The Scottish Housing Regulator's severe criticism of Dumfries and Galloway Council's treatment of the homeless.

Archie Douglas made this Freedom of Information request to Dumfries and Galloway Council

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The request was partially successful.

Dear Dumfries and Galloway Council,

Since the Scottish Housing Regulator has found serious failings in the council's statutory duties to the homeless, it has undertaken a scrutiny of the Housing Options and Homeless Service for a number of years now. Despite this, the failures continue to the present day.

In the 2015-16 Local Scrutiny the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) found the council had moved the homelessness service from social work to a strategic housing function. It identified a range of scrutiny needs in relation to homelessness. There had been high levels of households placed in temporary accommodation; relatively low levels of lets to homeless people by two major social landlords in the area and rising case durations.

In 2016-17 The Scrutiny Plan stated, "Performance has continued to be poor over the past year. In response the SHR has been engaging with the council in relation to the delivery of its Housing Options and Homeless Service and will carry out its planned scrutiny work at the end of 2015-6. The outcome of this work will influence any further engagement with the council in 2016-7".

In 2017-18 it stated, "The Local Area Network identified a range of scrutiny risks in relation to the council's homelessness service for the third year in a row. Risks include: the council's failure to meet its statutory requirements to accommodate all cases that require temporary accommodation; the increasing average time that spend in temporary accommodation and outcomes for homeless people".

In 2018-19 the report stated, "In the council's LSP for 2017-8 the SHR said it would engage with the council in relation to the delivery of its improvement actions and would seek assurance that there are improved outcomes for homeless people. Areas highlighted in last years LSP were:

the council not meeting its statutory requirement to accommodate all cases that needed temporary accommodation

average time spent in temporary accommodation

The two Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) in the area allocating a far lower percentage of stock to homeless applicants".

"During 2016-7 the council has delivered some improvements for homeless people... During this period the council's homeless applications increased and its performance in relation to decision notifications withing 28 days of initial presentation improved. It identified rough sleeping as an area of concern and this is a particular focus in its new Homeless Strategy. Its use of bed and breakfast accommodation reduced and the council made "intentionally homeless" decisions in two per cent of cases. However, there is evidence to show that the increase in homeless applications may be having an impact on the effectiveness of its overall homeless processes. Its repeat applications and repeat homeless assessments have increased significantly as have numbers of rough sleepers. The council is not yet achieving 100 per cent in relation to offers of temporary accommodation. Despite a reduction, it continues to use bed and breakfast accommodation and it has begun using private sector leasing for temporary accommodation. Taken together the council has a high number of negative decisions in its assessments".

In 2018 the council issued two Policy Documents covering matters surrounding temporary accommodation and standards required to be met for this. It is known that there is a failure to comply with the requirements set out in these.

Information required is as follows:

Who has been responsible for the Housing Options and Homeless Service in each of the past 5 years?

How many homeless applications were made in each of the past 5 years?

How many of these were accepted as homeless and not intentionally homeless?

How long did it take officers to make a decision in each of these cases?

How many households were placed in temporary accommodation in each of the last 5 years?

How many were placed in bed and breakfast?

In view of the SHR's severe criticism of the council's treatment of homeless people, what specific steps have been taken to address the areas of concern? Has this been discussed in council, and if so, when?

Has there be a restructure of the Housing Options and Homeless Service to improve the situation? What did this involve if so?

What communications have been sent, or action taken, to remedy the failures of the two registered social landlords who repeatedly fail to allocate anything like the necessary number of properties to homeless people?

Yours faithfully,

Archie Douglas

Dumfries and Galloway Council

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FOI Unit
Dumfries and Galloway Council

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Dumfries and Galloway Council

Please find below the Council's response to your request 425463 which was received on 22/07/2019.

Details of request: Since the Scottish Housing Regulator has found serious failings in the council's statutory duties to the homeless, it has undertaken a scrutiny of the Housing Options and Homeless Service for a number of years now. Despite this, the failures continue to the present day.

In the 2015-16 Local Scrutiny the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) found the council had moved the homelessness service from social work to a strategic housing function. It identified a range of scrutiny needs in relation to homelessness. There had been high levels of households placed in temporary accommodation; relatively low levels of lets to homeless people by two major social landlords in the area and rising case durations.

In 2016-17 The Scrutiny Plan stated, "Performance has continued to be poor over the past year. In response the SHR has been engaging with the council in relation to the delivery of its Housing Options and Homeless Service and will carry out its planned scrutiny work at the end of 2015-6. The outcome of this work will influence any further engagement with the council in 2016-7".

In 2017-18 it stated, "The Local Area Network identified a range of scrutiny risks in relation to the council's homelessness service for the third year in a row. Risks include: the council's failure to meet its statutory requirements to accommodate all cases that require temporary accommodation; the increasing average time that spend in temporary accommodation and outcomes for homeless people".

In 2018-19 the report stated, "In the council's LSP for 2017-8 the SHR said it would engage with the council in relation to the delivery of its improvement actions and would seek assurance that there are improved outcomes for homeless people. Areas highlighted in last years LSP were:

the council not meeting its statutory requirement to accommodate all cases that needed temporary accommodation

average time spent in temporary accommodation

The two Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) in the area allocating a far lower percentage of stock to homeless applicants".

"During 2016-7 the council has delivered some improvements for homeless people... During this period the council's homeless applications increased and its performance in relation to decision notifications withing 28 days of initial presentation improved. It identified rough sleeping as an area of concern and this is a particular focus in its new Homeless Strategy. Its use of bed and breakfast accommodation reduced and the council made "intentionally homeless" decisions in two per cent of cases. However, there is evidence to show that the increase in homeless applications may be having an impact on the effectiveness of its overall homeless processes. Its repeat applications and repeat homeless assessments have increased significantly as have numbers of rough sleepers. The council is not yet achieving 100 per cent in relation to offers of temporary accommodation. Despite a reduction, it continues to use bed and breakfast accommodation and it has begun using private sector leasing for temporary accommodation. Taken together the council has a high number of negative decisions in its assessments".

In 2018 the council issued two Policy Documents covering matters surrounding temporary accommodation and standards required to be met for this. It is known that there is a failure to comply with the requirements set out in these.

Information required is as follows:

Who has been responsible for the Housing Options and Homeless Service in each of the past 5 years?

How many homeless applications were made in each of the past 5 years?

How many of these were accepted as homeless and not intentionally homeless?

How long did it take officers to make a decision in each of these cases?

How many households were placed in temporary accommodation in each of the last 5 years?

How many were placed in bed and breakfast?

In view of the SHR's severe criticism of the council's treatment of homeless people, what specific steps have been taken to address the areas of concern? Has this been discussed in council, and if so, when?

Has there be a restructure of the Housing Options and Homeless Service to improve the situation? What did this involve if so?

What communications have been sent, or action taken, to remedy the failures of the two registered social landlords who repeatedly fail to allocate anything like the necessary number of properties to homeless people?

Response:

Who has been responsible for the Housing Options and Homeless Service in each of the past 5 years?
Service Managers responsible for the Housing Options and Homeless Service are Lorna Campbell 2016 to date and Andrea Macdonald prior to 2016.

How many homeless applications were made in each of the past 5 years?
The following figures are based on the total number of Homeless Applications made for the financial years requested:
2014/2015 2015/2016 2016/2017 2017/2018 2018/2019
Applications Made 635 668 820 834 910

How many of these were accepted as homeless and not intentionally homeless?
The following figures are based on the total number of Homeless Applications assessed as being homeless ? unintentional for the financial years requested:
Assessment Decisions
2014/2015 2015/2016 2016/2017 2017/2018 2018/2019
N N N N N
Homeless - unintentional 371 399 521 554 623

How long did it take officers to make a decision in each of these cases?
We are unable to report on durations for specific assessment decision types i.e. those assessed as homeless ? unintentional. The following durations are therefore based on the total number of ALL Homeless Applications assessed for the financial years requested.
Time to assess all cases

2014/2015 2015/2016 2016/2017 2017/2018 2018/2019
N N N N N
Same day 7 8 20 13 15
1-6 days 32 36 74 63 89
7-13 days 71 76 119 108 127
14-28 days 330 366 530 610 668
28-55 days 158 136 54 41 19
56+ days 50 41 17 3 0
All 648 663 814 838 918

How many households were placed in temporary accommodation in each of the last 5 years?
The following figures are based on the total number of temporary accommodation placements made for the financial years requested. Please note households can have more than one period of temporary accommodation during the course of their homeless application.
Number of placements in temporary accommodation
2014/2015 2015/2016 2016/2017 2017/2018 2018/2019
Total (ALL) 772 679 799 800 682

How many were placed in bed and breakfast?
The following figures are based on the total number of temporary accommodation placements in B&B accommodation for the financial years requested:
Number of placements in temporary accommodation by type
Type of temporary accommodation
2014/2015 2015/2016 2016/2017 2017/2018 2018/2019
Bed and breakfast 123 35 10 0 0

In view of the SHR's severe criticism of the council's treatment of homeless people, what specific steps have been taken to address the areas of concern? Has this been discussed in council, and if so, when?
An independent review of the Housing Options and Homeless Service was undertaken in 2015 and the outcomes with an improvement plan were presented to Elected members on 19 May 2016, Elected members agreed an action plan to address the issues highlighted in both the report and by the Scottish Housing Regulator. Since May 2016 there have been regular reports to the Communities Committee to advise members of the improvement plan progress.

Has there be a restructure of the Housing Options and Homeless Service to improve the situation? What did this involve if so?
A full restructure of the service started in November 2017 and was completed in April 2018, all roles and responsibilities of posts within the service were reviewed and updated, and changes made to line management responsibilities.

What communications have been sent, or action taken, to remedy the failures of the two registered social landlords who repeatedly fail to allocate anything like the necessary number of properties to homeless people?
The Council liaises with all local RSLs and has an agreed allocation target for Homelessness, these are monitored on a monthly basis, the current target is 40% of all RSL allocations are awarded to Homelessness. Last 5 year % allocations to homeless are as follows:-
2019/20 ? 42.6%
2018/19 ? 37%
2017/18 ? 36.9%
2016/17 ? 30.1%
2015/16 ? 18.7%

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Kind Regards

FOI Unit
Dumfries and Galloway Council

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Richard Page left an annotation ()

Despite their claims of having improved the Housing Options and Homeless Service, the reality is that homeless people receive poor quality of assistance from Dumfries and Galloway Council. The Housing Options and Homeless Service has a culture of rudeness and abuse towards the homeless and in its management especially. There is virtually no temporary accommodation available. The stock of temporary accommodation for disabled people, or those with mobility problems is non existent in effect. The service fails to advise people of their rights, such as appeals against allocation of temporary accommodation and just about everything else. Having disposed of the stock of council housing to DGHP etc, these bodies now decline to help the homeless into housing. What a dire situation! It can only be concluded that the council has a deliberate policy of failing to provide a decent service to the homeless. To make matters worse it expresses an abusive attitude towards them and acts unlawfully in general.