Local housing strategy: housing advice and information
The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 recognises the important role that good quality advice and information plays in the prevention and alleviation of homelessness. Section 2 of the 2001 Housing Act requires local authorities to ensure that advice and information about homelessness and the prevention of homelessness is available free of charge to any person in the local authority area.
In addition the act gives local authorities an enhanced duty to provide housing advice and assistance to homeless applicants who are not in priority need or have become homeless intentionally.
The Homeless Persons Advice and Assistance (Scotland) Regulations 2002 outlines the type of advice which must be available and includes:
- Advice on accommodation options
- Advice on a range of social issues
- Financial Advice.
Here are just some of the things that South Ayrshire Council's Housing Service is doing to comply with the new duties.
Review of services
In 2003 a review of Housing Advice and Information Services in South Ayrshire was commissioned. The aim of the review was to examine:
- The current availability and nature of housing advice and information
- The quality and consistency of advice and assistance
- To identify gaps in current provision and to make recommendations on how best to fill these gaps.
The researchers looked at the services provided by the Council's Housing Services, Social Work Services, Money Advice Team and a wide range of voluntary sector providers.
The report is at the final draft stage and once completed will provide a basis for South Ayrshire Council to work with partners and other stakeholder to develop a strategy which will ensure that service users have access to quality, accurate and independent housing advice and information across South Ayrshire.
The Scottish national standards for advice and information
The HomePoint section of Communities Scotland has published " The Scottish National Standards and Good Practice Guidance for Housing Information and Advice Providers" We are presently working with Communities Scotland to implement these standards within Homeless Services with the aim of seeking accreditation for the service from HomePoint. A key element of this is staff training and to date 10 staff from Homeless Services and Area Office Teams have been trained to provide housing advice up to Homepoint standard and a further 11 staff are currently undertaking training.
We are also working to improve the way the service is delivered, the accessibility of the service, and the quality and availability of our written information.
Housing options guide
We aim to ensure that the guide is continually improved and updated. Our booklet A Guide to Social Housing in South Ayrshire is also available for downloading.