Our immediate focus will be on working with partners to deliver on the actions above to bring about a step change in the number of households, length of time spent and the number of children in temporary accommodation. By taking action wherever we can to increase housing supply, maximising the use of existing homes and working with the areas under greatest pressure to prevent and respond to homelessness, we aim to reverse the trend of increased use and reduce the backlog in temporary accommodation.
As the other recommendations made by the Temporary Accommodation Task and Finish Group will not have an immediate impact on reducing the numbers in temporary accommodation, we will address these over the longer-term.
Funding for homelessness services
Most funding for homelessness is provided through the local government settlement (£13.2 billion in 2023-2024). As local authorities are best placed to identify and respond to local needs and priorities, the Scottish Government’s policy towards local authority spending is to allow local authorities the financial freedom to operate independently.
It will be critical to agree with local government ways to ensure homelessness funding is carefully targeted to increasing positive outcomes for households in temporary accommodation. We will seek agreement on a shared approach to funding arrangements for local authorities that will support the immediate aim of reducing the use of temporary accommodation and support more effective homelessness prevention and the transition to rapid rehousing by default.
Given the financial environment in which we are operating and the sustained pressure on budgets, we see the potential for more innovative means of financing affordable housing. The Scottish Government-led Innovative Finance Steering Group will provide strategic advice on opportunities for innovative finance models to support delivery against the 110,000 affordable homes target.
However, some of the funding levers, such as Housing Benefit and the way in which that contributes to temporary accommodation funding, are not within Scottish Government control. We will continue to push the UK Government to increase Scotland’s financial powers.
We have allocated £52.5 million since 2018 to support the implementation of rapid rehousing transition plans (RRTPs). RRTPs are the backbone of homelessness policy and play an important role in transforming the use of temporary accommodation.
This year, in addition to the £8 million per annum allocated to local authorities for implementation of their RRTPs, we will provide them with an additional £2 million. This funding will support local authorities in stock management activity and provide the resource needed to deploy capital monies effectively.
We would like to maximise the impact of this additional funding and will work with COSLA to agree how this resource will be targeted at local authorities facing the most significant temporary accommodation pressures. This approach would not affect the distribution formulae used to allocate other established local authority funding streams.
The Scottish Government understands the stability and security multi-year funding can offer local authorities and will announce future allocations to accelerate prevention and rapid rehousing activity from the remainder of the £100 million Ending Homelessness Together Fund later this year. This should assure our key homelessness delivery partners that we will continue to provide transformation funding over the lifetime of this parliament to drive prevention activity and the transition to rapid rehousing.
Scottish Welfare Fund
Discretionary Housing payments are a valuable lifeline for a range of households affected by UK Government cuts or who struggle to meet rent or other housing costs. The Scottish Government makes a significant investment in Discretionary Housing Payments to support households to maintain their tenancies.
In March 2023, an extensive independent review of the Scottish Welfare Fund, which includes the Community Care Grant, was published. This review reported “concern among some third sector organisations of a shift in the fund’s focus away from help building and retaining a home which might disadvantage some groups” and variation in prioritisation across local authorities in terms of processing applications and decisions for certain groups.
The Scottish Government has developed an action plan with local authorities and stakeholders, which sets out next steps on improvements to processing timescales and assessment prioritisation.
The Scottish Housing Regulator’s role
The Temporary Accommodation Task and Finish Group recommended that local authorities should undertake structured reporting to the Scottish Housing Regulator on how their approach is addressing affordable housing need, including the backlog in temporary accommodation. The Scottish Housing Regulator has commented that the recommended reporting process is a substantial departure from its current functions and will require further consideration. Nonetheless, the Regulator recognises that temporary accommodation is the main issue that local authorities are grappling with and is keen to support solutions.
We have agreed with the Scottish Housing Regulator that it will take more of a strategic overview when engaging with local authorities. To support this process, the content of its structured conversations with local authorities will be enhanced to obtain more intelligence about successful projects.
The Scottish Government homelessness statistics and analysis team has started work on an extensive review of the homelessness data collections. A number of topic groups have been arranged to discuss different data collection areas and to determine a renewed set of content. The data review will also fully explore the appropriateness and feasibility of collecting high quality information on protected characteristics. The aim is for content to be agreed and finalised by early 2025, to be followed by two years of implementation.
The team is also committed to meeting the needs of users as fully as possible through standard outputs, which are reviewed regularly. In the most recent annual publication, data tables were included to show the distribution of households (with and without children) in temporary accommodation, by length of time, for cases which had closed. This is available at both national and local authority level.
The team will expand outputs to provide useful information for live homelessness cases for the next annual homelessness publication. If more granular detail is required, such as breakdowns of longer periods of time spent in temporary accommodation, the team can provide bespoke analysis.
Health and social care
The recommendations made on health and social care also form part of our longer-term approach. While we agree that Housing Contribution Statements should be clear on where the responsibility for care and support provisions lie, this is part of a much larger and longer-term piece of work to improve community health and social care support in Scotland.
A co-design approach with the public has been adopted to develop Scotland’s National Care Service, which will include consideration of the way in which social care and homelessness services work together. The process will provide clarity on the roles and responsibilities of those involved in supporting people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
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