Attendees and apologies
In attendance (virtually via Microsoft Teams call)
- John Mills, Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers (ALACHO) (Chair)
- Ewan Aitken, Cyrenians
- Emma Matthews, Housing Support Enabling Unit (HSEU)
- Allan Jones, North and Islands Hub Rep
- Donna Mcilwraith, South West Hub Rep
- Jackie Fernie, West Hub rep
- Douglas Whyte, Tayside, Fife and Central Hub Rep
- Grant Campbell, Homeless Network Scotland
- Karis Deacon, Scottish Government
- Joshua Campbell, Scottish Government
- Brian Finch, Scottish Government
- Kerry Shaw, Scottish Government
- Louise Thompson, Scottish Government
- John Sharkey, Scottish Government (minute taker)
- Eileen McMullan, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA)
- Tim Pogson, Scotland’s Housing Network (SHN)
- Jonathan Belford, Chief Officer, Finance, Aberdeen City Council
- Lesley Cockburn, Inverclyde HSCP
- Janine Kellett, Scottish Government
- Kevin Thomas, South West Hub Rep
Items and actions
Introductions, minute and actions
RRTP (17/5)- Action 4- Homelessness Unit to arrange meeting with Scottish Housing Network (SHN) to discuss feedback from monitoring report, to provide update at August meeting. Action has been cleared due to timelapse. SHN will continue benchmarking Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan (RRTP) monitoring reports and engage with Housing Options Hubs for this reporting year.
RRTP (15/11) Action 2 invite Drugs Mission partners along to a future meeting of the RRTP sub-group. Action cleared. Joshua Campbell and Karis Deacon from Scottish Government - DG Health and Social Care will present to the group on Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Standard 8 at the 8 September meeting.
Medication Assisted Treatment standard 8
Joshua Campbell and Karis Deacon presented to the Group on MAT standard 8 - All people have access to independent advocacy and support for housing, welfare and income needs.
The Group discussed the standards following a PowerPoint presentation, identifying who they felt it might be good to be involved in the development of this work, including Turning Point Scotland, Blue Triangle, Cyrenians.
It was proposed that Joshua and Karis should link in with SG colleagues working on the Prevention Duty after Ewan highlighted the connection between both workstreams.
Kerry will pick this up and link Joshua and Karis with Pamela McBride’s team who are leading on the Prevention Duties work.
Action Point – it was agreed that the Housing Options Hub leads will raise the Mat Standard 8 as an item of discussion at future hub meetings and consider inviting Joshua to join.
Scottish Government update – Brian Finch
Brian provided an update to the group from a Scottish Government perspective.
Programme for government:
- published on 5 September
- as part of the commitments, we will
- introduce a new housing bill in 2023-24 that will create powers for the introduction of long-term rent controls, new tenants’ rights and new duties aimed at the prevention of homelessness
- introduce a landmark human rights bill in 2023-24, which will incorporate a range of economic, social and cultural rights into Scots law for the first time
- work with local government and stakeholders to reduce the number of people in temporary accommodation; and
- consider the recommendations of the short-life Housing Review Group, identifying those actions that can be taken by local authorities to address existing housing pressures within their current powers and budget, particularly around greater efficiency and effectiveness of resource use
- RRTP monitoring returns
- new template issued to local authorities in June
- steady stream of returns with deadline extended to some local authorities experiencing delay due to staff absence etc
- to date we have received returns from more than half of the local authorities
- publication of the annual statistics on homelessness in Scotland from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023. Key points include
- there were 39,006 applications for homelessness assistance, up 3,247 (9%) compared with 2021-22 and now above pre-pandemic levels
- there were 32,242 households assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness, up 2,903 (10%) compared to 2021-22 and now above pre-pandemic levels
- there were 15,039 households in temporary accommodation at 31 March 2023, the highest levels recorded. This is up 6% compared with 14,214 at 31 March 2022 and up 27% since March 2020 (11,807)
- the number of children in temporary accommodation increased to 9,595 in March 2023 from 8,805 in March 2022 (9%) and 7,355 in March 2020 (30%)
- the average total time spent in temporary accommodation is 223 days. This compares to 214 days in 2021-22 and 206 days in 2020-21. Households with children spend, on average, the longest time in temporary accommodation
- there has been an increase in people reporting rough sleeping either the night before or in the three months prior to making a homelessness application, but still below pre-pandemic levels
- there were 445 instances of households not being offered temporary accommodation, a decrease of 38% compared to 2021-22. Almost all (420) were in Edinburgh
- 26% decrease in homelessness from private rented tenancies following cost of living legislation (from 2,990 Apr - Sep ‘22 to 2,200 Oct ’22 - Mar ‘23)
Prevention of homelessness duties:
- we will bring forward housing legislation in 2023-24 to deliver the new deal for tenants and homelessness prevention duties
- the exact timing is subject to ongoing discussion as part of wider legislative planning
- to support the development of robust and fit for purpose legislation we will continue to engage with stakeholders on our emerging proposals
- this includes an upcoming workshop involving local authority representatives to test assumptions in relation to changes to existing homelessness legislation, planned for 18 September
- the Scottish Government published its response to the recommendations of the Temporary Accommodation Task and Finish Group. Planned actions include
- investing at least £60 million this year through the Affordable Housing Supply Programme, to support a national acquisition plan
- maintaining momentum in delivering our Affordable Housing Supply Programme
- working with social landlords to deliver a new programme of stock management
- implementing targeted partnership plans with the local authorities facing greatest pressure
Ewan advised that in recent meeting with the Minister he was advised that the timing of the Prevention Duty legislation may be impacted by the Bill around cladding. With regards the SG response to the Prevention Task and Finish Group recommendations his understanding is that will be in the next couple of months.
John Mills referred to the Housing to 2040 Board and advised that it was awaiting a report from the Housing Review Group, probably in September. He also mentioned that the Short Term Housing Supply Group is currently looking at the Temporary Accommodation Task and Finish Group recommendations to be clear of what the priorities are.
Donna asked where SG where in terms of its attempts to have housing benefit devolved, specifically with Local Housing Rate (LHA) in mind. Kerry said she will get an update and report back to the next meeting of the group.
Housing Options Hubs
Allan spoke to the key issues for discussion paper submitted from a cross hub perspective.
Issue: Local Connection (LC) continues to be a real challenge for all. This is linked to figures but also to complexity. Authorities are getting embroiled in judicial reviews and are unable to cope and the legislation is being used to move vulnerable people out with some authority areas. What can the RRTP subgroup do to support authorities to highlight that something needs done urgently to ensure they help authorities and understand the issues they are facing and also to help individuals who are being moved around the country who are being left with no support. Authorities have dealt with lots of change over the past 10 years but this one is not settling down and needs a rethink.
Louise advised that analysis of the most recent stats release is underway to identify where there might be disproportionate impact across authorities. Although she recognised that the stats will not tell us everything we need to know.
Allan said that one of the key issues is around the complexity of some cases, with some homeless applicants applying to another authority leaving behind the sometimes intensive support provision they had previously been receiving. The use of Section 38 was then discussed.
Louise confirmed she had no answer to this issue at the moment but that engagement with stakeholders was ongoing and that the next LC Solutions Group meeting was being held next week.
John Mills highlighted the parallels with this issue and that of the Coming Home Strategy for young people leaving care.
Donna asked about collating stats showing the number of applicants that apply to another local authority who would have been eligible under previous LC rules in order to see a clearer impact. Louise confirmed this was being considered.
Issue: In some areas we are starting to see issues being raised by our support partners we are rehousing people too quickly, especially if they are younger. This goes against Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) recommendations that everyone is tenancy ready when in some instances the whole stress and pressure of having a tenancy is causing problems. In addition we are seeing more homeless cases spending time in other settings like remand, prison, hospitals or supported accommodation. We therefore feel there should be the ability to defer a homeless case so it is not considered in terms of stats and HL1 monitoring whilst authorities are unable to provide a housing solution. This would enable authorities to be more person centred in these approaches rather than just trying to find a quick solution that may not be long term sustainable. We would appreciate a wider view on this.
Allan asked about the appropriateness of rapid rehousing when it’s identified that supported accommodation to assist, particularly young people, acquire the skills they need in order to sustain a tenancy. Also, whether it’s possible to temporarily remove them from stats i.e., stop the clock. John Mills was of the understanding that this option may already exist in legislation.
Issue: There are more people presenting as homeless from different backgrounds, many of whom are in employment but can’t afford or can’t find housing solutions in the area. Homelessness and temporary accommodation is not good for people in these situations especially as potentially being moved well away from an area could impact on employment. In addition, there are concerns about what increased interest rates will mean for homeowners. There is a lack of clarity about what is happening in terms of a winter eviction ban and also the lack of support to landlords. If the eviction ban is lifted at the end of September this is going to mean another increased wave of homelessness. What can we do to keep private landlords in the market and ensure we are considering unintended consequences when making these decisions. There has to be joined up thinking as the social sector cannot manage the current demands on it never mind the potential for significant increases as we head into winter.
The group discussed briefly, recognising the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on homelessness with increasing numbers of first-time homelessness. Ewan pointed to the Edinburgh Welcome Hub and that 50% of the 1200 that accessed it in the last year had never experienced homelessness before.
Issue - There remains a lack of clarity around future RRTP funding or plans for RRTP’s in the future. We are only a few months away from where we will be planning for next years activities and this lack of clarity is causing issues for authorities.
Kerry confirmed that budget discussions are ongoing. She assured the group that SG are aware of the challenges faced by local authorities in terms of planning and that this was a key consideration.
Housing Support Enabling Unit (HSEU)
Emma mentioned that HSEU and Scottish Federation of Housing Association (SFHA) are meeting with the Minister to discuss the economic and social benefits of housing support following recent CASH report.
HSEU are currently working on specification for the next cost benefit analysis with research partners, which should be completed before next financial year.
Also currently working on a briefing on the role of Housing Support and HF Workers.
Housing First check up
Grant spoke about the check up process that involved 26 of 32 local authorities.
They are currently in the ‘sounding board’ phase which will include HF experts from home and abroad meeting with local authorities, via the Housing Options Hubs.
Rural Housing First
There has been no meeting since the last RRTP sub-group and the next meeting is in two weeks’ time. At that meeting there will be discussion around lone workers and addressing the challenges around this. They will also discuss peer working with a view to better understanding how this can work better.
Any other business
John proposed having a joint RRTP Sub-Group/RRTP Coordinators face to face event, perhaps in November. The group agreed.
John and SG officials will discuss this further, including the possibility of the Minister attending.
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