post devolution homelessness policy reform in scotland n.
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Post-Devolution Homelessness Policy Reform in Scotland
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  1. Post-Devolution Homelessness Policy Reform in Scotland Hal Pawson, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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’

  5. 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’

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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’