Attendees and apologies
In attendance (virtually via Microsoft Teams call)
- John Mills, Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers (ALACHO) (Chair)
- Maggie Brunjes, Homeless Network Scotland
- Ewan Aitken, Cyrenians
- Stephanie Stewart, Healthcare Improvement Scotland
- Tim Pogson, Scotland’s Housing Network (SHN)
- Eileen McMullan, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA)
- Yvette Burgess, Housing Support Enabling Unit (HSEU)
- Allan Jones, North and Islands Hub Rep
- Donna Mcilwraith, South West Hub Rep
- Janeine Barrett, South West Hub Rep
- April Thompson, East Hub Rep
- Douglas Whyte, Tayside, Fife & Central Hub Rep
- Kevin Thomas, South West Hub Rep
- Jonathan Belford, Chief Officer, Finance, Aberdeen City Council
- Mike Callaghan, COSLA
- Brian Finch, Scottish Government
- Kerry Shaw, Scottish Government
- Janine Kellett, Scottish Government
- John Sharkey, Scottish Government (minute taker)
- Ruth Robin, Healthcare Improvement Scotland
- Jackie Fernie, West Hub rep
- Lesley Cockburn, Inverclyde HSCP
Items and actions
Introductions, minute and actions
RRTP (17/5)- Action 4- Homelessness Unit to arrange meeting with SHN to discuss feedback from monitoring report, to provide update at August meeting. Due to resourcing limitations within the Homelessness Team, this action has been delayed. This was carried forward.
RRTP (15/11) Action 2 invite Drugs Mission partners along to a future meeting of the RRTP Sub-group. Ruth and Brian met on 3 May to discuss and identify suitable speaker. John Sharkey now taking forward with a view to inviting Drugs Mission partner to speak at the next sub-group meeting.
Scottish Government RRTP update – Brian Finch
Brian provided an update to the group from a Scottish Government perspective.
RRTP activity and spend returns
- received activity and spend returns from 29 of 32 local authorities.
- 28 received feedback and Falkirk will receive theirs this week.
- feedback process impacted by staffing issues experienced by the team, which has also delayed the progress of the RRTP annual report.
- we will be considering the report of RRTPs for 2021/22 alongside the evaluation of the 2022/23 RRTPs.
- re-prioritising of workload continuing, in the short term at least, until staffing resolved.
- currently reviewing the return template to better capture outcomes before issuing to LAs over the next few weeks.
Prevention of Homelessness Duties
- prevention duties are intended to be included in a Housing Bill
- SG officials have been engaging in targeted stakeholder engagement to outline proposals for primary legislation, including attending each of the Housing Options Hubs during April.
Temporary Accommodation Standards Framework Working Group
- the standards framework was published on the Scottish Government website on 26 April 2023
- an email was sent to all local authorities advising that the framework has been published
- engagement for Q1 monitoring has been completed. Feedback has been gathered from a range stakeholders and local authorities to show impact from the changes. Most stakeholders said it was too soon to note any significant trends. However, local authorities, COSLA and ALACHO raised a number of concerns being considered.
- a local authority solutions group was set up to explore key issues and to consider potential solutions, including developing guidance to support local authorities. The group first met 18 April to discuss feedback from Q1 reporting. They will meet again in May to consider the priority issues in more detail.
- from 1 January 2023 local authorities have been funded to mitigate the benefit cap through the DHP scheme as far as they are able within devolved powers.
- anyone in receipt of housing benefit or universal credit with a housing element who has been affected by the cap will be able to claim a Discretionary Housing Payment towards the amount that their benefits have been reduced by the cap.
- the Scottish Government has committed to meeting all DHP benefit cap expenditure.
Janeine Barrett felt that the current Activity and Spend return is too onerous. She asked that SG work alongside LAs on the revised RRTP return to ensure that LAs have the mechanisms in place to be able to respond to the outcomes focused questions that will be asked.
John Mills proposed that a revised template is tested with the RRTP Sub Group.
Janine Kellett shared the sorts of questions being proposed at the moment with the group, which the local authority members agreed seemed fairly straightforward. Reference was also made to the CIH Research that local authorities participated in, which it was felt could also help frame the discussion.
Maggie pointed to the HPSG Task and Finish Group that is looking at measuring progress towards ending homelessness. It will align as closely as possible with the work of the CIH around the framework for RRTPs. She suggested sharing any drafts that come out of that Task and Finish Group with this group.
John Mills proposed future agendas allow time to discuss the findings of the various task and finish groups.
Housing Options Hubs
Allan confirmed that the Hub reps had met to discuss key issues from a cross hub perspective. In this instance this was in the form of 4 questions for discussion.
Question one asked ‘Given the global issues which have arisen since the inception of the RRTP process how does the Scottish Government assess progress that local authorities have made. How will progress be measured in future years given the ongoing pressure on the housing system of the cost of living, the removal of local connection and the requirement to find accommodation for households through the various resettlement schemes which are in operation at the moment?
Janine Kellett recognised that SG needs to work closely with LAs to understand what might be hindering progress, how can SG assist and what is outwith SG control. She pointed out that SG wants to better understand barriers to successful RRTP implementation, especially as it can vary from one local authority area to another.
Douglas spoke about supply and demand i.e. that despite funding from SG for housing supply they are unable to increase available accommodation in line with demand, which means they are not able to house people more quickly.
Janeine Barrett asked whether with current pressures on accommodation we should revise the ask of RRTPs as we risk setting ourselves up to fail.
Eileen advised that the increased costs around building new houses as well as problems with suppliers etc are presenting very challenging times for SFHA members.
Janine Kellett recognised the challenges but pointed out that at the recent Housing First Europe conference, European partners were very impressed with the progress made by Scotland’s local authorities on transitioning to rapid rehousing. She also advised that the new Cabinet Secretary and Housing Minister remain firmly committed to preventing and ending homelessness, pointing out that there is still money remaining from the initial £100m ending homelessness together (EHT) fund, the bulk of which has so far gone to local authorities. While not knowing how the remaining funds will be distributed or badged going forward, Janine could not see a point where local authorities, as key delivery partners in ending homelessness, wouldn’t continue to receive the largest part of the annual EHT allocation.
Ewan spoke about the forthcoming housing bill and the Prevention Duty. While recognising that in the early stages this may see increased referrals to local authorities it may eventually relieve pressure on authorities as prevention activity taken by partners begins to impact across the sectors.
John Mills concluded with his view that a face to face event in October may be a good way to refresh RRTP without losing the essence of it.
Question two noted that there has been previous discussion around reviewing the temporary accommodation charges nationally. Asking, due to the increase in homelessness and the financial pressures on councils, what are current plans and what consultation will be carried out with directors of finance and wider stakeholders.
John Mills confirmed that recommendations from the Temporary Accommodation Task and Finish Group called for standardisation of TA charges, which depends on transfer of funding from Westminster. Janine confirmed that the SG’s response to the recommendations has been held up due to the recent Cabinet changes. She added that the new Cab Sec and Minister are keen to fully understand the context and ensure the response to the Task and Finish Group’s report is sufficiently robust.
Question three pointed towards a rapidly changing homelessness agenda affecting various workstreams and wider changes coming across the horizon, highlighting a need to refocus on the joint learning and sharing of best practice that was previously delivered through the HUB leads group. It asked whether this can be delivered through the existing Scottish Housing Network Framework looking at key themes such as:
- prevention duties
- temporary accommodation (current demand, models, costs etc)
- domestic Violence
- local connection
- unsuitable accom
- RRTP 2?
- impact of Ukraine and Asylum dispersal
And /or a re-energising of the HUB leads group?
Janeine Barrett explained that Hub leads would benefit from more discussion around these workstreams at Hub lead level.
Tim Pogson and Janeine agreed to follow up on a proposal that Hub leads could link in with the SHN quarterly homelessness forum.
Brian agreed to look at reviving the Hubs Leads’ Group that Scottish Government previously facilitated.
Question four asked when can local authorities expect feed back from the 3rd years submission of RRTP and is there any advice on what the plan for RRTP’s are after 2024?
April confirmed that this question had been answered during previous discussion.
Yvette highlighted a Cost Benefit Analysis Report that was recently launched by HSEU, which shows the economic and social benefits of housing support and supported housing.. Yvette emphasised that they want this to be the start of further engagement and are looking for research partners who would like to become involved in shaping the work. Janieine Barrett said she would be keen for North Ayrshire to be involved.
Yvette mentioned the National Performance Framework, highlighting that it does not include housing or housing support and contains very little on social care. She will be taking part in a webinar around this issue, which is being organised by SG Social Care Directorate.
Homeless Network Scotland
Maggie gave an update on progress since the last sub group meeting on the housing pressures submission made to SG by housing, homelessness and refugee sectors. She confirmed they had met just prior to the cabinet changes with Shona Robison, former housing secretary and Neil Gray who had ministerial responsibility for Ukrainian refugees. They presented three strategic interventions that they believed could impact .
- unlock capacity in existing system
- ensure fairness at the centre of all efforts around addressing housing pressures
- extend the availability of social housing
Scotland’s Housing Network
Tim spoke about 3 homelessness specific forums they currently run. One around General Homelessness Assessment Investigation, another focused on PRS issues and the third is for Stock Transfer Authorities. Some of the presentations at these forums included:
- SFHA – on the role of supported accommodation in rapid rehousing
- North Ayrshire Council – on progress/challenges with implementing RRTP
- Aberdeen City Council – on bringing empty homes back into use
Tim provided a link to their publication on using the PRS to meet Homelessness Demand. Tim said they are coming to the end of a year of the SG funded PRS forum and members are now being asked to consider if they want to continue with the forum.
Ewan said he was pleased that the National Care Service has been paused but feels the third sector still remains concerned over the direction it eventually takes. He advised that the Prevention Duty Task and Finish Group report will be published within the next 2 weeks.
Eileen advised that she had attended a positive meeting on the National Care Service with the Minister Maree Todd.. On the Supported Accommodation Task and Finish Group Eileen said they had good conversations with local authorities and there is a lot of interest in looking closer at supported housing and housing support.
Health Improvement Scotland
Stephanie provided an update from the previous meeting on the dedicated housing resource that has been going out into the different programmes, which although anticipated to stop at some point is currently still ongoing. However, there is work taking place to look at how engagement with housing and homelessness stakeholders can continue without that dedicated resource. There are also conversations ongoing within HIS around the prevention duties to raise awareness.
Mike mentioned that Cllr Chalmers, COSLA Spokesperson for Community Wellbeing is having an introductory meeting with the new Housing Minister where homelessness and Housing to 2040 will be amongst the items discussed.
HF Check Up
Maggie covered the Housing First Check Up report for 2022. During 2022 they facilitated 5 HF Connect events, 46 self reflection surveys were returned, 12 sounding board meetings were held and 12 individual reports produced for each of the 12 local authorities.
Allan reported back on the Rural HF Group meeting that was held last week. He noted that the group was expanding as authorities that were perhaps not viewed as being rural were showing an interest, which led to discussion on whether the RRTP leads linking in with the group may be useful.
Brian provided some of the headline figures from the monitoring report covering the period January to March 2023.
- 1,489 Housing First tenancies have started across Scotland at 31 March 2023.
- a total of 86 new Housing First tenancies started between 1 January and 31 March 2023.
- this brings the total number of Housing First tenancies which started since 1 April 2021 to 672.
- there are currently 613 live Housing First tenancies:
- 59 tenancies have ended (none ended in eviction).
- 60 tenancies are in the ‘step down’ phase, and 11 are in the ‘stand down’ phase. Within the 613 Housing First tenancies there are 625 adults and 64 children. Additionally, 76 households had access to 115 children but do not have full-time custody.
- Between 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2023, it has taken an average of 243 days for a Housing First participant to move into a permanent tenancy from the referral date.
Janeine introduced Kevin Thomas, the new Homelessness Strategy and Prevention Manager at North Ayrshire Council with responsibility for RRTP. Kevin will be attending the Group together with Janeine in future.
Yvette also advised that Emma Matthews will be attending in her place, although Yvette may attend from time to time.
Next meeting TBC
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