Homeless Link’s Picture of Housing First in England 2020 research outlines a remarkable growth in Housing First provision across the country - a tripling in the number of services since 2017 serving six times more people facing multiple disadvantage.
Housing First pilots interim evaluation report published
The Housing First pilots were established following the commitment of £28million in the 2017 Autumn budget and operate across the Greater Manchester, Liverpool and West Midlands Combined Authority regional areas. The report confirms that as of September 2019 a total of 326 people had been recruited to these Housing First services, with a total of 105 people housed.
There is a varied picture of housing across the three combined-authority areas, and although there has been a commitment from housing providers to support delivery, a significant challenge remains in securing suitable and affordable accommodation at scale, with particular concern around the availability of one-bedroom properties.
It is encouraging to note that, across all areas, medium to high fidelity to the Housing First Principles is being achieved, with no concerns about low fidelity practice. However, it remains crucial that choice and control over housing is central to the service, and the report indicates that there is a need to involve the Private Rented Sector going forward to ensure housing supply is sufficient.
As highlighted at Homeless Link’s Housing First conference (3-4 Dec 2020), partnerships are key to the success of a Housing First service, and the pilot areas are seeing some positive progress on bringing external partners on board, such as the Department of Work and Pensions. Although there is positive work happening at a strategic level, however, like many other Housing First services, there are significant challenges in engaging mental health colleagues at an operational level.
The theme of recruitment is central to the report, with some very encouraging examples from each area, including the need to focus on values-based assessments, the meaningful involvement of people with lived experience and, interestingly, the need to recruit staff from non-traditional sectors, which reinforces the importance of cross-sector working in the successful delivery of Housing First.
The key learning points from this interim evaluation, include:
- The need for time to successfully work at scale: building relationships across strategic and operational partners and with people experiencing multiple disadvantage;
- The importance of commitment at the highest possible level to support successful implementation and delivery;
- Recruitment of the right staff is essential;
- The need from the outset to establish relationships with housing providers, including PRS;
- We must consider capacity and what can be delivered ‘in-house’ and what should be commissioned out;
- The meaningful involvement of people with lived experience should be central to the service.
As we move into 2021, there are key recommendations for both MHCLG and the pilot areas to consider, primarily sustainability and learning. Housing First is often accused of being the current ‘buzz word’ but we see from the three pilots and over 80 other Housing First services across England, that a movement is now established and growing, providing effective support for hundreds of people experiencing multiple disadvantage.
We must not lose sight of the excellent progress made to date, nor must we become complacent. There is still much work to do to ensure that existing support can continue in line with the Principles, for as long as it is needed, and that the approach can be made available to thousands of people across the country who are still unable to access the Housing First support they need. Housing First is, and will remain, part of the solution to end homelessness and we look forward to learning with the pilots as we move into a new year.
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Housing First England lead
Alex is a Senior National Practice Development Project Manager leading Housing First England.
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