Background and Context
12. In March 2008 the Scottish Government and COSLA developed a strategic approach to early intervention building on the principles of solidarity and cohesion set out in the Government Economic Strategy. A jointly issued policy statement on Early Intervention includes four key principles as follows:
- Our ambitions are universal - we want to reduce inequalities in a variety of policy areas, to have the same outcomes for all and for all to have the same opportunities.
- We take action to identify those at risk of not achieving these outcomes or having these opportunities and take action to prevent that risk materialising (action is not limited to those most at risk but applies at whatever level identified).
- We make sustained and effective interventions in cases where these risks have materialised.
- We shift the focus from service provision as the vehicle for delivery of outcomes to building the capacity of individuals, families and communities to secure outcomes, and addressing the external barriers which they may face in seeking to maximise their life chances, making use of high quality, accessible public services as required.
13. In this guidance the inclusion of good practice examples therefore has a twofold purpose: to demonstrate what is currently being done and to open dialogue about how these already do/could reflect Early Intervention principles.
14. Local authorities and their partners will wish to consider their response to homelessness within this framework of early intervention and would find it useful to adopt the principles across a range of related local planning and policy development procedures. Additionally, it may be helpful to consider the principles across the full spectrum of services available, including those delivered by the voluntary sector.
15. In March 2008, the Towards 2012: Homelessness Support Project Report was published. The project was set up to support local authorities to achieve the national homelessness target to abolish the priority need distinction by 2012. The report is independent of government and was prepared by two officers seconded from local authority homelessness teams, following visits and focused discussion with relevant staff at all 32 local authorities.
16. Prevention has a central role in the ways we tackle homelessness and it is essential for achieving the 2012 target. On that basis, local authority staff and partner agencies asked for additional guidance that has been agreed by the Scottish Government, the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers ( ALACHO) and COSLA. Council officers specifically asked for clarity on acceptable interventions due to concerns that some prevention activity could be interpreted as "gate keeping", either by the housing regulator or by potentially homeless households. The Scottish Housing Regulator will refer to this guidance during future inspection activity.
NB Gate keeping has been described as the practice of preventing or discouraging people from making homelessness applications as opposed to preventing homelessness from occurring.
17. In June 2008 the Scottish Government and COSLA jointly agreed four key priorities for achieving the 2012 target to abolish the priority need distinction. These priorities are:
- Continued leadership at both political and corporate level. As we move towards 2012, it is important there is both a shared leadership and accountability of central and local government's ability to reduce homelessness. Promoting and improving joint working between departments and services to address homelessness at both a national and local level.
- Preventing homelessness where possible, in line with general principles of early intervention.
- Ensuring that all housing providers (including RSLs and the Private Rented Sector ( PRS)) work together to maximise the access of homeless households to existing stock.
- Investing in the right areas to meet homelessness and wider housing need.
18. Meeting the 2012 target is dependent on progress against each of the four key priorities and local authorities will want to ensure that all relevant partners are contributing to the shared objectives. Modelling carried out by the Scottish Government using a range of assumptions and projections indicates that an increase in prevention activity will have a proportionately greater impact than other activities; although all are considered equally important.
19. COSLA has stated that making progress towards the target will always be reliant on sufficient resources being in place and that includes the wider resources that can and should be harnessed to assist in homelessness prevention.