Tackling the challenge of providing temporary accommodation in the Highlands
Moving people on to better housing solutions
As we recognise that living in temporary housing can have a harmful effect on people's physical and mental well-being, we're continually working to make sure that we can move households on to more permanent housing as quickly as possible. Not only should this make their situation better, but also we are then able to re-use the temporary accommodation for others. It also helps us as we try to reduce our reliance on undesirable and costly bed and breakfast accommodation.
We're intending to change our allocation policy so people are more likely to be permanently re-housed quickly. Previously, people who were homeless and in priority need received 80 re-housing list points to reflect their homeless status.
In addition, where appropriate, they were awarded points that reflected their temporary situation in the accommodation we'd placed them in - for example, if this meant they had to share facilities they would be awarded points for this or if they were overcrowded, points would again be awarded. Depending on their type of temporary accommodation, this made it difficult for us to move some homeless households on to permanent accommodation.
Whilst this was important in helping us move people quickly on from bed and breakfasts, blockages were resulting elsewhere. To overcome this, we intend to change our policy so that points for homeless households are increased; we will no longer apply points for overcrowding and sharing of facilities when homeless points have been awarded; and additional points will be awarded for each month that is spent in temporary accommodation to make faster throughput possible.
Advice and information
We've also placed much more importance on providing good quality and effective advice and information. Our officers, sometimes along with our partners who provide housing support, work more closely with homeless people so that they can secure permanent housing solutions. Hopefully, they will also be less likely to become homeless again.
Providing effective advice and information is challenging and resource intensive. We're working to improve this part of our service through training, setting out service statements and standards and making sure there's easy access to better resources. A group involving a wide range of our partners is helping us take this forward.
Rent deposit/guarantee scheme
We've also been piloting a rent deposit and guarantee scheme in some parts of the Highlands. Whilst projects like this don't create more houses on the ground, we hope that as well as helping to prevent homelessness in the first place, the scheme will assist us to move people quickly through temporary accommodation into more permanent housing.
This project has encountered a number of challenges. For example, because landlords know that they can pick and choose their tenants (as demand is so high), many have only been interested in cash deposits rather than guarantees. This makes the scheme very costly and administratively more difficult. The pilot has also prompted our Finance colleagues to work with us to improve our local housing benefits processes. We are now awaiting the evaluation of this pilot, which will help us decide its future direction.