Private landlords could play a far greater role in helping to end homelessness in Scotland, according to a new report from a coalition of homelessness and housing experts.
Releasing its new report, the Everyone Home collective set out how the private rented sector could become a more accessible option for people experiencing homelessness looking for a settled, secure place to live.
The Collective, made up of nearly 40 third sector organisations and academics, strongly welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to build 110,000 affordable homes by 2032, a mid-term commitment that would result in the delivery of 38,500 social homes by the end of this parliament in 2026.
But while social housing plays a key role in helping people end their homelessness, the private rented sector is very rarely an option.
In its new report, the group found that widening access to support and advice in private lets would help make the private rented sector more accessible to people experiencing homelessness.
It called on the Scottish Government to promote the role it sees the PRS playing in meeting current and future housing need, setting out a clear vision for the size and role the sector should play in the future tenure composition of housing in Scotland.
It also urged the Scottish Government to support local authorities – in guidance and in practice – to work productively with the PRS to reduce and resolve homelessness.
Incentives for landlords should also be considered, with the aim of improving PRS quality, access and affordability, which also to appeal to landlords who rent to lower income households.
It also recommended targeted, proactive approaches to homelessness prevention for groups which may be at greater risk of eviction, alongside the use of Scottish Government social security powers to top up support for those subject to Local Housing Allowance shortfalls in PRS who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Sarah Walters, head of best practice at homelessness charity Crisis, said: “Social housing plays a vital role in helping people end their homelessness. But while for many people a social tenancy is the right option, with better support we know the private rented sector could play a far greater role in helping people find a safe, secure place to live.
“With numbers of people trapped in temporary accommodation at an all-time high, and with a shortage of affordable housing in Scotland, we need to use every option available to us and the private rented sector can help. People experiencing homelessness deserve the same choice and control as anyone else, but we know that they are far too often locked out of the private rented sector. By reducing barriers and providing support, we can help people end their homelessness and strengthen our communities.”
Maggie Brünjes, chief executive of Homeless Network Scotland, said: “There are many factors that influence the choices we make about our housing. From size and type, to location and accessibility, to time and cost.
“People who experience homelessness must have access to the same range of housing options as other members of the public. For some people, the private rented sector offers the right choice, in the right place at the right time. For this reason, it is in everyone’s interest to work together to ensure the PRS is a viable and affordable option.”
A ‘route forward for the private rented sector’ (Everyone Home collective; Aug 2023) is available to download here. For a briefing and to discuss the route-map, a webinar is being held on 24 August, 10.30-11.30 with speakers including Patrick Harvie MSP. To join the webinar please register here.
Everything rests on housing. Our wellbeing and how we experience equality and opportunity. And the happiness and success of our communities and wider society rests on housing too.
But it is difficult to remember a time when global, UK and national events have aligned so acutely and with so much pressure on our local housing systems in Scotland.
The housing, homelessness and refugee sectors know this. Among the most informed, ambitious and committed professional sectors in Scotland – and who are now relied upon to unlock solutions to unprecedented challenges.
So, what do we need – and what more can we do – to fine-tune our partnerships, improvise solutions, scale up what works, and strike the right chord on ending homelessness? How can we be more brave – and be more human?
Highlights will include:
• Paul McLennan MSP, Minister for Housing
And much more. Fine Tuned is shaping up to be an event that meets the moment. Please save the date and watch this space for the programme launch and more speaker announcements.
The Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland, in partnership with the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers are hosting an event exploring the progress that has been made in transforming homelessness services, the need for effective partnership working, and what good prevention looks like in practice.
The event, chaired by Maggie Brunjes, chief executive of Homeless Network Scotland, will be held online on 29 June. More details and how to book here
A summary of the key themes from a webinar hosted by Homeless Network Scotland on 21 February 2023 which was attended by over 120 colleagues from 19 local authorities, from the NHS, health and social care partnerships, housing associations, academia and the third sector.
In a cost-of-living crisis with rising homelessness, confirmation that the new homelessness prevention duties will be included in the housing bill in the second half of 2023 provides some much-needed optimism – or at least anticipation.
Homeless Network Scotland are among those who have been involved at different stages in the development of the duties and we are strongly committed to ensuring that as many people as possible are consulted and briefed on the duties and their implications.
The purpose of ‘The Big Ask: acting now to prevent homelessness’ webinar was to update on the expected timeline of the duties. And further, to explore what more can be done now to prevent homelessness by learning from 3 important insights – lived experience, the third sector, local places.
1. Prevention: what did the Christie Commission say?
The christie commission is a rare example of a report that both unified and articulated a diverse range of perspectives about the future delivery of public services. Published over a decade ago, it still reads as if it was an analysis of today. On prevention, the christie commission said:
The adoption of preventative approaches, in particular approaches which build on the active participation of service users and communities, will contribute significantly to making the best possible use of money and other assets.
Such approaches will help to eradicate duplication and waste and, critically, take demand out of the system over the longer term.
Maximise scarce resources by utilising all available resources from the public, private and third sectors, individuals, groups and communities.
The webinar was opened in this context, with the package presented reaching across these themes.
2. Prevention of Homelessness: what type?
With such a wide range of activity potentially contributing to preventing homelessness, an organising framework – the 5-Stage Typology of Homelessness Prevention – was developed by colleagues at Heriot-Watt and Cardiff universities and which defines activity as follows:
The prevention of homelessness duties, combined with existing homelessness duties, would span stages 2-5. The learning presented and themes discussed in this webinar span the same stages 2-5.
3. What is expected in the Housing Bill?
The prevention duties will be included in the housing bill which is expected to be published in the second half of 2023 with the intention to strengthen housing rights and to include:
Wider public bodies to ‘ask and act’ about housing situations.
Local authorities to take reasonable steps to prevent homelessness (with the steps set out in either secondary legislation or statutory guidance).
Referrals from public bodies to be treated as an application for assistance by the local authority.
Window for homelessness risk extended from 2 to 6 months.
Aligning homelessness assessment with prevention assessment, recognising households may balance between both.
Changes to the definition of domestic abuse and the need for social landlords to have a domestic abuse policy.
Assessment of housing support needs to be included in local homelessness strategy and/or Local Housing Strategy.
4. Three key insights…
The webinar welcomed the insights from lived experience, the third sector and from local places on what works to prevent homelessness. This was invited from:
(i) Learning From Lived Experience
Shea Moran, who represented the Change Team, reflected on the work of their Prevention Commission, which shaped the recommendations of the Prevention Review Group’s final report. Shea articulated the importance of ensuring through the new duties that people who experience or are at risk of homelessness, especially young people, do not have expectations or responsibilities on them that do not apply to other members of the public.
(ii) Learning From the Third Sector
Pauline Kerrigan from The National Lottery Community Fund shared the learning from the fund’s strategic investment in homelessness which was intended to respond to their own findings that homelessness is a priority at local level, while complementing a strategic priority for government. Uniquely, the process included peer review across the applicants so that the issues most important to the sector as a whole could be funded.
(iii) Learning From Local Places
Andy Peline from SWAMP reflected on his involvement with the Staying In programme which took a place-based approach to preventing homelessness. In this project, popular community organisations who were not ‘homelessness’ organisations were invited to ‘Ask and Act’: to ask about housing, and to act to prevent homelessness where there was a risk. Andy shared how this was done at point of initial contact and that mirroring the prevention duties informally at community level was very effective at preventing homelessness.
All homelessness starts in a community, which means that local places can play a pivotal role to help prevent it. However the risk of homelessness is not equal, with some people and places more affected than others. Places that are most affected also need to see more progress in the bigger factors that create homelessness. Preventing homelessness starts here:
5. … and six key themes from discussion
Some of us will have an enhanced duty to prevent homelessness. Some of us will have a new duty to prevent homelessness. And some of us will have no specific duty – but want to help. The following key themes emerged from the feedback that was shared in the breakout rooms:
The ‘Ask and Act’ duties were coined by the prevention commission and so are well informed by what people closest to the issues, people with lived experience and frontline responsibilities, think will work best to prevent homelessness earlier.
We need a strong balance that focuses on both parts of the duties, ask and act. In many cases, the public sector will need to act after asking about housing. In other cases and at earlier stages, a household can be enabled to act to resolve their own housing situation. Routine enquiry and a supportive line of questions will maximise that outcome – asking the right questions sensitively to get to the root of the problem. Guidance and training will be key.
Although the duty to ask and act will not be on communities and community-based organisations, it will be important to encourage a local role to prevent homelessness earlier and closer to home. As well as the range of local groups and services that people connect with, communities host housing activists, community champions, connectors and others with an interest in local housing who want to be involved in preventing homelessness in their area.
It has been demonstrated that good outcomes are possible when subject experts (on housing and homelessness) collaborate with local experts and people with lived experience to problem solve at a local level. Adopting a place-based approach to preventing homelessness means connecting with existing community groups and networks to help identify housing issues earlier. This can be a simple two step approach of asking about housing and acting on what people tell you – mirroring the prevention duties.
Cementing preventing homelessness as a priority outcome in Local Outcomes Improvement Plans can help non-statutory and place-based approaches to branch out right across communities in Scotland. LOIPs are the mechanism by which Community Planning Partnerships deliver improved outcomes for their communities.
Preventing homelessness will be radically more cost-effective in the longer term. But the potential will be limited if the transition is not resourced properly in the short-to-medium term. This can also harness the enthusiasm for prevention more widely, with some services already reshaping and shifting towards a more upstream approach in anticipation of the new duties.
We are always reviewing the training courses we offer. We’d appreciate your help to shape our training offer. Please take 5 mins to complete a short survey by Friday 17 March at 5pm – and we’ll throw in a *free training place in a course of your choice if you do.
*Please note the free training offer is limited to 2 delegates per organisation on completion of the full survey.
Come and visit our Learning Lounge and see what is currently on offer for 2023 – new courses are being added across the year.
Closer to home:a place-based approach to preventing homelessness
All homelessness starts in a community, so a place-based approach to preventing it happening is part of a wider shift towards employing assets that already exist in communities to improve wellbeing, address poverty and prevent homelessness. The learning experience will connect the causes and drivers of homelessness with the local knowledge and services that can provide an early warning approach using a simple two-point technique. It is designed for professionals working with people at risk or those who come into regular contact with members of the public.
Rough guide to homelessness policy & legislation in Scotland
This course looks in detail at existing and recent housing and homelessness policy and legislation in Scotland and how it intersects to create a world-leading safety net for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Since 2017, the influence of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) and the Scottish Parliament’s Inquiry on Homelessness has led to the Scottish Government/COSLA High-Level Plan to End Homelessness. We will examine legislation while identifying and analysing local challenges in implementation. This learning opportunity will broaden your knowledge and understanding of current policy and legislation designed to prevent, alleviate and ultimately end homelessness in Scotland. Presented in a rough guide format.
The unequal risk: equality in housing and homelessness
The Equality Act 2010 brought together over 100 pieces of legislation dating from 1970 to 2007 to provide a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all. We know that experiences of the housing system, including risk of housing crises and homelessness, are varied and we need to understand these differences so we can more effectively prevent and tackle homelessness. This session aims to help build your confidence in talking about, and acting on, diversity, equality and inclusion, representing the diverse communities of people affected by housing, homelessness and poverty issues.
Preparing for future challenges and opportunities means adapting and getting ahead of the curve. We know change happens when we change together. We also know that time means everything. We can help your team with topics such as: