Consultation on a Ministerial Statement for modifying local connection referrals in Scotland

Closed 23 Oct 2020

Opened 3 Aug 2020

Feedback updated 24 Feb 2021

We asked

We asked for views on the content of a statement which Scottish Ministers are required to publish to set out the circumstances in which, and the general criteria by reference to which, their power, under Section 33A of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987, to modify local connection referrals would be exercised.

We also invited comments on the Scottish Government’s proposal to suspend local connection referrals between Scottish local authorities, as recommended by the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group.

Local connection is defined in the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 as a connection which a person has with an area because:

  • they are or were in the past normally resident in it, and this residence was of their own choice; or
  • they are employed in it; or
  • they have family associations; or
  • they have special circumstances.

Local authorities currently have the power, but not a duty, under the Act to refer homeless households who do not have a local connection with them to another local authority where they do have such a connection.

You said

We received 44 responses (7 from individuals and 37 from organisations). The organisations responding included local authorities, third sector organisations, tenants groups and others. 

There was general support in responses regarding the core content of the ministerial statement and the overarching aim of the proposed changes to give people experiencing or threatened with homelessness greater control over their journey from homelessness.

The main theme from respondents whose comments supported the proposal to suspend local connection referrals was an acknowledgement that people experiencing homelessness should be able to choose to settle in a place that meets their own personal, housing and support needs.

While there was broad acknowledgement that currently the number of referrals for local connection were few, and decreasing over time, a majority of local authority responses noted concerns that the proposal to suspend referrals could negatively impact on the ability to deliver their housing and homelessness duties. There was a concern amongst these responses that the proposed suspension of referrals could potentially increase the number of homeless presentations they receive and put pressure on the supply of accommodation and support services. Particular concerns were raised about the potential impact on island and rural communities and cities, as well as the interaction with the effective operation of MAPPA and other public protection arrangements.

We did

The responses to the consultation will be carefully considered and will help inform the final version of the ministerial statement and, after further discussions with stakeholders on issues raised, the decisions on implementing any legislative changes.

At present, the Scottish Government’s priority is to ensure that everyone is kept safe as we respond to the various health, social and economic harms arising from the coronavirus pandemic. With strict travel restrictions in place, we have decided not to pursue the introduction of legislation until the coronavirus restrictions allow for a greater degree of movement between local authority areas.  Subject to the outcome of the election, we will explore necessary legislative changes as early as we can in the next session of parliament. The ministerial statement will be published by mid-March 2021.

We have published the responses from those that gave permission and an analysis of the consultation responses can be found here.

Published responses

View submitted responses where consent has been given to publish the response.

Overview

This consultation invites comments on the content of a Ministerial Statement to set out the circumstances in which, and the general criteria by reference to which, the power of Scottish Ministers to modify local connection referrals between local authorities in Scotland is to be exercised. It also invites comments on the proposal to suspend local connection referrals between Scottish local authorities to remove barriers people face to accessing the support they need.

Why we are consulting

Scottish Ministers are required, under section 33B of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987, to consult such associations representing local authorities and such other persons, as they see fit, before preparing a Ministerial Statement setting out the circumstances in which, and the general criteria by reference to which, the power of Scottish Ministers to modify local connection, in section 33A of the Act, is to be exercised.

We have developed the core content of a statement and the consultation invites local authorities, third sector organisations and others with an interest in homelessness to consider and provide views.

Your comments will ensure that we have considered a wide range of perspectives in preparing the statement.

Read the consultation paper.

What happens next

Following the closing date, all responses will be analysed and considered along with any other available evidence. Responses will be published where we have been given permission to do so. An analysis report will also be made available.

Interests

  • Communities and Third Sector
  • Public Sector
  • Housing and Regeneration