation to ensure homelessness is prevented earlier.

The package of proposals

There was widespread support for the package of proposals which were described as comprehensive, transformational and welcome. Supporters recognised the importance of early intervention and enabling a joined-up approach to prevention. Respondents believed the proposals would strengthen existing practice, improve consistency, positively impact those at greater risk of homelessness, and noted the potential long-term savings or benefits to services which could result from a focus on prevention.

Others stressed that implementing the proposals will require significant investment in public services, homelessness services and housing stock. There were calls for the Scottish Government, local authorities and public bodies to provide sufficient resources to increase staff capacity and training, and to address wider structural and systemic drivers of homelessness. Others highlighted the need for guidance on implementing the proposals, facilitating partnership working, monitoring and consent.

Duties to prevent homelessness on wider public bodies and landlords

The proposals for duties on public bodies and landlords were widely supported. There was high support for the 'ask and act' duties, for a duty on public bodies to prevent homelessness among those within six months of leaving institutions and for new duties on Integration Authorities, social work and social care and local authorities. While there was support for duties on GPs, there was concern about how this would be implemented and how it could impact the relationship between GPs and their patients.

There was also backing for a case co-ordination approach for service users with multiple or complex needs and for the proposals relating to children and young people. In both cases, respondents provided suggestions for implementation as well as concerns regarding consequences of the duties. There were particular concerns that the proposed changes would diminish 16- and 17-year-olds' existing housing rights.

Proposals for new duties on prisons, the courts and the police were supported by the vast majority of respondents. There were some suggestions about how criminal justice services might need to change working practices to implement new duties, for example, guidance and training on how best to ask individuals about their housing status.

Respondents supported the proposed duties on local authorities to ensure they act early when people are at risk of homelessness. Implementation challenges included limited resources and the need to clearly define interagency responsibilities. While there was support for joining-up services through strategic planning, two thirds felt this should be included in legislation and one third in guidance.

The proposed duties on landlords, both social and private, were widely supported by respondents, who noted that formal duties could strengthen existing practice by encouraging earlier intervention, enabling partnership working, reducing discriminatory practice and ensuring consistent practice. However, a few questioned whether new duties would add anything to existing practice and others preferred guidance over legislation. Some also noted the potential for new duties to act as a disincentive to private landlords.

Reforming homeless legislation to prevent homelessness

The proposals for an extended prevention duty, a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent homelessness, and steps to meet the needs of specific groups all received widespread backing. Many respondents anticipated positive outcomes. The most common was fewer people experiencing homelessness, followed less use of temporary accommodation. Personal Housing Plans were seen as beneficial in helping to ensure individuals are listened to and that their needs, preferences and aspirations are explored.

Clear differences in opinion were evident in responses to the proposed criteria for the stability of housing outcomes. Some viewed the proposals as increasing housing options, while others saw it as reducing existing housing rights. While a majority felt 12 months is an appropriate period for accommodation to be available, others argued it is not long enough to establish stability or fully settle into a community. In contrast, respondents were mostly supportive of the grounds to consider when deciding on the suitability of housing outcomes, though there were questions around how local authorities can realistically meet stability and suitability criteria, due to both high demand and short supply of housing stock.

There was also support for the proposed safeguards around non-standard accommodation options, for the recommendations for enforcing people's rights, and for a general assessment of housing support needs as part of the Local Housing Strategy. Some expressed concern about the appeals process, in particular the workload and resource implications for local authorities and the First Tier Tribunal.

The proposals and domestic abuse

The proposals relating to homelessness and domestic abuse recorded very high support. Respondents supported new or amended legislation, policy or good practice guidance, and several noted the importance of providing victim/survivors with choice and control around housing options. Respondents felt the proposals could improve social landlord engagement, strengthen existing good practice, improve consistency and increase accountability. A few issues around housing perpetrators of domestic abuse were noted.


There is widespread support for both the package of reforms and the individual proposals outlined in the consultation. Many individuals and stakeholders with detailed knowledge took part in the consultation, sharing their views on how to develop and implement duties on local authorities and public bodies to prevent homelessness. Their views provide a useful evidence base for the Scottish Government to draw on when shaping the final duties to be included in a forthcoming Housing Bill.



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