Orkney Islands Council
Working together for a better Orkney

Homeless FAQs

Below is a list of question which should help you should you be homeless or are facing homelessness. If your question cannot be answered from within the sections below please contact the Homelessness and Advice team at the Orkney Islands Council on 01856873535 or via email.

What is homelessness?

What should I do if I think I am homeless?

How can the Council help me?

Is there any support available?

What will happen at the homeless interview?

What type of accommodation will I get?

What about furniture?

What about permanent accommodation?

Can I appeal the decision?

What is homelessness?

You are homeless if:

1. You have no accommodation, or you and your family have nowhere to stay together.
2. It is not reasonable for you to stay in your house, for example, because of its condition.
3. You have accommodation but any of these situations apply:

  • You can’t gain entry to your house, for example, because the landlord has changed the lock.
  • Living there could lead to violence, or threats of violence, for example, from a former partner or someone living with you.
  • You have a moveable home such as a caravan but nowhere to put it.
  • Your house is overcrowded and affecting your health.
  • Your accommodation has been provided by the council only temporarily.

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What should I do if I think I am homeless?

Orkney Islands Council provides a service to all homeless people. If you believe you may be homeless you should contact the Homelessness and Advice Section at Orkney Islands Council for advice and assistance. You can do this by telephone on 01856873535 or by visiting our office at the following address:

Homelessness and Advice Section

Housing Services, Orkney Islands Council, School Place, Kirkwall, KW15 1NY.

If you should become homeless outwith office hours, please telephone the duty officer on 07921582962.

You do not have to wait until you are homeless to speak to Housing Services. We provide advice and assistance on housing matters to everyone and we have a legal duty to consider your homeless application up to two months before the date you will become homeless.

All discussions with the Homelessness and Advice Section will be carried out in a private interview room and you may bring a friend, relative or support worker to the interview with you if you wish. You also have the right to be interviewed by an officer of the same sex as yourself.

Anything you tell us during your homeless interview will be in the strictest confidence and we will not discuss your case with other agencies without asking your consent.

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How can the Council help me?

Orkney Islands Council will provide you with good quality housing advice and assistance. If you have nowhere to stay you will be offered temporary accommodation for a minimum period of 28 days depending on your circumstances.

If you have been asked to leave your current accommodation, we will provide you with relevant advice and assistance to help you retain your home if possible.

If you have nowhere to stay or if you are going to be homeless within two months you have a right to a homeless interview.

The type of assistance provided by the Council will depend on your circumstances. There are four main questions that the Council will investigate, these are as follows:

Are you homeless or threatened with homelessness?

You are homeless if:

1. You have no accommodation, or you and your family have nowhere to stay together.
2. It is not reasonable for you to stay in your house, for example, because of its condition.
3. You have accommodation but any of these situations apply:

  • You can’t gain entry to your house, for example, because the landlord has changed the lock.
  • Living there could lead to violence, or threats of violence, for example, from a former partner or someone living with you.
  • You have a moveable home such as a caravan but nowhere to put it.
  • Your house is overcrowded and affecting your health.
  • Your accommodation has been provided by the council only temporarily.

You are threatened with homelessness if you will become homeless within 2 months.

Do you have a priority need?

Being in priority need is defined legally as someone who has a specific need. Examples of this might include:

  • Having dependent children.
  • Vulnerable as a result of illness, disability or mental health problems.
  • Vulnerable as a result of age, for example single people under the age of 25 or someone vulnerable due to old age.
  • A person or household fleeing violence or harassment, such as domestic abuse.

There are various categories of priority need and further information is available from the Homelessness and Advice Section. It should be noted that nationally priority need is to be phased out by December 2012. In Orkney, this requirement has already been addressed and priority need has been abolished.

Are you intentionally homeless?

A household may be deemed to be intentionally homeless if they deliberately did, or failed to do, something which resulted in them losing their home. For example this may apply where a household was evicted as a result of rent arrears, where they could afford to pay the rent. We must consider whether the accommodation you lost was reasonable for you to occupy.

Do you have a local connection with Orkney?

In order to establish a local connection with an area, you must:

  • Have lived in the area for at least 6 months out of the last 12 months or 3 years out of the last 5 years.
  • Have employment in the area.Have close relatives in the area.
  • Have other special reasons that the Council should take into consideration

You do not require a local connection if you are fleeing domestic abuse.

If you are found to be homeless, in priority need, unintentionally so and have a local connection the Council will have a duty to offer you a permanent home.

If you are found to be not in priority need, or are deemed to be intentionally homeless, the Council will have a duty to offer temporary accommodation, usually for a period of around 28 days.

If you do not have a local connection with Orkney then you may be entitled to permanent accommodation in another area - you should contact our Homelessness and Advice Section for further details.

You have the right to appeal any decision that is made on your homelessness application and you also have the right to appeal any offer of accommodation that is made to you. For further details please see the section on appeals.

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Is there any support available?

If we assess you as being in need of support to maintain your tenancy we will make a referral to our Housing Support Service. This service provides a wide variety of support that is all focused around helping you to keep your tenancy. The support is not about doing things for you, but about doing things with you to encourage independence. If you feel able to cope on your own the support will be reduced or removed as appropriate. This will only be done following discussion with you and you can ask for the support to be reintroduced at any time.

The type of support available includes the following:

Financial Support

Assistance with claiming any benefits you may be entitled to, this can be simply advising you where to claim benefits or your support worker can go to the Job Centre Plus with you and help you fill out any forms. A link to the Job Centre Plus’ website can be found under the Related Sites section of this page.

Assistance with budgeting, this includes help with repaying debts and simple budgeting skills to enable you to pay your bills etc each week.

Help sorting out your bills, such as rent, council tax, electricity, TV licence, shopping etc.

Helping you to find a solution to your rent arrears and stop you from losing your home.

If you require expert debt advice your Housing Support Worker can refer you to an appropriate agency, such as the Orkney Citizens Advice Bureau. A link to their website can be found under the Related Sites section of this page.

General Support

Your Housing Support Worker can help you to fill out forms and accompany to any official appointments you have, for example with the Job Centre Plus or Housing Services.

If you have any problems with your tenancy, such as repairs needing to be done, noise nuisance from your neighbours etc you can discuss this with your Housing Support Worker and they will help you to report this to your landlord.

Assistance with securing training or employment.

Help with social and leisure activities.

Help with shopping and errands.

Assistance with keeping your home safe and secure.

General counselling.

This is not an exhaustive list and the Housing Support Service can provide advice and assistance with many other areas. For more information please do not hesitate to contact us on 01856873535. The Support Leaflet is available through the Related Downloads section of this page or we can send you a copy by post.

If you are homeless and are offered temporary accommodation your Housing Officer will speak to you about making a referral to the Housing Support Service if appropriate. Many young people are provided with Housing Support as part of their initial tenancy agreement and then this support is reduced or withdrawn if the young person demonstrates that they can manage the tenancy on their own.

If you have a secure tenancy with Orkney Islands Council or Orkney Housing Association Limited and would like Housing Support please contact your landlord to discuss this further.

The law will soon change and we will require to ensure housing support is provided in certain circumstances including where a household is homeless/threatened with homelessness and needs support.

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What will happen at the homeless interview?

If you have nowhere to stay you will be provided with emergency accommodation at once and a homeless interview the same day or the next working day if it is outwith office hours. If you are homeless but have somewhere to stay temporarily you will be offered a homeless interview within three working days.

When you come in for your homeless interview you will be seen by a trained Housing Officer. The interview will be held in an interview room and your right to confidentiality will be respected.

The interview normally takes 30 – 45 minutes and we advise you to allow an hour for the appointment. The Housing Officer will ask you a number of questions in order to ensure we are fully aware of your circumstances. These questions will cover your personal details, finances, previous housing history and medical circumstances. It is important that you answer all of the questions honestly, as we will base our decision on the information that you give us.

It is helpful if you bring the following information to your appointment with you:

  • Evidence of your income, for example payslips or benefit award letters.
  • Evidence of children in the household, such as birth certificates or child benefit award letters.
  • Evidence of your national insurance number.Identification, such as a passport, driving licence, birth certificate, marriage certificate etc.
  • Copy of your tenancy agreement or notice to quit if you rent your property.

If you cannot provide any of the above information you should still attend your appointment.

Once all of the questions have been completed the Housing Officer will provide you with appropriate advice and inform you of the possible decisions we can make on your case. You will also be advised of your right to appeal any decision that we make.

You will be asked to sign a declaration stating that all the information you have given is correct. You will also be asked to sign a form giving us permission to contact any relevant agencies in order to investigate your case. If you do not want us to contact a particular agency you should discuss this with your Housing Officer.

You have the right to invite a friend or support worker to attend the interview with you. However please ensure that you are happy to discuss your situation in front of this person. You also have the right to an interview with a Housing Officer of the same sex as yourself.

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What type of accommodation will I get?

Temporary accommodation is normally a self contained house or flat, although bed and breakfast accommodation is occasionally used when no other option is available. All of our temporary properties are fully furnished, including bedding, crockery, cutlery etc.

The rental charge for temporary accommodation is higher than the average rent for a permanent property because they are furnished and decorated.

If Orkney Islands Council has a duty under the homelessness legislation to provide you with a permanent home then temporary accommodation will be provided until a suitable permanent property is offered to you.

If we do not have a long term duty to provide accommodation then you will only be offered temporary accommodation for a short period to allow you more time to find your own accommodation. You will be offered ongoing advice and assistance with looking for alternative accommodation.

For further information on temporary accommodation please see the attached documents within the related downloads section.

These leaflets can be downloaded through related downloads on the left of this web page and are available from the One Stop Shop Council Offices.

Alternatively you can contact our Homelessness and Advice Section by telephone on 01856873535 or via email.

If you are not happy with the offer of temporary accommodation you have received you have the right to appeal the reasonableness of the offer. Where you are not happy with the temporary accommodation offered, please discuss this with your Housing Officer.

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What about furniture?

Permanent tenancies with Orkney Islands Council and Orkney Housing Association Limited are normally unfurnished. This means that you must provide all your own furniture, including carpets and curtains.

If you are claiming benefits you should contact Job Centre Plus and ask if you are entitled to a grant from the Social Fund. The two most common types of assistance are the Community Care Grant and a Budgeting Loan. Links to their websites can be found in related sites on the left of this page.

If you are entitled, you should apply for all the items that you require and you will receive a letter notifying you which items you have been awarded. You may not receive all the items that you ask for or the full amount for each item. Any items granted become your property.

Assistance may also be available through local projects such as the Restart Orkney or the Starter Pack Scheme. Links to their websites can be found under related sites on the left of this page. For further information on these schemes please speak to your Housing Officer who can make a referral on your behalf.

For more information on the grants or loans that may be available to you please contact the Homelessness and Advice section on telephone: 01856873535.

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What about permanent accommodation?

If you are found to be homeless, in priority need and unintentionally homeless and have established a local connection with the Orkney Islands you will be entitled to permanent accommodation. Permanent accommodation can be provided in one of the following ways:

  • A secure Council tenancy.
  • A secure Housing Association tenancy.
  • An assured tenancy in the private sector.

Our Offer of Permanent Accommodation leaflet provides further information.

Under the homelessness legislation we are required to make one reasonable offer of permanent accommodation. If you do not wish to accept an offer we have made you should discuss your reasons for this with your Housing Officer. You are entitled to appeal the reasonableness of the offer. You should not refuse any offer until you have discussed this with your Housing Officer as turning down a reasonable offer might lead to you losing your emergency tenancy and/or your priority on the waiting list. Further information is provided in our Permanent Accommodation - Appeals leaflet which will be provided by your Housing Officer if you wish to appeal.

In order to be considered for permanent accommodation you must complete an application form once you have moved into temporary accommodation and this application will be backdated to the date of your homeless interview. Your Housing Officer will help you with this.

If you have been deemed to be homeless, in priority need, unintentionally homeless and have established a local connection with Orkney, you will be given a "Gold" priority pass under our Lettings Policy. This pass will date from the date on your decision letter.

If you have been deemed to be intentionally homeless you will not be awarded a priority pass under the Homelessness category.

You may choose up to four areas for permanent accommodation. Please ensure that you would be willing to accept an offer in all the areas that you choose. For example, if you would not consider accommodation outwith Kirkwall you should not put down any other area choices. An offer for any area you have chosen is likely to be considered as reasonable so you must ensure that you consider your area choices carefully. If your area choices change you can contact us to update your application at any time.

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Can I appeal the decision?

If you do not agree with our decision you have the right to appeal.  For example where it has been decided that:

  • You are not homeless.
  • You are not in a priority need group.
  • Your own actions have led to you being intentionally homeless.
  • You do not have a local connection with Orkney.

You can ask for the decision to be reviewed. You have 21 days from the date of postmark on our decision letter to ask us to review our decision. For details on how to review the decision please see our Homeless Appeals Process, available under related downloads on the left of this web page, a copy of this will have been sent to you with your decision letter. 

Alternatively you may wish to seek help from an independent agency such as Orkney Citizens Advice Bureau or Advocacy Orkney who can help you to make an appeal.

It is very important that you make it clear why you do not wish to accept the offer. If you appeal the reasonableness of the offer, the property will be held for you until a decision is made on the appeal. Our Temporary Accommodation - Appeals, available through the Related Downloads section of this page, should be completed. Your Housing Officer can help you with this. Alternatively you may wish to seek advice from an independent agency such as Orkney Citizens Advice Bureau or Advocacy Orkney who can help you to submit an appeal.

If you have any concerns or queries please contact the Homelessness and Advice Section for further information.

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