Would a broader focus on support help make the biggest difference for people in 2015?

Thursday, 4 September 2014 - 4:29pm

While the help that people receive in homelessness services remains as important as ever, a strong theme from our pre-election consultation is the need for an understanding of support which stretches beyond people’s time in supported accommodation.

Last month we heard about what our members have said so far on the topic of employment and its potential role in the next government’s efforts to end homelessness. This week in The Difference 2015 we turn our attention to the subject of support and what you believe could be done to improve it.

The term support is commonly associated with the work carried out with people on a day-to-day basis during their time in services. However, although this certainly covers some of what we mean by support, the suggestions we have received from our members, including our Expert Advisory Panel and Regional Champion’s Network, reflect a much broader concept of the type of support needed to address someone's homelessness, and the asks for government to help put this in place.  

Many of you call for innovation. The current support system has undoubtedly improved the lives of many people who have required its help. Yet, from the debates we have had, it is clear that there is a real desire to think differently about support, especially its ability to acknowledge the complexity of people’s individual circumstances.

A few of your ideas:

  • Better information and advice services for people who are homeless.
  • Better joint working processes and commissioning models for people with multiple needs.
  • More support for people who have moved into independent accommodation, including peer led support.

The role that information and advice services can play in people’s early search for support has been at the heart of many of our discussions with people who have had direct experience of homelessness. There is a clear frustration at the lack of effective support surrounding things like housing options and benefit sanctions, and how this can often lead to an increase in people’s needs.

One of the clearest themes to emerge from our regional membership summits was a desire for better joint working, and improved and integrated commissioning processes. In particular, you highlighted the difficulties associated with securing referrals to other specialist services, specifically mental health and drug and alcohol services. This was especially difficult for people with low level multiple needs who were not yet at the point of crisis.   

During July and August, the Department of Health ran a consultation on the draft statutory guidance for the new Care Act (2014). The guidance contains a range of suggestions on how local authorities could improve their joint working and commissioning processes in relation to adult social care, including:

  • the need for more detailed assessments involving specialist partners to establish the full extent of a person’s needs;
  • greater integration between local authority departments and external partners, including the third sector; and
  • joint commissioning strategies, such as joint funding, pooled budgets, lead commissioning and collaborative commissioning.

Another prominent theme to emerge from our discussions with members was how sharply support drops off once people have left homelessness services. While moving into independent accommodation can represent a real achievement, it can also be extremely challenging.

Members reported concerns that much of the support on offer did not go far enough to ensure that people were settled and sustained in their new environments, and that they were often forced to re-present as homeless if something went wrong with their tenancy.   

These feelings were echoed by members of our Expert Advisory Panel and Regional Champions Network, who reported struggling with feelings of isolation and difficulties in knowing exactly what was expected of them by landlords and utilities companies.   

As a result, there was a desire to explore innovative ways to support people’s transition between different types of accommodation, specifically the move from supported accommodation to the private rented sector.   

Some of you have called for models such as Housing First, which provides independent accommodation as the first, rather than last, step in someone’s support journey. This approach can often mean there is no need for someone to leave their housing once their support comes to an end, if it comes to an end at all.

From all that we have heard, it is clear that you are not simply satisfied to improve the existing support system. You're keen to look outside the box and explore fresh ideas and solutions. 

Care Act Statutory Guidance response

Homeless Link's response to the Department of Health's consultation on the draft statutory guidance for the introduction of the Care Act 2014.