5. HOUSING ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES UNDER NASSO
79. As set out in paragraph 15 the key housing contacts under this Strategy are the SOLO in each local authority and Link Officers in every RSL. This section provides more detail about the responsibilities of these key roles. It is important that housing providers support the Responsible Authorities' assessment and management of risks. This section also considers the wider strategic functions of local authority housing services.
What are the strategic functions of local authority housing services?
80. The local authority (including a local authority which has transferred its housing stock to an RSL) is responsible for the development of a strategic response to the housing of sex offenders under MAPPA. To do so they must involve and talk to RSLs in their area. This should include an assessment of local need and provision for the range of housing and support for sex offenders under MAPPA and should clarify the contribution by RSLs in their area.
What is the role of the SOLO?
81. The main aim of the Sex Offender Liaison Officer ( SOLO) role is to be the initial point of contact for housing enquiries for sex offenders under MAPPA, to be the link between the Responsible Authorities and social housing providers under a duty to co-operate. In this role, the SOLO will:
- Identify housing providers using information about the sex offender from the Responsible Authorities.
- Make sure that the liaison arrangements for identifying manageable housing and supporting the management of risk by the Responsible Authorities includes the housing provider.
- Liaise pro-actively with the Responsible Authorities and housing providers on ongoing risk management and community safety issues.
82. The main responsibilities of the SOLO before housing a sex offender are to:
- assist with drawing-up and revising a Memorandum of Understanding and Information Sharing Protocols;
- set up and maintain good working relationships with RSLs;
- be the first point of contact for housing a sex offender;
- give sex offenders advice on housing and their housing options;
- liaise with Link Officers to help identify manageable housing;
- contribute to environmental risk assessments;
- take part in discussions and decisions on manageable housing for sex offenders under MAPPA; and
- process and hold securely information on sex offenders to assist with future allocation issues and ongoing tenancy management.
83. The main responsibilities of the SOLO after housing a sex offender are to:
- help the Responsible Authorities to make sure that where a sex offender needs to move to another local authority area, the transfer operates smoothly;
- liaise with Community Justice Authorities and any multi-agency groups the Responsible Authorities set up;
- make sure that the local housing strategy and operational plans consider the need for housing sex offenders under MAPPA;
- contribute to the review of the local authority's and RSLs' housing policies; and
- monitor, with the Responsible Authorities, where sex offenders under MAPPA are housed and identify any issues about the over-concentration of such offenders in particular areas.
What is the role of an RSL Link Officer?
84. RSLs have a duty to co-operate under the MAPPA arrangements and their role is to contribute to the Responsible Authorities' management of risk by:
- exchanging information on housing with the Responsible Authorities;
- allocating housing that has been assessed as manageable by the Responsible Authorities;
- liaising with the Responsible Authorities on their ongoing management and monitoring of the risks the offender may pose;
- having in place arrangements with the SOLO and the other Responsible Authorities to deal with situations where a property is no longer manageable.
85. Individual social housing providers should have in place a Link Officer (or staff who will undertake the duties of a Link Officer) to liaise with the SOLO and Responsible Authorities . They should:
- take part in the development of, and agree, Memorandum of Understanding and information sharing protocols with the Responsible Authorities;
- give information on housing stock and voids to the SOLO at agreed intervals (under a negotiated agreement);
- respond to specific requests by the SOLO about the availability of housing for sex offenders under MAPPA;
- have in place processes for responding to requests from the SOLO to house sex offenders under MAPPA;
- have in place arrangements within their organisation for the security and management of information;
- provide information for the environmental risk assessments;
- keep the SOLO advised of any proposed house moves by sex offenders under MAPPA;
- keep the SOLO advised of any information which comes to light about the offender which may affect community safety;
- keep the SOLO advised of applications for housing made direct to the RSL by sex offenders where this is disclosed during the application process;
- keep the SOLO advised of any potential legal action / Section 11 notifications / tenancy complaints etc. involving sex offenders;
- take part in relevant case conferences and multi agency arrangements;
- make sure processes are in place within the organisation to protect staff dealing with the sex offender under MAPPA, for example, for home visits.
Dealing with queries
86. The local housing office is often the first port of call for tenants or community members who wish to tell someone about their concerns about sex offenders. Their position at the heart of communities makes housing providers ideally placed to alert the Responsible Authorities to concerns.
87. Depending on the nature of questions or concerns the SOLO (local authorities) or Link Officer ( RSL) may take one or more of actions:
- If there are concerns about the behaviour of a tenant or other person living in the community these should be reported to the police for further investigation and possible action;
- If there may be a risk to children it should also be reported to the local social work service;
- If it is a general question about housing policies and procedures these should be made available and discussed with the person. They should also be given an opportunity to talk about concerns or issues with the Responsible Authorities.
88. Details about who sex offenders are, or where they are housed, must not be divulged. The SOLO or Link Officer should only confirm that they have passed on concerns for investigation.
89. So, housing agencies should:
- make sure housing officers know who in the Responsible Authorities they should refer community queries to;
- know who the Responsible Authorities' community or media points of contact are and make sure that all staff know to refer all media queries to them for liaison and action;
- be open and transparent about the organisation's protocols for housing sex offenders under MAPPA;
- liaise with the Responsible Authorities where a tenant is involved in any incident reported in the media;
- make sure that sensitive information on sex offenders under MAPPA is stored, flagged and managed in line with MAPPA guidance; and
- make sure that elected members and committee members are aware of the local multi agency public protection arrangements.
What is the role of councillors and management committees?
90. Section 20(3) of the 1987 Act (as inserted by section 154 of the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993) excludes councillors from decisions on certain allocations. It excludes the local councillors from a decision on allocating a house (or a house where the local authority has nomination rights) where the house in question is situated, or the applicant for the house in question lives, in the electoral division or ward for which those members are elected. This does not prevent councillors from making factual information known to the local authority or from making representations to the local authority on behalf of a constituent.
91. In general, management committee members decide on the allocations policy and should monitor general outcomes of that policy. Management committees must have no involvement in discussions or decisions about individual allocations, which should stay the responsibility of officers of the RSL. This applies also to the housing of sex offenders under MAPPA.