Caithness Map :: Links to Site Map Great value Unlimited Broadband from an award winning provider  

 

Temporary Accommodation Debts Piling Up For Councils

2nd December 2021

Photograph of Temporary Accommodation Debts Piling Up For Councils

A new report, "Charges for temporary homeless accommodation in Scotland - law and reality" has been published by the Legal Services Agency which examines the practice of charging for temporary homeless accommodation in Scotland, and whether local authorities are acting lawfully in this area.

Background
Individuals in Scotland who make a homelessness application to their local authority are supposed to be provided with temporary accommodation.

However, the provision of temporary accommodation is costly for local authorities. The Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 allows local authorities to make "reasonable" charges for temporary accommodation. The accompanying statutory Code of Guidance on Homelessness requires that individual circumstances must be taken into account when setting the charges.

The report explains that individual circumstances should be taken into account to ensure that any charges are affordable. The practice by local authorities of failing to consider individual circumstances may be unlawful.

Legal Services Agency submitted freedom of information requests to all local authorities in Scotland for information on their charging regimes.

Findings of the report
The report found that the charging practices vary across Scotland, resulting in a ‘postcode lottery' for individuals.

Most local authorities do not currently take individual circumstances into account but do consider affordability when setting their charges.

The report found that the total debt owed by individuals to local authorities for these charges totalled upwards of £33.3 million.

The practical implications of the current system are that charges are unaffordable, leaving many people with high levels of personal debt, leading to considerable hardship for individuals who find themselves in this situation, as well as contributing to mental health issues.

Recommendations
The report recommends that in the short-term, local authorities should review and update their policies on charging for temporary accommodations to ensure that they are in line with the Code of Guidance on Homelessness and the human right to adequate housing. In circumstances where individuals may have been subject to unaffordable charges for temporary accommodation, housing advisers are advised to challenge such charges with legal action where necessary.

In the long-term, the report recommends that charges for temporary accommodation should be removed altogether. Failing that, tighter regulation for temporary accommodation charges are recommended, with the addition of such mechanisms as affordability assessments to ensure that all charges are affordable.

Highland Council Position
Temporary accommodation is a combination of Council owned units, rented housing association properties and units rented from private landlords. The rent for Council properties is the Council rent for the size and type of property, while the rent for other types of properties is based on "the full cost recovery of the charge levied" by the landlord or housing association. For ad hoc B&B accommodation, the Area Housing Manager and Housing & Homeless Service Manager decide on a reasonable charge based on "the length of the stay and the affordability of the charge. The Local Housing Allowance rates will be used as a guide."

In its FOI response, the Council said that it tries to keep rents "as affordable as possible" and that "officers are encouraged to discuss affordability with homeless clients."

The Council's policy includes a differentiated approach to tenants entitled to full Housing Benefit and those who are not. For tenants entitled to partial or no Housing Benefit, tenants pay up to the Local Housing Allowance plus a service charge, with the any difference between the LHA and the actual rent being remitted.

During the 2019/20 financial year, 1399 households were placed in temporary accommodation. Of 585 live tenancies at 29 March 2020, 221 households were not in receipt of Housing Benefit. The Council received £3,711,693 in income from charges and was owed a total of £4,417,123.

Edinburgh City Council Had The Highest Debts
When asked about affordability for the individual, the Council gave the following explanation about temporary accommodation charges: "The Council assists people to apply for Housing Benefit (HB) when they access Temporary Accommodation (TA). If in receipt of full benefits that covers costs; if someone is working, the amount of service user contribution, and, how much HB is received, is determined by an individual's circumstances."

From 1 January to 6 December 2020, 4,855 households stayed in temporary accommodation for at least one night. Of these, 1701 people made a payment contribution towards their stay, although data provided by the Council suggests that a total of 2,248 were liable to make a direct payment. For the same period, the Council received £22,997,570 from Housing Benefit and £2,384,739 from direct charges. Arrears arising from that period amounted to £12,711,641. The cost of providing the accommodation was £38,093,950.76l.

Read the report HERE
Charges for temporary homeless accommodation in Scotland - law and reality - Pdf 23 Pages

 

Related Businesses

 

Related Articles

18/1/2022
Local government unions call for a fair and decent pay increase as they submit joint pay claim
Local government trade unions have today (Tuesday 18 January 2022) submitted a joint pay claim to COSLA calling for a ‘fair and decent' pay increase to make up for decades of cuts and to recognise the vital role these workers have played during the pandemic.   The three trade unions - UNISON, Unite and GMB - submitted the pay claim calling for: • A £3,000 flat rate increase to all spinal column points (based on a 35 hr working week).  
16/1/2022
Council To Purchase Houses From Owners Who Would Like To Help Make A Difference In Their Community
The Highland Council is piloting a new open market purchase scheme to buy directly from owners in a bid to bolster its housing stock to meet the need for additional affordable housing and provide new homes and futures for families, young and old in communities across the Highlands.   The Council is asking anyone considering selling a house to contact them and help make to make a difference to families who are in need of home.  
16/1/2022
Highland Digital Learning Hops Into 2022 With New Content
Highland's Online Primary School (HOPS) has launched for P4-P7 pupils to enhance children's learning through a weekly timetable of daily lessons with engaging content.  The resource is available on the already established Highland Schools Digital Hub.  
17/1/2022
Highland Hospitality Businesses Invited To Apply For Funding
Hospitality businesses who lost bookings during the Christmas/New Year period are to secure grant support from the Scottish Government.  Business will receive either a grant of £4,500 or £6,800 depending on their rateable value.  
15/1/2022
Highland Council Appeals To The Scottish Government To Reverse Budget Reductions
The Highland Council is calling on the Scottish Government to provide greater transparency in relation to its budget settlement for local government and is seeking further funding to address a range of significant external budget pressures.  The Council has asked the Government to examine the analysis of the budget settlement which shows less money will be flowing into the Highlands from Edinburgh.  
14/1/2022
Local Government Pay Settlements Financial Year 2021/2022
During November and early December, COSLA agreed pay settlements with our Unions for three groups of Scottish Local Government Employees.  A summary of the agreed settlements is provided below.  
14/1/2022
Prioritising Essential Social Care Services
Maximising efforts to protect and maintain critical and essential services.   Support for social care is to be intensified as a national priority alongside the NHS and emergency services, as staffing pressures and increased demand reflect the extent and nature of the spread and effect of Omicron.  
14/1/2022
Time Is Right For A Realistic Remuneration For Councillors, Says Cosla
With the role of the Councillor changing dramatically over the last few years, the time is right to review the job - and its pay, COSLA has said.   COSLA President Councillor Alison Evison says there has to be a ‘realistic' review of remuneration for the role, and called for the Scottish Government to look at Councillors’ salaries.  
2/1/2022
Newton Park children and staff - another photoThumbnail for article : Newton Park children and staff - another photo
Children and staff at Newton Park Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) in Wick have been enjoying marvellous mealtimes! Dedicated staff, supported by the Excellence and Equity leads Heather Sutherland and Natalie Mackay, began looking at the lunch experience through the eyes of their children.  They then made contact with Gemma Patterson, a fellow Equity and Excellence lead, who was also working to develop the ‘marvellous meals project' within a number of Falkirk nurseries.  
2/1/2022
Newton Park Children And Staff Love Their Marvellous Mealtimes!Thumbnail for article : Newton Park Children And Staff Love Their Marvellous Mealtimes!
Children and staff at Newton Park Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) in Wick have been enjoying marvellous mealtimes! Dedicated staff, supported by the Excellence and Equity leads Heather Sutherland and Natalie Mackay, began looking at the lunch experience through the eyes of their children.  They then made contact with Gemma Patterson, a fellow Equity and Excellence lead, who was also working to develop the ‘marvellous meals project' within a number of Falkirk nurseries.