We are a corporate parent under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. We are required to publish a report every three years to explain how we fulfil the duties the legislation places on us. We published plans in December 2017 and December 2020.
We are also required under Part One of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 to publish a Children’s Rights Report on the steps we have taken to secure better or further effect of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). We need to report after each three year period.
The legislation allows us to satisfy these duties by publishing relevant information alongside other reports. For us, it makes sense to report on our approach to Corporate Parenting and children’s rights together. Our December 2020 report was a combined Corporate Parenting Plan and Children’s Rights Report, and we adopt the same approach for this report.
We operate under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010. This legislation sets our functions. Our statutory objective is to safeguard and promote the interests of:
- around 600,000 tenants who live in homes provided by social landlords
- over 120,000 owners who received services from social landlords
- around 40,000 people and their families who experience homelessness and seek help from local authorities
- around 335 Gypsy/Traveller families who can use official sites provided by social landlords.
We do this by using our powers to regulate more than 170 social landlords. We monitor, assess and report on local authorities’ and registered social landlords’ (RSLs’) performance in delivering services and RSLs’ financial well-being and standards of governance. We have powers to intervene where necessary.
We are a risk-based regulator, and we target our resources at addressing the issues that present the greatest risk to tenants’ and service users’ interests.
Our vision is well-run social landlords delivering what tenants, people who are homeless, Gypsy/Travellers and others who use social housing services need and want, at a price they can afford to pay. You can read more about our how we work and our current priorities in our Strategy.
Our Regulatory Framework explains in detail how we regulate social landlords. In December 2023 we came to the end of a formal consultation process on changes we have proposed to our Regulatory Framework. We will finalise and publish our new Regulatory Framework in early 2024, and it will go live on 1 April 2024.
We are different in some important ways from many of the other public bodies who are corporate parents and who have UNCRC reporting responsibilities. We have no direct relationship with the children and young people to whom the duties in the Act relate. We do not provide a service. And some of the organisations we regulate (local authorities) are themselves corporate parents and have children’s rights reporting duties.
Our approach to children’s rights and corporate parenting is shaped by our primary statutory functions and the relatively narrow nature of our role. We target our resources at addressing the issues that present the greatest risk to tenants’ interests, in line with our risk-based regulatory approach.
As noted, our statutory powers are relatively narrow and relate exclusively to our regulatory functions. That said, we are able to take some tangible actions. These are a combination of targeted regulatory activities, awareness raising, information sharing and providing advice. Taken together, these demonstrate our commitment to securing further effect of UNCRC and meeting our corporate parenting duties in a way that is proportionate to our role.
Scottish Government research from the Scottish Household Survey indicates that, in 2021, 10% of social rented households in Scotland were single parent families, 8% were small families and 5% were large families. The most common types of households in social rented homes in 2021 were single working age adult households (32%) and single pensioner households (19%).
One core element of our work is to monitor all social landlords’ service quality against the Scottish Government’s Scottish Social Housing Charter. The purpose of the Charter is to help improve the quality and value of the services that social landlords provide. The Charter supports the Scottish Government’s National Outcomes on communities, environment and human rights which describe the kind of Scotland the Scottish Government wants to see. The Charter’s seven sections include equalities, housing quality and maintenance, neighbourhood and community, and access to housing and support.
We monitor social landlords’ service quality through our regulatory assessments, published analysis and thematic work. We do not focus our regulatory activities specifically on children, but the figures above demonstrate that around a quarter of the households living in social rented homes in Scotland are families. Each year we publish reports about each social landlord’s performance against the Charter. Find out more about our role in the Charter.
Care-experienced young people can be vulnerable and at risk of homelessness. We know that access to social housing and homelessness services are important issues for many care-experienced young people. We also know that there are significant numbers of households with children in temporary accommodation. Data from the Scottish Government’s Homelessness in Scotland: 2022-23 publication shows that 16,263 children (as part of 32,242 households) were assessed as homeless. It also highlights that households with children spend longer in temporary accommodation than those without: 50% of households with children spent 7 months or more in temporary accommodation compared with 40% of households without children.
Through our regulatory work we focus on homelessness to give us assurance that local authorities are meeting demand and providing help, advice and accommodation to vulnerable people who are or who may become homeless.
Although we do not target our regulatory activities specifically at care-leavers or children, our work to monitor service quality, alongside our targeted, thematic work in areas such as homelessness and with Gypsy/Travellers shines a light on homeless and tenancy services that are important to children and care-experienced young people.
In early 2023 we published a Thematic Review of our work on the services provided by councils to help people experiencing homelessness. Over the preceding two years we had engaged with every council about their homelessness services. We did this principally to allow us to focus on their response to the challenges in delivering these services during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Our review found that councils have been making considerable efforts in very challenging circumstances to deliver effective services for people who are or have experienced homelessness, and a number have had success in moving toward an approach with rapid rehousing at its centre. They face three major strategic challenges in providing homelessness services:
- dealing with the significant numbers of people currently in temporary accommodation;
- maintaining a sufficient supply of appropriate temporary accommodation; and
- ensuring access to the number of permanent homes that are needed.
- Some councils are finding it increasingly difficult to meet these challenges, and so to fully meet their statutory duties. There is evidence of increasing, and more widespread, breaches of statutory duties around the provision of temporary accommodation, and that some households with particular equality characteristics do not always receive a service that meets their specific needs.
Our review found considerable pressure on councils in the provision of homelessness services, and there are actions councils should and can take to respond to these challenges and to meet their statutory obligations; however, for some there is an emerging risk of systemic failure.
Our review concluded it is in this context that the Scottish Government may need to consider what further urgent measures it can take to support councils to respond to the immediate challenges they face in delivering services for people who are homeless.
In December 2023, we published a Statement which updated our thematic review. In this statement, we concluded that the risk we had identified had materialised in some councils and there is now systemic failure in the delivery of homelessness services in some areas of Scotland. We said that in in our judgement, the demands on some councils now exceed their capacity to respond and in others it soon will. We will engage with the councils we believe are experiencing systemic failure.
Other examples of our past, current and future work:
- In November 2020 we published a report on the findings of our inquiry into Glasgow City Council’s services for people who are experiencing homelessness, including recommendations to address the weaknesses we identified.
- As part of the programme of research of our National Panel of Tenants and Service Users, we have explored the experiences and priorities of people who have used local authorities’ homelessness services. We published reports with service users’ feedback in 2023. We had to scale back our face to face research in 2021 and 2022 because of the pandemic. We also explored homelessness services in our National Panel programmes in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Our 2018 National Panel research included interviews with care experienced Young People, which we arranged via Who Cares Scotland. You can read these reports on the National Panel section of our website.
- As part of our 2023/4 programme of research with our National Panel we intend to include interviews with households with children who have experienced homelessness and stayed in temporary accommodation. This will provide us with important insights into their experiences and priorities.
- As part of our annual risk assessment, we consider Gypsy/Traveller sites and landlords’ compliance with the minimum site standards set by Scottish Government and their obligations in relation to fire safety. In 2019, we also published findings from some work we did through our National Panel on the experiences of Gypsy/Travellers. This year, we are also considering specific work with Gypsy/Travellers as part of a broader thematic to look at tenant participation.
- We raised our staff’s awareness of our corporate parenting duties, which helps equip us to identify any issues that are particularly relevant to care-experienced young people in our ongoing regulatory activities.
- We will continue to have dialogue with advocacy organisations and other corporate parents. This is an ongoing activity for us. In the early stages of corporate parenting responsibilities we worked with other corporate parents to build relationships and help understand how we can make practical contributions.
- As part of liaison with bodies we work closely with in our regulatory role, such as the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, Care Inspectorate and Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, we will consider whether there are opportunities to contribute to the corporate parenting agenda through our regulation of social landlords.
- Where we find particular issues or practices at an individual landlord relating to services to care-experienced young people, we will either take action (where the issue is within our statutory remit) or share information with the relevant organisation such as the Care Inspectorate.
- We are working with the Care Inspectorate to provide advice and input into a proposed 2024 Care Inspectorate-led thematic review of services to care-experienced young people. Our contribution includes advising on the focus of housing-related questions and discussion topics.
- Our Chief Executive is a member of the Scottish Government’s UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board, which provides us with invaluable insight around the developing approaches to embedding children’s rights in to our work.
- We intend to participle in 2024 in a newly-formed, Scottish Government-led Child Rights Regulation and Improvement Group. The Group’s purpose is to support regulators to embed child rights considerations into their practice and the practice of the organisations they reach. Staffing gaps have meant we had been unable to attend the Group’s early meetings in the second half of 2023. Attending this Group will help us continue to develop our thinking and approach around children’s rights in a way that is relevant to our statutory role.
- We will continue to respond to enquiries from other corporate parents to explain our role and how we intend to approach our responsibilities.
- We will continue to explore practical opportunities to contribute as a corporate parent in a way that fits with our primary regulatory role.