There is no national data source that covers non statutory homeless people at all stages of their journey, from living on the streets to moving into a home.
It is often thought that client recording systems could yield powerful and valuable data but this has never been tested. Homeless Link has received funding for three years from the Big Lottery Fund to collate, combine and analyse client recording data from 6 partners using In-Form and to report on the findings. The aim is to see if client recording data can be used to inform policy and practice.
In partnership with Pro Bono Economics, and building on our Critical Mass research, we have published ‘What’s It Worth?’ – a guide to financial savings analysis and how it can be used by homelessness services in a robust way.
We conducted a literature review at the beginning of the project to give us an overview of what we know about homelessness. The literature review goes into detail on the history of homelessness data, existing data sources in the UK as well as Europe, and looks at how other sectors use operational data and the perceived benefits and challenges. In addition, the review covers information on current funding streams and data monitoring requirements in the homelessness sector, and includes detailed profiles of the seven partner organisations for the Critical Mass project. To ensure that the views of all members are considered in this project, a survey was conducted which explored the current use and collection of data in services, barriers to analysis and use, and how such services could be supported to ensure the information they hold on their clients can be used effectively. The findings of this initial survey are also described in the review.
We set ourselves the following research questions, initially using data from 2005-2009, and repeated for 2008-2012 data in our final report:
The Interim Report outlines how we addressed these questions and looks at the quality of the data.
Our Final Report concludes the project and shows how data quality has improved.
As a part of the first year of Critical Mass we looked at the ethical and legal considerations of using operational data for national research purposes. There has been no formal ethical oversight or guidelines for homelessness organisations who wish to explore how the personal data they gather through supporting clients could be used for research purposes.
The Ethics Report: 'From Private to Public' is a research report which was informed by consultations with clients and staff of homelessness services, current consent and confidentiality practices in services, legal responsibilities, ethical frameworks, and practice in analogous sectors and environments.
The practical aspects of informing clients, engaging frontline staff, managing consent processes, developing policy and procedures and anonymising data are covered in the Ethics tools section in the Critical Mass Toolkit.
What's it worth?