Unsuitable Accommodation Order: Exemptions extended to 30 June 2021

A Scottish Statutory Instrument (SSI) will be laid in Parliament on 13 January that will further extend the temporary exceptions in response to the coronavirus pandemic from 31 January 2021 until 30 June 2021.

This new legislation means that until 30 June 2021 a placement will not be considered as unsuitable if:

  • A person in the household has symptoms of coronavirus and the household requires to isolate; or
  • 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 of the household in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus; or
  • The local authority is unable to place the household in suitable accommodation as a result of the impacts of coronavirus on temporary accommodation supply in the area, provided that where a household includes a child or a pregnant woman the household is not placed in unsuitable accommodation for more than 7 days.

Guidance to support the Unsuitable Accommodation Order has been developed by a local authority working group in liaison with other homelessness parnters and this is due to be published in January.

180 allies come together for launch of New System Alliance

The beginning of December saw Homeless Network Scotland, Mayday Trust, Platfform and Changing Lives host a week of conversations in an online event to launch the UK wide New System Alliance. 

The topics of discussion ranged from A World Without Fixing to Action Beyond the Conversation, with common themes emerging such as: How do we create support around the community? and, rethinking language and the use of labels. We reflected on how we have created a system where services and people who are there to help often get in the way, and that we need to give power and resources back to the people going through tough times – and the families and communities which support them. 

“I want to see change for people – I want to be part of that change”

There will be more news about how to get involved with the New System Alliance coming in the new year, but until then you can:

Re-watch the discussions: newsystemalliance.org/events/
Read our Wisdoms from the System: newsystemalliance.org/wisdom-from-the-system/
Become a New System Ally: newsystemalliance.org/new-system-allies/
Follow us: @NewSystemAlly 

Shared Spaces: Future role of supported housing as a response to homelessness

The expansion of the Unsuitable Accommodation Order and the transition to Rapid Rehousing and Housing First are both drivers for the sector to redefine the role of supported housing and shared living as a response to homelessness in Scotland.  Homeless Network Scotland commissioned and co-funded, with additional funding from Action for Children, Crisis and Turning Point Scotland, a qualitative research project led by Anna Evans at Indigo House which will seek to better understand:     

  • In what circumstances, if any, is shared or supported accommodation the appropriate housing option for households experiencing homelessness? 
  • What should the shared and supported accommodation options required in these circumstances look like?  
  • What is the likely scale of such shared and supported accommodation options likely to be in the future?  
  • How well placed are local authorities and service providers to adopt these housing options at the scale required? 

The early themes emerging from the research are already interesting and in 2021 a national conversation, culminating in an annual conference in the Autumn, will be launched to interact with and hear from as many people as possible across the homelessness, housing, justice, health and social care sectors.  So please watch out for the launch and participate in the national conversation as much as you can.

Rent Better Research Findings

The role that the Private Rented Sector can play in ending homelessness in Scotland has long been the subject of debate.  For some, the more limited security of tenure and higher rents makes it a less than optimal option, and for others, the potential additional choice of location offered by the sector can be important.  

The introduction of the new Private Residential Tenancy in December 2017 sought to improve security of tenure and access to justice by providing open-ended tenancies and ending no-fault evictions.  To understand the impact of these legal changes on the rights and responsibilities between landlords and tenants, the Nationwide Foundation commissioned Indigo House to deliver the three-year Rent Better research programme.   

The first report from the research programme has been published with key findings including that while the majority of people feel secure in their tenancy, the minority that feel less secure are those with less financial power – those living in deprived areas, on lower incomes and housing benefit.  Also, the research showed that more effort is required to support tenants to build knowledge of their legal rights.

A short video outlining the research project is available at Baseline introduction from the Nationwide Foundation | Rent Better (indigohousegroup.com) and the full and summary research reports can be found at Findings | Rent Better (indigohousegroup.com)

One year of being ‘All In For Change’

December 2020 marked one year since 30 people with their own personal stories of homelessness, from working in the sector and living the experience, came together to form All In For Change. This is the first such group in Scotland combining both lived and professional experience.

After a busy and particularly challenging first year the Change Team continue to play a major part in helping shape homelessness policy and practice, including the Scottish Government’s updated Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan.

Change Team members are drawn from across Scotland – experts in what homelessness looks like on the ground for those most affected by it. The team use clear language and an open and accessible, collaborative working approach to bridge the gap between decision makers, people working in services and people making use of services, as part of a joined-up effort to end homelessness in Scotland.

As with any coproduction process, the group have embraced their different perspectives and experiences and have been ironing out the details as the programme evolves. But few could have predicted just how flexible the team would become – adapting to remote working online, taking on fast moving and rapidly evolving priorities caused by the pandemic.

Derek Jaffray, Change Lead, has personal lived experience of homelessness and reflects the view of many in the team, saying:   

“Being part of the Change Team has given me a real sense of purpose, it’s been an important part of my recovery and helped my mental health. I have had some great opportunities to influence those at the top and I feel proud to be called a Change Lead.”

Kevin Stewart MSP, Scottish Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning, said:

“Congratulations to the Change Team for all their hard work over this past year and reaching its first birthday. I was pleased that the updated Ending Homelessness Together High-Level Action Plan, published in October, included the voices of people who are most directly impacted.

“We will continue to ensure that the voices of people with lived experience, like those from the Change Team and our colleagues working on the frontline, are at the heart of what we are doing to end homelessness. We remain committed to working closely with and listening to the Change Team in the months and years ahead.” 

Maggie Brünjes, Chief executive at Homeless Network Scotland said:
“What a year – and what a team! Congratulations to everyone in the Change Team for all that’s been accomplished during such a difficult year. Influencers, change-makers and reality checkers – we are so inspired by everything you have achieved.”

The Change Team continue to play a major part in influencing the new plan to end homelessness in Scotland, recommending that 4 New Directions are needed: People First; At Home; No Wrong Door; Good Vibes. These new directions were created from the actions set out in both the original (2018) and updated Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan. Their purpose is to create clear goals to ensure changes in homelessness policy are being translated into practice.

Shelly Coyne, Cyrenians, said:
“Cyrenians is proud to be involved in leading this programme with HNS and SCDC and enabling people with first-hand experienced to have a seat at the policy table. Reflecting on this first year, it is humbling to see the enthusiasm and passion the team have for change in Scotland and the drive for the challenges ahead in 2021 and in the future.”

Susan Paxton, Head of Programmes, SCDC, said:

“It’s been a privilege to work with such a diverse and talented group of people as the Change Team over the past year. It’s clear that their hard work is paying off by the strong relationships they’re managing to build with policy makers in Scottish Government and elsewhere. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but there’s no doubt their commitment and determination to make a difference makes them critical players in the growing collaborative effort to end homelessness in Scotland.”

Significant work that has fed into policy and practice over the past year.

  • Five Calls from the Frontline – stemming from conversations had between Change Leads about the challenges the outbreak was creating for people working in homelessness services – influenced the initial action plan of the Everyone Home Collective.
  • The Change Team have been able to take their knowledge gathered on the ground and translate it into policy, using the views and concerns of their networks to inform some key conversations. This included a roundtable with MSP Kevin Stewart, where Change Leads were able to question, discuss and highlight the issues brought forward by people who work with or experience homelessness.
  • The team were asked to participate in a crossover meeting with the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) as part of their consultation process to inform updated recommendations. Change Team members were able to present their priorities which then fed into the updated Ending Homelessness Together Plan.

The Change Team are supported by partner organisations, Homeless Network Scotland, Cyrenians and the Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) and is represented on the Homeless Prevention Strategy Group (HPSG) chaired by the Housing Minister, Kevin Stewart MSP.

This work is funded by the Scottish Government and the Frontline Network, from St Martin-in-the-Fields. This enables Change Leads with lived experience to be paid for their time and expertise at the real living wage.