What is Housing First Scotland?
Housing First Scotland belongs to everyone who is helping Housing First become the first response for people whose homelessness is compounded by experiences such as trauma, abuse, addictions and mental ill health. It is hosted by the Homeless Network (GHN), set up in partnership with Turning Point Scotland and I-SPHERE at Heriot-Watt University.
The Seven Pillars of Housing First
Housing First provides ordinary, settled housing as the first response for people with multiple and complex needs beyond housing.
Multiple and complex needs: persistent and interrelated health and/or social care needs, which impact an individual’s life and ability to function in society.
These may include:
Entrenched street homelessness, repeat service use or being otherwise vulnerably housed.
Mental, psychological or emotional health needs.
Drug and/or alcohol dependency.
Contact with the criminal justice system.
Physical health needs.
Experience of domestic violence and abuse.
People have a right to a home
Housing First prioritises access to housing as quickly as possible.
Eligibility for housing is not contingent on any conditions other than willingness to maintain a tenancy.
The housing provided is based on suitability (stability, choice, affordability, quality, community integration) rather than the type of housing.
The individual will not lose their housing if they disengage or no longer require the support.
The individual will be given their own tenancy agreement.
Flexible support is provided for as long as an individual needs it
Providers commit to long-term offers of support which do not have a fixed end date; recovery takes time and varies by individual needs, characteristics and experiences.
The service is designed for flexibility of support with procedures in place for high/low intensity support provision and for cases that are ‘dormant’.
Support is provided for the individual to transition away from Housing First if this is a positive choice for them.
The support links with relevant services across sectors that help to meet the full range of an individual’s needs.
There are clear pathways into, and out of, the Housing First service.
Housing and support are separate
Support is available to help people maintain a tenancy and to address any other needs they identify.
An individual’s housing is not conditional on them engaging with support.
The choices they make about their support do not affect their housing.
The offer of support stays with the person – if the tenancy fails, the individual is supported to acquire and maintain a new home.
Individuals have choice and control
They choose the type of housing they have and its location within reason as defined by the context. (This should be scattered site, self-contained accommodation, unless an individual expresses a preference for living in shared housing).
They have the choice, where possible, about where they live.
They have the option not to engage with other services as long as there is regular contact with the Housing First team.
They choose where, when and how support is provided by the Housing First team.
They are supported through person-centred planning and are given the lead to shape their support… goals are not set by the service provider.
An active engagement approach is taken
Staff are responsible for proactively engaging their clients; making the service fit the individual instead of trying to make the individual fit the service.
Caseloads are small allowing staff to be persistent and proactive in their approach, doing ‘whatever it takes’ and not giving up or closing the case when engagement is low.
Support is provided for as long as each client requires it.
The team continues to engage and support the individual if they lose their home or leave their home temporarily.
The service is based on people’s strengths, goals, and aspirations
Services are underpinned by a philosophy that there is always a possibility for positive change and improved health and wellbeing, relationships and community and/or economic integration.
Individuals are supported to identify their strengths and goals.
Individuals are supported to develop the knowledge and skills they need to achieve their goals.
Individuals are supported to develop increased self-esteem, self-worth and confidence, and to integrate into their local community.
A harm reduction approach is adopted
People are supported in a way that treats the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just symptoms e.g. alcohol use.
Staff support individuals who use substances to reduce immediate and ongoing harm to their health.
Staff aim to support individuals who self-harm to undertake practices which minimise risk of greater harm.
Staff aim to support individuals to undertake practices that reduce harm and promote recovery in other areas of physical and mental health and wellbeing.
People re-housed so far
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is Housing First for?
Housing First will be the first response for people whose homelessness is experienced alongside other severe and multiple disadvantage. While everyone’s experiences will be different the common threads include trauma, abuse, addictions, mental ill health and experience of local authority care and prison. It is estimated that this affects around 5,700 people in Scotland, across a single year.
How are tenancies allocated for Housing First?
Tenancies used for Housing First are general needs mainstream tenancies and are allocated in line with landlord’s existing allocations policies. Housing First is currently operating successfully in a range of allocations settings including Points Based Allocations systems, Choice Based Lettings and Common Housing Registers. Some landlords may decide to create a specific process or protocol within their own allocations policy for Housing First, but this will be based on local context. Going forward, it is hoped that landlords will work closely with local partners to identify any changes to allocations policy that might be identified.
What kind of tenancy do Housing First tenants have?
A Housing First tenancy in the social rented sector is a Scottish Secure Tenancy with all the same protections, conditions and security as any mainstream tenancy. People will be accommodated with a Private Residential Tenancy in the private rented sector. In the normal way, tenancies will be available for as long as someone wants to live there.
How are people matched with tenancies?
Local authorities, alongside support providers, are encouraged to develop ‘by-name’ lists of people in their area that have needs beyond housing and whose experience of homelessness may be long-term and/or repeating. This is in line with Homelessness & Rough Sleeping Action Group recommendations and the Scottish Government/COSLA High Level Action Plan.
As well as area ‘by-name’ lists, straightforward referral processes are being developed to enable people to refer and self-refer into Housing First. Where Housing First is not an appropriate route, rapid rehousing solutions and/or further support should be identified, as per a ‘no wrong door’ approach. Choice is a key principle for Housing First. Local partners work closely with individuals to realistically identify the location and characteristics of a property that they could make a home.
What about tenancy-readiness?
Housing First works in a new environment which understands that most of us, with the right support, can manage our own home. The means removing ideas of ‘tenancy-readiness’ and giving people a chance and giving people a chance in their own place.
Do tenants have to accept Housing First support?
No, the tenancy is not conditional on someone engaging with Housing First support. Support providers work to the principles of active engagement and respectful persistence and all cases remain open even when engagement is low. Local partners actively seek to identify what support looks like to an individual and what/ how they are willing to accept.
In reality, most tenants engage with support in a personalised way and the removal of conditionality and focus on choice and control enables people to find what is of most value to them as they settle into their new home. There is no pre-existing support plan for people to follow or set number of hours of support to fulfil. We are using a best-practice maximum caseload of seven tenants per support worker at any one time; this is a key factor in the success of Housing First.
Does Housing First work?
There is now an overwhelming body of international evidence showing that, with close fidelity to the Housing First principles, the approach delivers:
1) 80% – 90% housing retention rates after two years (with some early projects showing similar retention rates after five years
2) improving health outcomes
3) decreasing involvement in criminal activity and anti-social behaviour
4) improved cost-effectiveness of service delivery and cost savings.
What if the Housing First tenancy isn’t working?
Like any tenancy, there are a number of factors that contribute to its success. If the landlord and the support provider have concerns about the sustainability of the tenancy, landlords can make use of existing policies and procedures such as Management Transfers and local nomination agreements to secure a tenancy in an alternative location. The landlord retains the right to end the tenancy in line with their existing policies and procedures and legal obligations. These instances are very rare, and the principles of Housing First ensure that the person will continue to be supported and rehoused.
What effect does Housing First have on housing waiting lists?
None. The people housed through Housing First are not ‘new’ people being added to existing housing demand. They have always been there with a right to a home, but often without equal opportunity — a ‘level playing field’ to exercise those rights. Housing First just provides a mechanism for ensuring everyone can quickly access a home and the support they need.
Many people have struggled to maintain accommodation and have repeatedly accessed different accommodation routes and services. Housing First has been proven to help people maintain tenancies and access appropriate services. This should have a positive impact and free up capacity and time for services.
What about supported housing and hostels?
Where Housing First is not the best solution, or mainstream housing isn’t wanted, then the size and quality of shared, supported accommodation is key. Overarching Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans will progress toward smaller, specialist units within a psychologically informed environment. Local Health and Social Care Partnerships will also consider whether those units continue to be part of their local homelessness response, or whether the specialist nature aligns them with broader health and social care strategy and commissioning frameworks.
What is Housing First Scotland?
Housing First Scotland belongs to everyone who is helping Housing First become the first response for people whose homelessness is compounded by experiences such as trauma, abuse, addictions and mental ill health. It is hosted by the Homeless Network (GHN) since 2016, set up in partnership with Turning Point Scotland and I-SPHERE at Heriot-Watt University, leading academics on housing, homelessness and related issues. Social Investment Scotland joined our partnership to explore how social investment could be used as a mechanism to scale up Housing First.
What is Scotland’s Housing First Pathfinder?
The flagship £10 million Housing First Pathfinder in Scotland was catalysed by Social Bite in 2018 to accelerate Housing First delivery in six local authority areas including five cities. It is funded by the Scottish Government (<£6.5m), Social Bite (£3m) and Merchants House Glasgow (£200k). The Homeless Network and Corra Foundation were appointed as Project and Fund Managers. It is a three-year programme in the first instance, with an official start date of 1 April 2019.
The multi-agency Pathfinders are scaling up to deliver over 800 tenancies across Aberdeen/shire, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling by March 2021. Homes have been pledged by housing associations and local authorities, with a smaller number pledged by private sector landlords too. 15 services across 5 local consortia were commissioned to deliver the Housing First intensive casework support in line with Housing First principles. The services have a lead organisation in each area (in same order): Aberdeen Cyrenians, Transform Community Development, Cyrenians, Turning Point Scotland and Loretto Care.
The Pathfinder partnerships are testing how to deliver Housing First at a scale never seen before in Scotland, setting the pace, testing new ways of working and sharing solutions to the challenges and questions that come from changing systems at scale. With a head-start to find the best path, we want to quickly connect their learning and expertise with all other Scottish local authorities preparing to scale up Housing First.
Will Housing First end Homelessness in Scotland?
Not on its own, as most people who become homeless have no or low support needs beyond their need for housing. However, any attempt to end homelessness that does not include Housing First will not work for the population in Scotland who are up against the hardest structural, social and economic disadvantage.
Ask a question, call or email us below.