Recommendations for ending rough sleeping in Scotland are nearing completion
This week the members of the Scottish Government’s Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group met for the sixth time. Our primary focus was to firm up the recommendations for the second question we’ve been tasked with answering – how do we end rough sleeping in Scotland for good? These proposals need to be completed by the end of February for presentation to the Scottish Government.
We started the meeting with the 50 ideas for proposals that have been worked up to date, each written up on A4 paper and covering most of one wall of the Glasgow Homeless Network conference room! These initial ideas reflect the phenomenal effort members of the group have undertaken, with a very tight deadline to work to, while conducting their day jobs.
Beyond these 12 people, and the Scottish Government team who are central in pulling the work together, the input of professionals across a range of sectors from local authorities to health, justice and so on cannot be underestimated. Nor can the invaluable insights we have gained from the people with experience of rough sleeping. Bringing this intelligence together as well as reviewing the national and international evidence on what works to end rough sleeping, has brought us to a position where we are almost ready to provide a comprehensive set of recommendations to the Minister for Local Government and Housing, Kevin Stewart. But there is still much work to do to make them a coherent and joined-up set of proposals that we think will work.
In previous blogs I’ve outlined the areas we are looking at and detailed our emerging thinking, but as we approach the end date for this specific piece of work it’s worth stating that as a group we appreciate that none of this can be done in isolation from the wider scope of work still to come. With that said, below I have listed a few of the proposals currently being finalised in each area of work in order to provide in-depth recommendations by the end of this month.
When we talk about prevention, we are looking at broadly two sets of circumstances. Firstly, predictable homelessness where there is clear evidence that people with particular experiences or circumstances are more likely to experience homelessness, and, secondly, the actions to be taken when someone is at risk of homelessness.
The cornerstone of this approach is early intervention when homelessness can be predicted or prevented. To enable this to happen proposals under consideration include:
- Replicate the principles of initiatives like the Scottish Prison Service SHORE (Sustainable Housing on Release for Everyone) standards to other areas where relevant – for example people who have been in the care system, hospitals, or the armed forces to ensure that interventions are in place for people when they leave state institutions.
- Recognise the needs of groups of people who are disproportionately likely to experience homelessness, and build on the work of organisations who seek to address these needs, for example, women who have experienced domestic violence, people who have experienced adverse childhood experiences or poverty, people who have migrated to Scotland, and refugees and asylum seekers
- When people are at risk of homelessness, ensuring that assessments are conducted at a place and location convenient to the person seeking to make a homelessness application
- Establishing a ‘no wrong door’ approach – so that it is recognised when someone is at risk of homelessness and public sector and voluntary sector bodies operate in collaboration with the relevant local authority to prevent homelessness.
- National training programme and ongoing accreditation that ensures needs of specific groups are addressed by all front-line staff.
These and the other proposals within the prevention strand of work are still to be finalised and linked to other pieces of work external to the Action Group, such as the Care Review. There are also still further questions to be answered on whether recommendations should be made regarding earlier indicators which drive homelessness such as poverty or adverse childhood experiences. As well as the impact of affordability of housing and whether this can have an impact in preventing homelessness, particularly in relation to the roll out of universal credit.
We are also considering how a legal prevention duty similar to that in Wales would help reinforce and support all of these actions to prevent homelessness.
This strand will build on the evidence gathered from the additional measures introduced this winter to enable recommendations on how frontline workers in both statutory services and the voluntary sector can be empowered to prevent homelessness where possible. Recommendations in development include:
- The development of a national delivery model for frontline services which can be tailored to each local situation
- A multi-agency approach developed which allows first point of contacts to prioritise vulnerability, need and access to a supported response for homeless people including personalised budgets which can be allocated immediately
- Acting on the learning from this winter’s actions on experiences of ‘by name lists’ and Inter Agency Street Network approaches
These points will continue be refined based on the learning from the additional measures put in for this winter and the collaborative approach that has been enabled between third sector and statutory services. We will also look at the extent to which our work overlaps with work on street begging and addiction – while recognising that not everyone who experiences rough sleeping is engaged in street begging and vice versa.
Housing provision and access
The central premise of this approach is that rapid re-housing to a permanent home becomes the default option wherever possible, but with the understanding that this will take time to implement and not every individual will immediately choose to take on a tenancy, and that in some circumstances people will need high quality and tailored emergency provision while issues of health, mental health or personal security are resolved. Likely recommendations include:
- Prioritisation of people with the greatest requirement and understanding that this means a change in allocation policy to people with multiple and complex needs
- Design of a Housing First rapid referral procedure inserted within the Housing Options Guidance and Training Toolkit
- An ongoing commitment to building of a range of housing that is available at social rents beyond the lifetime of the current parliament
- Further commitment to the role of community hosting models such as NightStop or supported lodgings
- Consider how ‘local connection’ and ‘intentionality’ rules are barriers to preventing rough sleeping, and recommend changes accordingly
- How local plans could be developed to include timetable, proposed approach and budget required to implement the system-change needed to move to a rapid re-housing approach
This package of work, even more so than the others, is closely connected to the third question on how temporary accommodation can be transformed and will likely run in tandem to the proposals put forward in that area.
Measurement and monitoring
As I mentioned in my blog last week, following the workshop we ran with stakeholders from across a range of sectors, the need to properly monitor and evaluate the initiatives put in place will be vital in ensuring they are fit-for-purpose and can be appropriately scrutinised. At present we will recommend:
- That the Scottish Government undertake or commission an in-depth options appraisal of potential data management systems (such as the CHAIN system used in London) that can collect data across sectors including connecting data between statutory providers and the third sector, and supporting front-line workers in taking a ‘by name’ approach mentioned earlier.
- This system should be used to enable a suite of metrics to be drawn out which will be used to assess progress towards ending rough sleeping in Scotland
- Regular reporting of rough sleeping and other homelessness metrics to the Scottish Parliament
Many of the above propositions, if agreeable to the Scottish Government can be implemented without the need for new laws. However in some cases, statutory levers would make embedding the change in system required easier to achieve. For example:
- The current legislative arrangements for intentionality and local connection should be amended in a way that would help reduce rough sleeping specifically, and homelessness more broadly
- The role and responsibility of local authorities to people with no access to public funds should be clarified
- A review of the prevention duty in place in Wales (and being introduced in England) should be undertaken to inform the development of a similar duty tailored to the needs of Scotland
Over the next few weeks we will make the final revisions to these proposals ahead of presenting our final recommendations on rough sleeping to the Government. We know that the Government will scrutinise and test them to determine both their viability and whether they are appropriate avenues to invest in going forward, and decide which proposals they can support.
We will then turn our attention to our other tasks – how to transform the use of temporary accommodation, and how to end homelessness for good.
As ever, if you have any questions at all about the work of the Group, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
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