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Publication - Guidance

National Accommodation Strategy for Sex Offenders in Scotland

Published: 2 Feb 2012
Part of:
Housing
ISBN:
9781780455990

The National Accommodation Strategy for Sex Offenders (NASSO) forms part of the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) and explains how housing contributes to those arrangements.

32 page PDF

428.5kB

32 page PDF

428.5kB

Contents
National Accommodation Strategy for Sex Offenders in Scotland
3. ASSESSING AND MANAGING HOUSING-RELATED RISK UNDER MAPPA

32 page PDF

428.5kB

3. ASSESSING AND MANAGING HOUSING-RELATED RISK UNDER MAPPA

How does assessing and managing risk under NASSO relate to that under MAPPA?

43. The Responsible Authorities have the legal and operational responsibility for assessing, managing and monitoring risk. You will find further information on how the Responsible Authorities assess and manage the risks that sex offenders under MAPPA may pose in the MAPPA guidance.

44. This strategy sets out:

  • the Responsible Authorities' role in assessing and managing housing-related risk , that is the risks that a sex offender under MAPPA may pose by living in a particular community, location and property; and
  • RSLs' role, as duty to co-operate agencies, in contributing to the Responsible Authorities' assessment and management of risk.

What is an environmental risk assessment?

45. An environmental risk assessment is used to identify housing-related risk and informs decisions on manageable housing for each offender that will minimise the risks to the community. The assessment brings together information on the offender, proposed property and location and nearby households to enable a decision on housing an offender to be made that will minimise the risks to the community.

46. It involves various checks by the Responsible Authorities, local authority housing services and RSLs. Each agency is responsible for identifying the information databases that they should research and undertaking its own checks. There may be several areas within local authorities who can contribute to the risk assessment alongside criminal justice social work and housing, for example local authority children's services in social work and education.

47. The checks undertaken will depend on the offender, but could include information on:

  • the offender:
    • the System for Tasking and Operational Resource Management ( STORM);
    • the Scottish Intelligence Database ( SID);
    • the Violent and Sex Offenders Register ( VISOR);
    • Local Police Systems;
    • Police National Computer ( PNC);
    • Criminal History System ( CHS);
    • Vulnerable Persons Database ( VPD);
    • Crime Management System;
    • Community Police information;
    • any restrictions placed on the offender; and
    • any other relevant information.
  • the proposed property and location:
    • landlord information on the type, size and entry arrangements of the property and information on its location;
    • a physical check of the property and its location (which may include play parks, community centres, libraries, schools, nurseries, shops etc.); and
    • any other relevant information.
  • nearby households, including:
    • landlord tenancy records;
    • relevant criminal justice cases in the area;
    • sex offenders coming out of jail soon to the same area;
    • the location of victims;
    • vulnerable adults/children and families cases in the area;
    • information from the integrated management information system for schools ( SEEMIS);
    • Council Tax data;
    • Housing Benefit data;
    • Voters Roll; and
    • any other relevant information.

48. How far information is sought on nearby households will depend on a number of factors, including the offender, the risks they may pose and the layout of the area. Some Responsible Authorities use a rule of thumb that requires information to be collected on the make up of households in properties where the proposed property can see to / be seen from. That is those properties which have a clear view of the property under consideration - adjacent, front and rear. Where the proposed property is in a block of flats, then information on who shares the communal access / drying area etc. would also be checked.

49. Properties around the proposed property may be affordable rented housing, private rented housing or home ownership. Collecting information on the make up of households therefore may be difficult. SOLOs will need to use all available resources to collect information on the make up of relevant households, including liaising with colleagues in other departments and social landlords as well as using available information from existing data sources such as the voters roll, council tax records and benefits systems. The purpose of collecting this information is to inform the environmental risk assessment and minimise the risk to communities.

When should the Responsible Authorities do an environmental risk assessment?

50. The Responsible Authorities should do an environmental risk assessment for all offenders managed at MAPPA Levels 2 and 3 [5] . The lead Responsible Authority managing an offender [6] at MAPPA Level 1 should also consider the need for an environmental risk assessment for such offenders, taking into account the risks the offender may pose, public protection issues or the high profile nature of the case. This could include undertaking an assessment for an existing tenant who is convicted of a sexual offence. The Responsible Authorities should also consider the need for an assessment for housing for prisoners on temporary home leave.

51. An environmental risk assessment is accurate at the time it is undertaken, but the changing nature of communities mean that the Responsible Authorities must keep risk management arrangements under constant review. Social housing providers should make sure that the Responsible Authorities routinely receive, on a case by case basis, relevant information on changing household composition in the area. Updates should be supplied within the timescales agreed with the Responsible Authorities.

52. When the circumstances of the offender change, the Responsible Authorities may trigger the need for a review of an environmental risk assessment. The Responsible Authorities should agree how often they will review the environmental risk assessment where it is not otherwise triggered. The frequency should be in line with the level of risk the sex offender may pose, and as a minimum the Responsible Authorities should review the risk assessment on an annual basis.

Making a decision on housing

53. The Responsible Authorities will discuss the risk assessment and reach an agreement on whether the property is manageable for the offender. Social landlords will need to be satisfied that it is reasonable for them to make an offer of housing. Certain housing is less manageable than others:

  • The risk the offender poses and to whom this risk applies may limit the type of housing that will be manageable.
  • The location of housing to the likes of schools, parks, community centres etc. that may increase the offender's likelihood of re-offending must be considered.
  • It is essential that the offender is not housed in accommodation which puts the offender unnecessarily in conflict with a prohibition or an obligation within a Sexual Offences Prevention Order ( SOPO). These civil orders are designed to protect the public from serious harm and any conditions should be examined when considering the manageability of a property.
  • The Cosgrove Report did not recommend a specialist residential facility for the treatment of sex offenders because of the risk of networking by offenders.
  • If permanent housing is not available, for example on release from prison, then the Responsible Authorities may consider temporary housing. They may also consider it if they have rejected the permanent housing options that have been identified or the offender has rejected housing offers. Social landlords must discuss the temporary housing solutions with the Responsible Authorities.
  • Any hostel-style accommodation within the mainstream of the affordable rented sector (as distinct from hostels which are specifically intended for offenders and funded for delivery of Criminal Justice Social Work services), poses the risk of bringing together a group of sex offenders in one location. In particular, hostels are not suitable housing for high-risk offenders as there are often vulnerable people, including children, in such accommodation who may be placed at risk.
  • In some areas, where the Responsible Authorities have assessed the risks, landlords have used Bed and Breakfast (B&B) accommodation where there is no other housing. Landlords should avoid this wherever possible because of the problems of managing risk in a B&B establishment. Where landlords can remove such risks by booking the entire establishment then B&B accommodation may be manageable. But, this must be a housing of last resort and the Responsible Authorities should examine alternatives in other areas before reaching a decision.
  • The Scottish Government has put in place regulations that prevent the routine use of "unsuitable" temporary housing for homeless households with children and pregnant women (the Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2004 - SSI 2004/489). As part of the assessment of whether temporary housing is suitable for use, local authorities must assess whether it is "suitable for occupation by children". The statutory guidance requires that the local authority is satisfied that overall, the housing does not pose significant risk to children. If a local authority places a sex offender under MAPPA in temporary housing where there are households with children, this could be a significant risk to them, or other vulnerable groups, who may also be housed in that accommodation. The main purpose of the 2004 Order is to prevent children being placed in housing that is not safe for them or conducive to their development. Such placements of sex offenders might mean that the housing would not meet the standards of the Order and the local authority will not be able to use it to fulfil its duties under the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987.
  • Houses in Multiple Occupation ( HMOs) are also generally not manageable for sex offenders under MAPPA because of the close contact with other tenants. From 1 January 2012 Housing Benefit claimants in the private rented sector under 35 will receive only the shared room rate. Because of the risks associated with high-risk offenders under MAPPA, an exemption to the new arrangements means that offenders managed at Level 2 and 3 of MAPPA in the private rented sector will continue to receive the single room rate of Housing Benefit. Arrangements should be made at local level to identify any affected tenants/applicants who are in receipt of or applying for Housing Benefit and a process put in place whereby confirmation that the tenant/applicant qualifies for the exemption is shared with a nominated Housing Benefit contact.
  • The private rented sector presents particular challenges and each case needs to be risk assessed and agreed by the Responsible Authorities. Where sex offenders live in the private rented sector the Responsible Authorities have to make sure that supervision, support and monitoring arrangements will be robust enough to minimise risk.

54. In considering the manageability of a property for a particular offender it is important for the Responsible Authorities to recognise that:

  • there are issues and constraints in providing the most manageable type and location of housing;
  • there is no ideal solution and no ideal location;
  • where sex offenders under MAPPA are to be housed in affordable rented housing, housing decisions can only be made on the basis of what housing is, or can be made, available;
  • there may be cost and community implications associated with holding properties empty and it may not be possible or feasible for landlords to do so. The risk assessment process needs to minimise any delay in allocations and take account of any such implications in reaching a decision on a manageable housing solution. Where there are costs, discussions should take place at local level as to where those costs should be met from or agreement that the property cannot be held vacant;
  • landlords have responsibilities to maintain equality of access to housing as far as possible and it may not be reasonable, practical or feasible for housing providers to limit the nature of allocations to houses in the areas surrounding a sex offender under MAPPA; and
  • a housing provider cannot give any guarantee that existing households around the identified housing will not change.

55. Decisions on where to house a sex offender under MAPPA will always be based on the most manageable housing that minimises the risk an offender may pose to the community. If the housing on offer from a housing provider is not ideal, it is a requirement on the Responsible Authorities to adjust the monitoring and supervision arrangements to minimise and manage any risk.

56. Housing a sex offender under MAPPA in the community may have implications for landlords on future allocations in the neighbourhood. Whether there are implications, and what they may be, depends on the offender and the ongoing risks they may pose. The Responsible Authorities should identify any such implications as part of the environmental risk assessment process. Landlords have to meet legal requirements around allocating affordable rented housing and therefore the Responsible Authorities should make sure that any restrictions they identify are necessary to minimise risk to the community.

57. Where there are implications the Responsible Authorities should disclose sufficient information to the social housing provider(s) in the neighbourhood to allow them to make appropriate allocations. Landlords need to identify the affected properties and take a sensitive lettings approach to these allocations and keep records of the decisions taken. The Allocations Practice Guide for Social Landlords published in March 2011 says that:

"A sensitive let essentially means that you depart from your routine allocation practice. So instead of allocating a property to the applicant at the top of the list (the person with the most housing need, as defined by your allocation policy) you consider the suitability of the applicant for the vacancy, on the basis of the information you have about the applicant and the knowledge you have about the property, its location or neighbours." [7]

58. If landlords have any concerns about allocations in the neighbourhood then they should raise those with the Responsible Authorities, via the SOLO. The Responsible Authorities may then consider the ongoing need for restrictions and/or the need for an update to the environmental risk assessment.

59. There is no expectation landlords would be aware of every change of household, or community facilities, in the area around a sex offender. This is about minimising risk so expectations of the frequency of information on stock/profile should be agreed locally and will depend on levels of risk and manageability of housing.

60. Where there has been a review of the environmental risk assessment and the risk has increased then the Responsible Authorities need to consider their options. The increase in risk may be for many reasons and does not automatically mean that a change in housing is indicated, but that risks require to be managed or community unrest needs to be tackled. The Responsible Authorities could consider:

  • the need for a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (see MAPPA guidance);
  • the offender moving to more manageable housing ( see section 2 of this strategy); or
  • disclosure of the offender (see MAPPA guidance).

Out-of-area placements

61. In some cases the local authority may need to consider placing a sex offender in another local authority's area under MAPPA. The responsibility for making the necessary arrangements for that placement lies with the placing local authority. Out- of-area placements may be right for a sex offender where, for example:

  • such a placement would provide manageable housing which is not available in the placing local authority's area; or
  • the offender or others might be at risk if the sex offender under MAPPA was to be housed in the placing local authority's area.

62. Out-of-area placements present a potentially complex set of challenges. When considering an out-of-area placement, it is crucial that the placing local authority discusses and agrees the placement with the local authority in whose area they are considering placing the offender. All parties should be in agreement on the arrangements before any placement goes ahead.

63. Under no circumstances should a sex offender be placed in another local authority's area under MAPPA without the knowledge and consent of that authority and without a plan in place to manage any associated risk. To do so would be to put others at risk, particularly if other vulnerable households are housed by the receiving landlord in the same temporary accommodation as the sex offender.

64. Local authorities should make sure monitoring arrangements are in place to track the incidence of out-of-area placements. These arrangements will need to show that where a local authority has placed a sex offender in another local authority area under MAPPA that proper discussion between the relevant local authorities has taken place and agreement has been reached.

65. Guidance on the transfer of cases is set out in the MAPPA guidance.

How should sex offenders whose period of registration has ended be dealt with in terms of housing?

66. The MAPPA guidance sets out what happens when a sex offender exits from MAPPA.


Contact

Email: NASSO@scotland.gsi.gov.uk