Information

Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans Annual Report: 2020-21

A comprehensive overview of Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan activities across Scotland for 2020/21.


Published in October 2020, the updated Ending Homelessness Together action plan was revised to reflect actions needed in response to the pandemic. The updated action plan emphasises the importance of prevention, highlights measures to reduce the risk of evictions and proposes phasing out night shelters, replacing them with rapid rehousing welcome centres in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Prevention of homelessness remains at the heart of the updated action plan and all RRTPs place a significant focus on homelessness prevention.

This section sets out the issues that local authorities have faced over the period as well as showing what was put in place to continue to implement their RRTP to prevent homelessness and to mitigate the unprecedented challenges. Detail of future developments for prevention activity during 2021/22 is also provided.

Context

Private Rented Sector

There was a notable decrease in households becoming homeless from a private rented tenancy with a reduction of 2,161 (42%) from 5,145 in 2019/20 to 2,984 in 2020/21. 11% of households assessed as homeless in 2020/21 gave this as their previous accommodation type, compared to 16% in the same period in 2019/20.[1] Where local authorities have reported a reduction in the numbers of evictions, this has been caveated as likely being due to the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 (Eviction from Dwelling-houses) (Notice Periods) Modification Regulations 2020 which temporarily extended eviction notice periods.

Some extracts from individual RRTPs included:

  • We anticipate an increase in homelessness demand when the current eviction guidance expires and as the social and economic impacts of the pandemic continue to be felt. We are monitoring this and continuing to build on existing partnership working to ensure that we work together to prevent homelessness or to identify appropriate sustainable housing options.
  • Emergency legislation was put in place that banned evictions taking place in both the social and private sector, resulting in a lower number of Section 11 notices being issued. In addition, the stay at home message throughout 2020/21 impacted on our plans to be more proactive in terms of carrying out home visits to help improve engagement with tenants and the likelihood of preventing homelessness.

Local authorities reported that the pandemic had a significant impact on the delivery of their RRTPs, including reduced capacity to deliver homelessness prevention activity during 2020/21.

Practice

Service re-design

The pandemic drastically changed working arrangements for homelessness and housing services across the country. As such, a number of local authorities took measures to ensure that services could continue to support people throughout the pandemic.

Aberdeenshire Council’s homelessness service set up an emergency contact number for use by members of the public during office hours to address potential delays with call waiting times through their contact centre. They also set up a WhatsApp account which allowed the public to contact the council via instant message. This service also enabled the council to triage calls and to signpost to housing officers for follow up contact.

Perth and Kinross Council further developed their housing management system to provide an online housing options self-assessment service with the ability to apply for housing online (non-homelessness scenarios) and manage some aspects of applications on a self-service basis. 

Digital Inclusion

The updated Ending Homelessness Together action plan included a new action to support and enable digital inclusion in order to support people to access digital equipment, data and training.

Several local authorities took measures to promote digital inclusion for people accessing homelessness and housing services to prevent social isolation and encourage engagement with support services.

Aberdeenshire Council supplied mobile phones and laptops with the help of Connecting Scotland[2] funding. A lending facility was also established within two accommodation units to provide access to computer equipment.

Angus Council made a successful application to the Digital Connections Fund and received a number of devices to provide support to homeless households who were digitally excluded. The council’s communities learning and development teams deliver ongoing digital skills support for service users.

Argyll and Bute Council were successful in their application to a local flexible fund to assist with digital inclusion. Staff have been trained as digital ambassadors and are able to support people to enable them to stay connected to social networks, keep up to date with universal credit journals and participate in a range of online activities and skills programmes.

Falkirk Council provided every household in temporary accommodation with a mobile phone, if required, to maintain communication and reduce social isolation. The council also successfully applied for devices from Connecting Scotland. The council was awarded 155 devices (50 iPads and 105 Chromebooks with 24 months’ unlimited data packages) which were distributed over three stages to people most affected by national lockdowns, families with children and young people, and those with barriers to employment.

Perth and Kinross Council worked with their third sector partners including The Rock Trust and Turning Point Scotland to provide mobile phones to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. There was a particular focus on young people, and those with multiple and complex needs, who were identified as being historically difficult to engage with.

Evidence of the impact which these measures had is limited at present.

A number of local authorities pay particular attention to prevention activities for groups who are predictably at highest risk of rough sleeping and homelessness. This section is broken down into methods of homelessness prevention utilised by local authorities which focus on high priority groups.

People leaving prison

The Sustainable Housing On Release for Everyone (SHORE) standards have been developed in partnership between the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), local government and housing partners to agree best practice in meeting the housing needs of individuals in the prison system. All of Scotland’s local authorities have signed a data sharing agreement with the SPS to aid in the transition to settled housing for people due to be released from prison in accordance with these standards.

During the pandemic, services in the community in Aberdeen City came together to co-ordinate its support for people being released from prison. Homelessness services, housing, criminal justice, prison and alcohol and drug partnerships (ADPs) met weekly to discuss potential releases. Aberdeen City Council’s operational delivery committee approved changes to its allocation policy to ensure that people experiencing homelessness from prison are afforded a higher priority to increase the likelihood of a permanent accommodation offer being made on release.

Dundee City Council’s housing options team led in the development of a virtual team which included representatives from criminal justice, health and social care, the Scottish Prison Service, health, third sector, Department for Work and Pensions and police to coordinate planned prison releases during the pandemic. This team has remained in place and now links in with the community justice partnership. The council also funds a project with Positive Connections which aims to support the council in its task of meeting the SHORE standards and to minimise any risk of rough sleeping for those leaving prison.

In East Dunbartonshire Council, an early release working group was set up with key partners to support people released as per Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 (Release of Prisoners) Regulations 2020 and the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 (Incidental Provisions) Regulations 2020.

South Lanarkshire Council recruited a prison link worker to support effective implementation of the SHORE standards and prevent homelessness on release from prison. Funding was released in 2020/21 for recruitment of one FTE Housing Officer following a pilot using resources from the Central Homelessness Team. The officer made contact with 203 individuals to discuss their housing circumstances and options before planned release. 52 requests were refused, 103 were advice cases with no further action required and 48 cases required intervention from the SHORE officer to assist with securing accommodation on release.

Falkirk Council has been successful in applying for a digital inclusion grant to ensure that anyone leaving prison is able to connect digitally with the services and support they need on the day of release. Training was also provided through Cyrenians and the Education Training Unit to frontline staff to ensure they are aware of issues that prisoners face on release and the support available.

Families

East Lothian Council implemented a partnership model to support prevention pathways for families and young people at risk of homelessness and, where families are in temporary accommodation, support them to permanently resolve homelessness and work to resolve challenges that have been a factor leading to homelessness presentations. The model provides links and an extension to the existing mediation service, promoting joined up working between the voluntary sector and health, education, housing and children’s services, based on the principles of whole family prevention and early intervention.

East Ayrshire Council launched a child wellbeing protocol in November 2020 to prevent homelessness and improve transitions and address trauma for children, young people and families by ensuring notification to the named person service in the event that a council tenancy may be at risk with the threat of homelessness. Further consideration is being given to implement this across other housing tenures.

Angus Council has a family mediation and conflict resolution service in place which works with families, young people and couples where there is a current threat of homelessness due to relationship breakdown. This went live in October 2020 and has received 19 referrals, with one progressing to mediation; and six individuals being supported to remain in their current accommodation. Work is ongoing to promote the service and the referral pathway has been reviewed to ensure that anyone who makes a homelessness application citing relationship breakdown or being asked to leave the family home (where there are no risks identified) is contacted by Relationship Scotland and made aware of the service and the support available. Homelessness applications in Angus as a result of relationship breakdown/asked to leave have reduced from 265 applications in 2019/20 to 156 applications in 2020/21. These figures have been caveated with the overall reduction in homelessness applications in Angus. However, a full evaluation of the project will be carried out prior to 31 June 2022.

Gender specific support

In Dundee City Council’s RRTP, gender specific support is highlighted as a key factor in tenancy sustainment and part of their RRTP funding has been allocated to recruit two gender specific workers with Dundee Women’s Aid. A co-ordinator and support worker will continue to work in partnership with the mainstream Housing First service to deliver specific support to women and their children and inform future gender specific support service requirements.

Young people

A mediation officer was recruited in Aberdeenshire to work directly with young people and their families to resolve conflict and prevent homelessness. Part of this role involves developing and sharing resources promoting youth homelessness prevention activities and to provide a point of contact between education settings and housing. Homelessness presentations across 2020/21 from those aged 16/17 years have reduced by 24, a 36% reduction.

East Dunbartonshire Council’s Project 101 is a youth housing information service with a variety of support provisions in place, including ‘New Young Tenant Visits’ and ‘Independent Living Skills’ courses. Contact has been made with landlords in the area. However, school lessons had to be put on hold due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Within Perth and Kinross Council’s RRTP, reducing youth homelessness is a key priority. As such, Perth and Kinross Council commissioned a service, known as ‘Youth Boost’ from The Rock Trust, for an initial period of 12 months from 1 April 2020. The project aims to support young people with their transition from homelessness into settled accommodation, as well as supporting those at risk of eviction and for young people who want to return home and maintain their relationships with family. Support is offered on a one-to-one basis and covers areas such as budgeting and finance, education and employment, health and well-being and social networks. Young people at risk of homelessness are identified in several ways: the council works closely with schools, youth services and third sector partners; young people often self-refer either to the council for housing options advice or directly to The Rock Trust service. A total of 218 referrals have been made to The Rock Trust since the service began in April 2020 (up to the end of August 2021). This contract is funded using the budget from a vacant Housing Support Officer post in addition to RRTP funding.

North Ayrshire Council is undertaking a young person’s housing sustainability pilot within one of its most deprived areas. Households under the age of 25 are being offered a package of support to improve their independent living skills and understanding of the rights and responsibilities of maintaining a tenancy. North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership has identified a youth addiction worker to work within this project. This project includes an offer to undertake the SQA tenancy and citizenship programme.

North Lanarkshire Council has received funding from their local Alcohol and Drug Partnership to support young people experiencing homelessness in partnership with Barnardo’s. Services include ‘Creative Faces’ which supports young people who are in care (see section below ‘People leaving care’) or who are experiencing homelessness and aged between 14-26 years. The primary aim of Creative Faces is to encourage young people to meet friends, learn new skills or take up a hobby. 

People leaving care

As part of Aberdeen City Council’s effort to prevent anyone who meets the definition of being care experienced presenting as homeless, the new Housing for Care Leavers Procedure was approved in 2021. This sets out clear responsibilities and ways of working for the council to meet its corporate parenting duties. In addition, a care experienced housing support officer has been recruited to support care experienced young people to transition into housing. This includes helping those who are already in housing or experiencing challenges in their current tenancy in order to prevent homelessness. The council has reported that the guidance and improved joint working led to a 29% reduction in homelessness applications among this client group during 2019/20, and this continued into 2020/21 where a further 31% decline has been recorded.

Through additional funding from the Life Changes Trust, Fife Council has been able to establish the National House Project in Fife. Care leavers are identified and undertake a four month pre-tenancy support programme. At the end of this programme, the Housing Service guarantees to provide an offer of housing. The first cohort of 10 young people have been through the project, all of whom have been rehoused and are successfully sustaining their tenancies. A first year review has been undertaken of the project and the outcomes achieved. The second cohort of 11 young people have been inducted and are ready to start their programme.

As part of City of Edinburgh Council’s focus on prevention pathways for vulnerable groups, the Housing Options Protocol for Care Leavers was created. The pathway ensures that people leaving care are accessing appropriate accommodation with a sustainable housing solution and are regarded as a priority group. In addition, necessary support will be provided to give the person the best opportunity to sustain their home.

Highland Council’s updated Highland Care Leaver Housing Protocol was agreed in 2019. The protocol has seen 17 care leavers housed within Highland Council and their RSL partners during 2020/21, which is an increase on the previous four year average of 10 lets per year.

North Lanarkshire Council, in partnership with Barnardo’s, utilised funding from its local Alcohol and Drug Partnership to support care experienced young people. Barnardo’s operates two ‘Training Flats’ to provide opportunities for young people, 15-20 years old, who are still in care to gain the experiences and skills they need to assist them make an informed choice as to whether or not they are ready to move out of care and into their own accommodation. Over the last five years, 66 young people have been able to access the flats. Barnardo’s also provide the ‘Forever Homes’ service for this group. The service provides permanent accommodation, support from health services to help navigate into adult health services, regular ongoing support from social work as well as emotional and practical support from Barnardo’s within their home and within their local community. 

Orkney Council works in partnership with Children and Family Services to ensure that there is accommodation available to young people leaving care to prevent homelessness presentations for this group.

People experiencing domestic abuse

A new Domestic Abuse Policy was adopted by Aberdeen City Council during 2020/21. The aim of the policy is to provide an alternative to transitioning to other accommodation which is disruptive for families, instead allowing them to stay in their own home.​ It allows for perpetrators of domestic abuse to be rehoused away from the family home, preventing homelessness, whilst the police and courts take appropriate action against the perpetrator.In addition, all frontline staff (e.g. repairs and maintenance) who have contact with tenants will have domestic abuse awareness training to identify any signs that abuse might be taking place.

Dumfries and Galloway Council has developed its domestic abuse and coercive control pathway, and the protocol is complete with a multi-agency training package for staff which was implemented in summer 2021. The council also recommissioned its support service for women and children experiencing domestic abuse. 

During 2020/21, Dundee City Council’s Housing Service implemented its Domestic Abuse policy developed in partnership with the Violence Against Women Partnership and third sector services. Training has been developed and delivered to housing staff as well as other council services involved in the response to the CIH’s ‘Make a Stand’ campaign and to support affected tenants. The council’s allocation policy looks to award a priority for those affected by domestic abuse to the same level as those awarded a homelessness priority and is due to be consulted on within year three of the RRTP.

Fife Council used RRTP funding to support people experiencing domestic abuse and to establish a Prevention of Homelessness Fund. The fund has assisted 75 people during 2020/21 and covered removal costs, storage costs, furnishings, etc. The project has also developed new housing advice resources and a case management model to ensure an individual case manager is assigned to people experiencing domestic abuse. During the pandemic, partnership working has deepened with Fife Women’s Aid where additional refuge accommodation was funded, and the demands being placed on the service were constantly monitored.

Renfrewshire Council funded a 0.5 FTE post through SAY Women to provide emotional support for young women aged 16 to 25 who are survivors of sexual abuse, rape or sexual assault. SAY Women aim to prevent repeated cycles of homelessness and to increase tenancy sustainment for the young woman they work with. By July 2021, they had assisted eight young women through 43 sessions and 83 welfare calls.

People with complex needs

Fife Council currently operates Housing Plus which supports service users who are not statutorily homeless. The council works to provide accommodation, technology and support solutions for people whose needs are beyond mainstream accommodation.

In Shetland, as part of a joint venture with the Health and Social Care Partnership, a dedicated housing support worker was recruited in January 2021 to support individuals with substance misuse issues to maintain/sustain tenancies and prevent homelessness.

People leaving hospital

Angus Council has implemented a Delayed Discharge Prevention Fund which aims to support people from all tenures to be discharged from hospital in a timely manner. Funding of £4,230 from Angus Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) in 2020/21 was used to create the fund to support hospital discharges, which includes furnishing costs, cleaning, clearing of utility bills, etc. An additional £10,000 has been provided by the HSCP for 2021/22.

West Dunbartonshire Council set up a working group to review and update its Hospital Discharge Protocol during 2020/21. The group is responsible for monitoring its implementation and operation, and assess if it is meeting its objectives.

Perth and Kinross Council also has a well-established Hospital Discharge Protocol in place, where the person must have accommodation to enable their discharge.

Veterans

East Lothian Council’s RRTP acknowledges that veterans are at high risk of becoming homeless and are vulnerable to falling into poverty. As such, six units of supported accommodation for veterans have been created, which provides a potential base for further support.

West Dunbartonshire Council developed and published an Armed Forces Pathway, which aims to ensure veterans can access all necessary information regarding securing settled accommodation.

Gypsy/ Traveller communities

Falkirk Council developed an engagement plan for their Gypsy/Traveller communities to identify their accommodation needs and preferences to inform future provision. Part of this plan has involved raising awareness of housing options, support and their rights and entitlements. The council has supported tenants of Gypsy/Traveller sites to become more digitally included by providing each family/pitch with a device (iPad/Chromebook) of their choice with two years free WiFi through Connecting Scotland/Fairer Scotland funding. Training has also been identified for all front-line housing staff and partner agencies to ensure understanding around the needs of Gypsy/Traveller communities to increase meaningful engagement and to aid the delivery of appropriate services.

In addition to the prevention methods for high priority groups outlined above, local authorities across Scotland have also used a number of different general prevention methods.

Eviction prevention

Many RRTPs highlighted the partnerships with RSLs and the importance of that relationship in achieving settled housing outcomes for homeless households. An example is the development of an information sharing agreement for Section 11s[3] to allow the council to be involved before any recovery action is initiated.

Perth and Kinross Council has been working with RSL partners to develop what it terms an Enhanced Section 11 protocol. This involves a much earlier, voluntary notification of ‘at risk’ tenancies, primarily at the point when a Notice of Proceedings (NOP) is served. The notification results in a joint offer of support from the RSL and council support staff with the objective of intervening early to try to support the tenant to resolve the issues that are placing the tenancy at risk.

A Section 11 pilot project was carried out by the North and Island’s Housing Options Hub during 2019, which involved Highland Council in partnership with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and Scotland’s Housing Network and led to the development of guidance. The housing associations involved in the project agreed to serve Section 11 notices to local authority Homelessness/Housing Options teams earlier in the process than is statutorily required. Highland Council took this forward in 2020/21 and received 131 Section 11 notices. Due to the success of the process, only five evictions occurred (all in the Private Rented Sector). As a result of the project, all Highland Housing Register partners have agreed to issue Section 11 notices earlier which will enable prevention activity to be undertaken.

As part of Falkirk Council’s Prevention Action Plan, a reduction in evictions and repossessions through the PRS, RSLs and owner occupied properties was identified as a desired outcome. Falkirk Council subsequently reduced evictions from the PRS by 155 during 2020/21. This was achieved by increasing engagement with private landlords and raising awareness of Section 11 notifications to ensure landlords knew their duty in this respect. In addition, housing staff highlighted support services and offered support and guidance around domestic abuse and gendered based violence. In 2021/22 Falkirk Council will recruit a PRS Liaison Officer.

Falkirk Council has also worked alongside RSLs to ensure that Section 14s are now being served alongside NOP to allow more time for meaningful engagement with clients to consider prevention pathways. Similarly, the council will also be informed of intentions to send Section 11s to allow the opportunity to introduce prevention activities such as debt advice, ability to apply to the prevention fund for those who meet the criteria, alongside signposting to any other relevant support services. Falkirk has also revised its Section 14[4] letters to ensure it has the most up to date information regarding benefits.

City of Edinburgh Council set up a Private Rented Sector Team in late 2019 with all staff in place by summer 2020. The main aim of the team is to support households at risk of homelessness to remain in their tenancy where safe to do so. Since March 2020, the PRS Team has supported 324 households, with homelessness prevented in 225 instances via access to new PRS or mid-market rent tenancies.

Glasgow City HSCP children and families and homelessness services have continued to fund the private rented sector hub working with households within the PRS at risk of homelessness. The pandemic saw a move to telephone contact, but the PRS hub continued to see increased demand from tenants.

Dundee City Council commissioned the homelessness prevention pilot during 2020/21 in partnership with Shelter Scotland. The purpose of this pilot is to take a proactive approach to working with tenants across all tenures to prevent the development of rent arrears and reduce the risk of homelessness. Briefing sessions have been delivered to partners and the pilot was launched in May 2021.

Argyll and Bute Council has launched a ‘Rent Arrears Prevention Fund’ to assist households who are at risk of homelessness due to rent arrears. Claims are assessed based on the household’s entitlement to Housing Benefit over the previous 12 months. At 31 March 2021, the fund had assisted 36 households at a cost of £60,945 (from Scottish Government RRTP funding). In cases where payments have been made, outcomes have been very positive with tenancies being sustained successfully in the majority of cases. No evictions have taken place where interventions were made using the Rent Arrears Prevention Fund.

As part of Scottish Borders Council’s Crisis Intervention Fund, the council launched a ‘Housing Intervention Fund’ in February 2021. The fund aims to improve the housing options available to applicants who are in need of intervention due to rent arrears and who often face the prospect of becoming homeless. The fund has an allocation of £20,000 per annum and, since its launch, has supported seven households at risk of homelessness to remain in their tenancies.

A bid was supported by South Ayrshire Council for third sector partners to develop the “I’M IN!” project, aimed at early intervention in the PRS and owner occupation sectors to prevent homelessness, complementing existing efforts to develop prevention pathways and improve links between services. This project received two years of funding from the Scottish Government’s Third Sector Homelessness Fund in March 2021 and will support the council’s efforts to move prevention activity further upstream.

West Dunbartonshire Council launched a pilot prevention fund which has provided assistance to 15 households at a cost of £5,200 (from RRTP funding) up to 31 March 2021. All 15 households remained in their tenancies and were maintaining agreed arrears arrangements. The fund is administered by the Homelessness Prevention Officer (see section ‘Dedicated Prevention Posts’) and referrals are sent to the officer from landlords where the tenant is at risk of losing their tenancy due to rent arrears. The prevention officer engages with the tenant in areas such as utilising Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs), applying for other entitled benefits and linking in with the council’s employment service, Working4U. The fund then provides up to a maximum payment of £500 to address arrears which allows the tenant to agree an affordable repayment arrangement for outstanding balances that they can sustain and stops legal action being taken. Ongoing support is provided to ensure payments are maintained and the tenancy is sustained.

Flexible funds

Argyll and Bute Council has rolled out a Flexible Emergency Fund with the aim that funds are available at local locations to provide immediate solutions for clients. Funds can be made available for gas or electricity top ups, food or any other crisis interventions that can be resolved simply by having funds available. The fund is held and administered by local support providers. In 2020/21, funds were provided to Blue Triangle Housing Association, Carr Gorm, Women’s Aid and the HELP project which supports young people with housing, employment, health and wellbeing information and advice. During 2020/21, £8,250 of RRTP funding was allocated to the Flexible Emergency Fund, with a further £5,000 allocated for 2021/22.

East Lothian Council is working to set up a Spend to Save Prevention and Support Fund using £20,000 of RRTP funding during 2020/21. Dedicated staff resource was in place by April 2021. The fund will have agreed criteria to enable homeless households to access small one-off sums of money to assist in the prevention of homelessness/enable tenancy sustainment.

The City of Edinburgh Council has trialled a new prevention fund with the PRS Team since summer 2020 using £13,000 of RRTP funding. The fund has been used on 25 occasions and will continue to be trialled in 2021/22 (planned future spend of £55,000 RRTP funding), with consideration to be given as to whether it can be accessed by the Multi-disciplinary Team. Funding can be used for a number of preventative measures including: loss of employment or relationship breakdown leading to issues paying rent; furniture provision; shortfall in rent; or rent deposit guarantees to prevent the use of B&B and temporary accommodation.

Perth and Kinross Council has a Property Ready Fund which has been designed to make properties ‘ready to occupy’ rather than just ready to let. Basic furnishing and white goods are provided to enable someone to move into a property quickly, in many cases avoiding the need for temporary accommodation. This is an innovative approach, which Perth and Kinross has highlighted for a number of years, in response to waiting times for Community Care Grants. In addition to the Property Ready Fund, Perth and Kinross Council also administers a Prevention Fund, which staff can use at their discretion, providing an option to prevent homelessness where a relatively small sum of money can provide positive outcomes. During 2020/21, £121,287 of RRTP funding and £29,837 of local authority funding was allocated to both funds (which were combined during 2020/21). Approximately 300 people were assisted by the funds 2020/21.

Property swaps/downsizing

Midlothian Council has made changes to its housing allocation policy which includes increased incentives for people willing to downsize and encouraging mutual exchanges, helping to ensure other households in housing need are able to access suitable accommodation without the need to present for homelessness assistance. Due to restrictions on unnecessary house moves during the majority of 2020/21, Midlothian Council has reported that it is not yet possible to fully evaluate the effectiveness of this measure.

Community engagement

In order to develop East Ayrshire Council’s relationship with communities, with the aim of reducing demand and dependency on services over the longer term, the council began a ‘Neighbourhood Coaching’ scheme. Phase one of Housing and Communities’ Service Redesign in March 2021 included the appointment of an additional six neighbourhood coaches. The additional posts and reduced patch sizes creates the space for neighbourhood coaches to embed themselves within communities, facilitating collaboration, prevention, and early intervention activities to underpin all aspects of service delivery across the whole council and Integrated Joint Board services.

Dedicated prevention posts

Glasgow City HSCP has funded a Housing Options and Early Intervention Development Worker to support the continued enhancement of operational homelessness prevention and early intervention pathways links with housing associations within the city. Co-located within the Wheatley Group, the post is planned as part of the implementation of the RRTP in 2021/22 and will work with the three Housing Options Senior Homelessness workers to enhance joint working with RSLs and a range of key stakeholders.

West Dunbartonshire Council funded a Prevention Officer post with £36,000 of RRTP funding, with the aim of introducing an additional, more proactive Homelessness Prevention Service, specifically aimed at tenancies where the landlord is considering actions to end the tenancy. At 31 March 2021, there had been 70 referrals made directly to the Prevention Officer. This led to engagement with 52 households where advice and assistance was provided which included assistance in terms of agreeing sustainable arrears arrangements, referrals to money advice, assistance to apply for DHP and providing assistance from the pilot prevention fund (see section ‘Flexible Fund’) where appropriate.

West Lothian Council, in partnership and funded through resources allocated by the West Lothian Alcohol and Drug Partnership, has recruited a Housing Options Officer with a specialism in addictions support.

Partnership working

North Lanarkshire Council undertook a review of preventative approaches and responses across agencies. There is current work ongoing with pathways created in the new GP Community Link Worker team to ensure direct access to Housing Advice from GP referrals. The aim is to expand this across all partners to have two-way pathways to ensure early intervention and proactive prevention. This will involve: creating pathway routes between agencies to ensure preventative approaches upon any person presenting with risk of homelessness; and reviewing information, advice and signposting to all agencies’ websites and offices.

Early intervention

Clackmannanshire Council has implemented a multi-agency system which brought together a range of public services including housing, police, child services and money advice, to assist and support people on the cusp of statutory intervention. The system, known as STRIVE (Safeguarding Through Rapid Intervention), aims to intervene early, in order to address welfare concerns before reaching crisis point. From February 2020 to March 2021, the STRIVE team has supported 138 customers and their households. A Vanguard study found the most common outcomes for customers were: improved financial security; reduction in police involvement; reduction in use of drugs and/or alcohol; improvement in mental well-being; and the prevention of homelessness. Whilst STRIVE serves a range of services within Clackmannanshire, the council has reported the importance of RRTP funds to its development.

Future Developments for Prevention Activity during 2021/22

Policy Developments

The joint Scottish Government and COSLA consultation on the Prevention of Homelessness Duties was launched on 17 December 2021, and is open for responses until 31 March 2022. The consultation creates an opportunity for individuals and organisations to have their say on changes to the homelessness system in Scotland. 

Practice

People leaving prison

East Ayrshire Council plans to facilitate interactive ‘virtual property viewings’ in order to prevent homelessness presentations from people released from prison. The aim of this service is to embrace a digital approach and provide new tenants with a smooth transition from prison to a new tenancy, with increased knowledge of their future home and surrounding community prior to release.

Families

East Dunbartonshire Council is working to prevent homelessness presentations as a result of family relationship breakdown. A case worker has been recruited at the Project 101 service (see section Young People above) to provide Mediation Services to families. Training for this service began in May 2021.

People with complex needs

North Ayrshire, North and South Lanarkshire and the City of Edinburgh Council have embarked on the Reducing Harm, Improving Care project with Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) for people experiencing homelessness who require alcohol and drug services. This aims to identify and understand where prevention activities could intervene within health systems to reduce the risk of crisis, and subsequently homelessness. Key pieces of work are being undertaken by Homelessness/Addictions and Mental Health staff to allow HIS to analyse the demand for existing services. The next phase of the project will look at service user involvement with research being carried out by Homeless Network Scotland and Scottish Drugs Forum.

Housing First used as a Prevention Method

Within Angus there is planned partnership working between the council’s Homelessness Support Service and the Alcohol and Drug Partnership to apply for funding to increase capacity of the Housing First service and recruit an additional worker so the eligibility criteria can be widened to include people with multiple complex support needs who have existing tenancies.

Flexible funds

Proposals to introduce a Crisis Intervention Fund were approved by Midlothian Council in May 2021. The fund will be accessible to front line officers and allow a more preventative approach to be taken when assisting those in housing need such as: preventing action to end a tenancy being taken following an unforeseen change in circumstances; enabling a household to access accommodation they would otherwise be unable to; and assisting a household to remain in their current accommodation until a planned move to alternative accommodation is completed. It will run as a two year pilot initially with an interim review completed after 12 months. An annual budget of £30,000 has been committed to the fund for the duration of the pilot. This will make use of savings realised from ending the use of B&B accommodation.

[3] Section 11 notifications: Landlords and creditors are legally obliged to notify the local authority when they take action which put the household at risk of homelessness due to eviction. This duty arises from section 11 of the Homelessness Etc (Scotland) Act 2003.

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