Shelter Scotland calls for end to local connection and intentionality homelessness tests
Plans by the Scottish Government to remove barriers for people needing to access homelessness services are welcome but don’t go far enough, according to Shelter Scotland.
Currently, people making homelessness applications to their local council must demonstrate a local connection and show that they have not ‘intentionally’ become homeless due to their own actions or omissions.
The government is proposing that, on local connection, to suspend the power of local authorities to refer people to other local authorities. On intentionality, the proposal is to remove the current duty on a local authority to investigate the reasons for a homelessness application. However, local authorities will retain the power to investigate if they feel it necessary.
In its response to a government consultation on the proposals, Shelter Scotland said its advisers routinely see people who have been denied help due to not meeting one of the tests. But after contacting the local authority, the charity often gets those decisions overturned after proper consideration of each case.
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “In several areas of Scotland, we believe local connection and intentionality tests are used – often hastily – simply to deny people help with homelessness as a way of rationing councils’ limited resources.
“This means that people are often left with no support even though they still need somewhere to live. Some end up sleeping rough, while others sofa surf with friends or stay in low-quality privately rented accommodation in such disrepair that only someone who is completely desperate would take it.
“We agree with the Scottish Government’s proposals to change how the tests operate but ultimately want to see them abolished altogether.”
Shelter Scotland has also called for detailed guidance to be produced to ensure the way councils operate changes in practice not just on paper. The charity is also concerned about how councils will resource the planned improvements.
Graeme Brown added: “While the proportion of applications for homelessness assistance rejected on these grounds is relatively small, our evidence is that with more due consideration of individual cases, more people will have a right to access help including support, temporary accommodation and permanent housing. To implement these changes, councils will need more funding for support services, temporary accommodation and permanent housing.”