Post devolution homelessness policy reform in scotland
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Post-Devolution Homelessness Policy Reform in Scotland. Hal Pawson, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. Homelessness reform under devolution: the story so far…. Scottish Parliament established 1999 Rough Sleepers Initiative already under way

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Post-Devolution Homelessness Policy Reform in Scotland

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Post-Devolution Homelessness Policy Reform in Scotland

Hal Pawson, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh

Homelessness reform under devolution: the story so far…

  • Scottish Parliament established 1999

  • Rough Sleepers Initiative already under way

  • New administration established ministerial Homelessness Task Force (HTF) 1999 – reported 2002

  • Acts of Parliament 2001 and 2003 implemented most HTF recommendations

  • First wave of reforms (2002-03)

    • ‘Threatened with homelessness’ time frame extended from 28 days to 2 months

    • Prohibition of B&B placements for families

    • LA obligation to draw up homelessness strategies from 2003

    • Right to temp accommodation for non-priority homeless whilst case assessed

Second wave of reforms (from 2003)

  • Requirement to provide (insecure tenancy) accommodation and support for intentionally homeless households

  • Ministerial power to suspend local connection provisions

  • Abolition of priority/non-priority need distinction by 2012

    • Seen as devolved Scotland ‘flagship policy’ (along with free care for the elderly, student financing)

    • Presented as exemplifying Scottish ‘social justice’ ethos

Practical impacts so far

  • Signs that ‘prevention’ approach has impacted on priority acceptances

  • But effect far less marked than in England

  • Prevention officially promoted – and funded – as in England

  • But…

    • All LAs subject to Communities Scotland rolling inspection programme and

    • CS criteria on ‘good quality homelessness services’ highly tuned to identify ‘gatekeeping’

Implications of abolishing priority need test

  • Approx 10,000 more households with right to permanent rehousing

  • 33% expansion in LA obligations

  • Executive view: replacing ‘bureaucratic categorisation and labelling of applicants’ with ‘outcomes firmly focused on applicants’ needs’

  • But necessity for rationing remains – likely to mean more investigative focus on ‘homelessness test’

Abolition of priority need test – capacity issues

  • Falling supply of LA/HA relets already pushing up homeless share of lets

  • % of new lets to homeless up from 31% to 42% in three years to 2005/06

  • Comparable 2005/06 figure for England – 33%

  • 2005/06 Scotland figure higher than any English region outside London

  • Substantial regional variations means some councils already severely stressed: in quarter of LAs homeless lets already >50% in 2005/06

Abolition of priority need test: accommodating the impact

  • Exec recognition of capacity issues:

    ‘We will only implement changes at a pace sustainable and manageable for local authorities’

  • 2004/05 exercise to estimate impact of 2012 wider rehousing duty combined with falling relet supply

  • 7 (of 32) LAs predicted 2012 statutory homeless would exceed 100% of total social housing supply

  • Two thirds of LAs anticipate the majority of all new social lets needed to accommodate homeless households in 2012

  • Prospect of social housing sector accessed largely through homelessness channel

Scottish Exec action to address capacity issues

  • Strengthened powers of LAs to require HA rehousing of homeless households

  • Statutory duty on private landlords & mortgage providers to notify LAs of possession actions

  • National grant funding regime for LA prevention activities (total 2005/06 homelessness funding: £57M)

  • Stepped up affordable housing construction – see graphic

Future prospects

  • 2007 change of government unlikely to result in policy reversal

  • But concern at no SNP commitment to further expanding affordable housing supply (unlike Lib Dems and Greens)

  • Homelessness prevention good practice guidance expected later in 2007

  • 2009 ‘interim target’ for LAs to ‘reduce by 50% the proportion of homeless households they assess as non-priority’ – base year 2005/06

  • Executive committed to looking for ways to make greater use of private sector through ‘review of Assured Tenancy regime’

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