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Ending rough sleeping – HARSAG publishes proposals

Blog by Zhan McIntyre, SFHA Policy Lead.


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The Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group – or HARSAG as it has become known, was set up by the Scottish Government in October 2017 to produce short and long-term solutions to homelessness and rough sleeping. 

On the 7 March 2018, HARSAG set out a range of proposals on how rough sleeping can be ended in Scotland – for good. One of the main messages of the group was that rough sleeping is not inevitable and should not happen. I think that is something on which we can all agree. But getting there will not be easy, and it will require a REAL partnership approach.

Ending Rough Sleeping in Scotland Recommendations:

  1. Ensure local authorities and public bodies work together to prevent rough sleeping at every opportunity
  2. Support staff with high quality and training and support to respond as effectively as possible to prevent rough sleeping
  3. Ensure plans are always agreed – or agreed as quickly as possible – to prevent homelessness for the groups who are predictably at highest risk of rough sleeping
  4. Learn from what worked well this winter and ensure the benefits are harnessed for more effective interventions all year round
  5. Ensure an effective based approach to front line support which secures a successful, sustainable transition off the street as quickly as possible
  6. Recognise that, while not necessarily rough sleeping, people who are engaged in street begging are also likely to need support with housing and will be, almost without exception, extremely vulnerable
  7. Set a clear national direction of travel to transition to a model of rehousing by default across Scotland, ensuring that the plans are developed and led locally to achieve this vision 
  8. Ensure that people sleeping rough and experiencing multiple forms of exclusion are supported to secure permanent accommodation as quickly as possible
  9. Provide resource and oversight to ensure a successful transition to the rapid rehousing approach
  10. Ensure people have a range of different options at point of crisis to support them to avoid resorting to rough sleeping
  11. Continue to ensure an adequate and affordable social housing supply
  12. Remove barriers to exercising choice in settled accommodation to break the cycle of recurrent rough sleeping
  13. Put in place measures to provide protection to those without recourse to public funds
  14. Ensure legislation provides sufficient support for shift to significantly greater levels of prevention
  15. Revise legislative arrangements that can result in difficulties with people being to access their rights
  16. Clarify the protection to be afforded to those without recourse to public funds
  17. Update the Code of Guidance
  18. Improve the approach to data collection for people rough sleeping
  19. Ensure data collections reflect increased priority now being given to homelessness reduction
  20. Facilitate scrutiny of progress towards ending rough sleeping in Scotland

What could this mean for housing associations and co-operatives?

No wrong door

There is a real drive for all organisations to have a ‘no wrong door’ approach to people who need homelessness assistance. This will require frontline workers – which could include housing officers, receptions staff and maintenance staff – to be trained in trauma and psychologically informed environments. How does this fit with our resources?  What would this mean in terms of training, workload and very important, how to ensure individual rights are being safeguarded?

Rapid rehousing

The recommendations suggest we should be moving toward ‘rapid rehousing’, so that this is the norm for homeless households. However, this will be very challenging to achieve, as each local authority area has unique housing access and allocations systems. Work has been commissioned to look at how this might be achieved, and the report will be published in May 2018.

Better joint working 

The review highlighted that policies and legislation that would help many people avoid rough sleeping and homelessness are already in place, but lack of joint working thwarts attempts at implementing these policy. We will need to revisit the relationships and ways of working that we have to make sure blockages are cleared and lines of communication work effectively. 

Homelessness Reference Group

SFHA and GWSF members have been working together through the Homelessness Reference Group (HRG) to respond to the work of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group. The HRG has around 16 housing associations working together to consider the implications of the national group. The meeting schedule reflects that of HARSAG and updates will be made available on the SFHA members website. 

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