Legislation to suspend local connection homelessness rules to come into force
People experiencing homelessness in Scotland will have the ability to settle and access support wherever they choose under legislation coming into force tomorrow.
As it stands, councils can ask people to demonstrate their connection to the area where they present as homeless. If they are unable to do so, councils can refer them to another area where they do have a local link, such as somewhere they or their family members have lived or worked.
The new legislation suspends that power for Scottish local authorities, giving people freedom about where they settle and access services.
Housing secretary Shona Robison said the move aims to help people integrate more fully into the local community and to reduce repeat homelessness.
“Local connection requirements have been recognised as a barrier to accessing homelessness services which is why we have chosen to remove them,” she added.
“Most people who are homeless want to live in a community where they are already settled, but this legislation allows them to move somewhere new if they want to – whether that’s to access support, take advantage of job opportunities or simply to have a fresh start.
“This puts rights for homeless households on a par with those for people who own or rent their homes, ensuring they have access to consistent services wherever they are in Scotland.
“I know that there are housing pressures in some local authorities but that, ultimately, they share our ambition of ending homelessness. This legislation will help ensure people can find a settled home as quickly as possible in an area of their choosing.”
Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “We hugely welcome the news that this legislation has been passed. It is important progress towards realising the UN right to adequate housing: ensuring people are empowered to make informed decisions on where they would like to apply as homeless and that dignity is embedded in our homelessness system.
“This much-anticipated change is one that we have been long calling for, and is another milestone in securing progressive rights to housing. We believe home is everything, and only building more social homes will bring the housing emergency to a permanent end, but it’s vital that people know their rights and are empowered to defend them.”
Ginny Cooper from Homeless Network Scotland’s Change Team added: “We are pleased to learn about the changes being made to local connection legislation, and see it as an important shift towards giving people experiencing homelessness more choice in where they decide to build their lives. Giving people the option to relocate will improve their opportunities to create new relationships within communities where they are able to thrive.”
MSPs approved the Homelessness Persons (Suspension of Referrals between Local Authorities) (Scotland) Order 2022 on 16 November.
The Scottish Government will review the data and keep in regular contact with local authorities and service providers to monitor the impact of these changes.