A consultation on local connection and intentionality provisions in homelessness legislation

Closed 25 Apr 2019

Opened 31 Jan 2019

Feedback Updated 10 Jul 2019

We Asked

We asked for views on implementing recommendations from the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) to commence the Local Connection and Intentionality provisions in the Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003.

Local connection

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 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. We invited views on our plans to commence the provision in the Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 which allows Scottish Ministers to modify referrals relating to local connection and our intention to implement the proposal from HARSAG to suspend referrals in Scotland.

Intentionality

The Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 currently places a duty on local authorities to investigate whether a person applying to them for accommodation became homeless or threatened with homelessness intentionally. We asked for views on our intention to commence the provision in the Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 to give local authorities discretion, rather than the current duty, to investigate intentionality.

We also invited views on HARSAG’s recommendation to narrow the definition of intentionality to focus on instances of applicants ‘deliberately manipulating’ the homelessness system.

You Said

We received 72 responses to the consultation from a range of individuals, local authorities, third sector organisations and others. 

Local connection

The highest level of support (46%) was for suspending local connection referrals across all local authorities in Scotland. 26% supported modifying local connection referrals in another way and 18% supported not commencing the provisions. A further 10% did not respond to this question.

Two key themes emerged in responses. The first, from those favouring suspension, was support for people experiencing homelessness to be able to choose where they wish to settle. This was seen as offering choice to people experiencing homelessness, removing unnecessary barriers to finding permanent accommodation and ensuring that homelessness services can be delivered at the point of need.

The second key theme, from those not favouring suspension, was concern over the potential increase to the numbers of referrals in areas that do not have the resources to meet needs.  Various different types of local authority were cited, including major cities such as Glasgow or Edinburgh, urban areas or rural and island and highland areas.

Intentionality

The highest level of support (50%) was for removing the duty and giving local authorities the discretion to assess households for intentionality.  33% supported not removing the duty and a further 17% did not respond to this question.

The main theme cited in support of removing the duty was that being labelled as intentionally homeless is often unfair and does not reflect the true picture of individuals’ circumstances. It was felt by many that the removal of the duty in favour of discretion would benefit vulnerable people in particular so that they can get the help and support they need.

For those in favour of not removing the duty, a number of potential issues were cited. These included: the potential for a lack of consistency of approach if the duty was reduced to a power, both at local authority level and between local authorities; concerns that people could manipulate the system; and the potential that individuals might no longer see the need to take personal responsibility to retain their accommodation (e.g. not paying rent).

We Did

It is our intention to commence the Local Connection and Intentionality provisions in the Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 in November 2019, after further discussions with COSLA, local authorities and others around issues raised in the consultation. For Intentionality, the provisions would come into force immediately but for Local Connection a process would begin for the Scottish Government to consult on and issue a Ministerial Statement within 12 months of commencement on how these new powers are to be used. Subject to the outcome, this would be followed by a further Scottish Statutory Instrument laid in the Scottish Parliament to implement the changes.

We will carefully consider the views expressed on narrowing the definition of intentionality to focus on instances of applicants ‘deliberately manipulating’ the homelessness system.  As stated in the consultation paper, there are currently no provisions in the legislation for the definition to be changed but the responses to the consultation will be very helpful as we consider the options for taking this work forward.

We will monitor the impact of the changes on individuals experiencing homelessness, local authorities and third sector providers using evidence from current data collections, and we will publish this data regularly. We will also set out plans for further engagement and possible research to help more fully understand the impact of the changes.

We have published the responses 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 Scottish Government consultation paper invites your views on implementing the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) recommendation to commence the Local Connection and Intentionality provisions in the Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003. The HARSAG also recommended narrowing the definition of intentionality to focus on ‘deliberate manipulation’ of the homelessness system. The Scottish Government are currently considering the options regarding this element of the recommendation and are asking for your initial views in section 3 to inform further work.

Why We Are Consulting

The Programme for Government announced by the First Minister on 5 September 2017 set out a new commitment to eradicate rough sleeping, transform the use of temporary accommodation in Scotland and end homelessness. The HARSAG was subsequently established to initiate these transformational changes.

Download the consultation paper.

What Happens Next

Once all consultation responses have been gathered we shall consider the findings.

Interests

  • Children and Families
  • Communities and Third Sector
  • Public Sector
  • Health and Social Care
  • Housing and Regeneration