asking questions of the Board and our external auditor, by using the chat function on the online platform.
We recommend registering on the online platform at least 10 minutes prior to the scheduled start time for the meeting and test your computer camera and mic by visiting here: https://www.crowdcast.io/setup
It is an opportunity here in Scotland to reflect on the activity that has taken place over the past six months, and the 12 months since last year’s event including many of the issues that we will be discussing at Safe As Houses, Scotland’s Homelessness Conference 20-22 October.
People can get involved in World Homelessness Day through schools, with work colleagues, places of worship or family groups, either raising money for local and national charities or helping to raise awareness of the issue through social media.
This month’s network briefing provides a summary of the latest developments for everyone who wants an end to homelessness in Scotland.
This month, we’re highlighting the new Programme for Government 2020-2021. It was encouraging to see a continuing focus on homelessness as a ‘national priority’ with specific commitments intended to impact on it. This programme draws on the work of the Scottish Government’s Social Renewal Advisory Board and the reconvened HARSAG – and shaped by the All in for Change Team and Everyone Home Collective facilitated by Homeless Network Scotland.
Why does this ongoing commitment matter? The annual homelessness statistics for 2019-20 were released just a week ahead and showed a 4% increase in households who are homeless in Scotland. This is the third year in a row showing small % increases, which followed over a decade of year-on-year reductions. The figures don’t represent the successes of the early lockdown responses, nor do they fully reflect the first year of Scotland’s ground-breaking rapid rehousing plans coming into effect. But the numbers do alert us to the urgent need for significant action ahead on prevention and reducing housing insecurity.
The team at Homeless Network Scotland are working hard to bring all of what the last 6 months has meant into a 3-day online conference so that we can all debate, deliberate and move forward. Hard Edges Scotland shone a light on how homelessness services are already ‘carrying the can’ for gaps and missed opportunities to get alongside people going through tough times earlier. Safe as Houses will explore what is needed to build forward from this experience and to make sure that homelessness services – and people directly affected – are not left carrying the can of a global pandemic.
The Programme for Government commits to building on work that has taken place during the coronavirus pandemic to stop rough sleeping and accelerate work to end homelessness. This includes designing-out dormitory style night shelter provision in line with the recent Everyone Home Route Map and going further and faster on rapid rehousing transition plans and continuing to scale up Housing First. There is also a commitment to ensuring policy responses take account of the diverse and complex needs of women.
There is a welcome commitment to extend the protection for private and social tenants from eviction for a further six months, subject to parliamentary approval. Cases of antisocial behaviour are treated differently, but it remains vital that no one is evicted into homelessness, regardless of the circumstances.
A £10 million Tenant Hardship Loan Fund is being established to offer financial support to people in immediate crisis who may not be able to access support elsewhere, and £3 million will support Discretionary Housing Payments made by councils to respond to housing crises.
One of the three key ‘asks’ when Everyone Home launched was to increase the supply of social homes for rent, focused on restarting the long term commitment to build new social housing targeted to areas of highest demand, with properties of the size people need. The Programme for Government commits to £300 million of interim funding for affordable homes for the final year of this parliamentary term, but not yet a commitment for the next term.
The Homeless Person’s (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2020 – commonly referred to as the Unsuitable Accommodation Order (UAO) – makes the most significant change to the Order since it first came into force in 2004.
Originally focused on households containing dependent children and/or pregnant women, the Order legislated for a time limit on placements in unsuitable accommodation, over time reduced from 14 days to 7 days.
The Order as amended in 2020 extends its scope, meaning that the 7-day time restriction now applies to all people experiencing homelessness.
So what does this mean?
It means that no household can be placed in temporary accommodation for more than 7 days if:
It is not wind and watertight, meet minimum safety standards, or is not suitable for occupation by a homeless household
It is in a different local authority area and/or too far from the health and education services people use, or not in the locality of a place of employment (considering reasonable public transport links)
It lacks adequate bedrooms, toilet and personal washing facilities for the exclusive use of the household
It does not have the use of adequate cooking facilities and the use of a living room
It is not usable by the household for 24 hours a day
It is not suitable for visitation by a child who is not a member of the household and in respect of whom a member of the household has parental rights
A local authority placing a homeless household in accommodation not meeting these requirements for more than 7 days will be a breach of the Order.
Are there any exemptions?
There are a number of exemptions to the Order in relation to particular homelessness situations, particular types of accommodation, and the particular situation in relation to the Coronavirus pandemic. These exemptions include situations where:
the household became homeless as a result of an emergency situation such as fire, flood, or other disaster
the household has been offered accommodation that is suitable, but requests the accommodation that does not meet the requirements
the accommodation is used wholly or mainly to provide temporary accommodation to people who have left their homes as a result of domestic abuse and is managed by an organisation which (i) is not a public authority or a local authority; and (ii) does not trade for profit
the local authority has secured that the accommodation has been made available and services relating to health, child care or family welfare are provided to people accommodated there
the accommodation made available (i) is shared tenancy accommodation which is shared, small-scale and of a good standard; (ii) consists of community hosting where the homeless household stays for a short period of time in a spare bedroom in the home of a community member; or (iii) is rapid access accommodation which offers emergency temporary accommodation for rough sleepers which consists of a bed, safe space, on-site homelessness and support assessments, and support to access specialist support for residents
a person in the household has symptoms of coronavirus and the household requires to isolate (expires on 31 January 2021)
the accommodation is required to provide temporary accommodation to ensure that a distance of 2 metres can be maintained between a member of the household and a person who is not a member or the household in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus (expires on 31 January 2021)
a local authority is unable to make a suitable placement as a result of the impact of coronavirus on the supply of temporary accommodation in the area (expires end Dec 2020)