Annie, Team Leader at Two Saints, shares her experience of taking part in our accredited training pilot and tells how the course helped her to become a team leader. Delivered by Homeless Link and accredited by CIH Housing Academy, the Level 3 Providing Homelessness Services qualification is the first accredited course to cover specific training for supporting people experiencing homelessness. Applications for the Spring cohort are now open (deadline 17 February 2023).
I recently became a team leader across two services run by Two Saints in Winchester - one is a hostel-style accommodation, and the other is a Stage 2 accommodation with 12 self-contained flats. I feel that part of the reason that I was able to progress from my previous role as a homeless recovery worker to a team leader managing these services was that I recently gained an accredited qualification in providing homelessness services. Having a qualification behind me gave me the confidence to apply for the role and I was able to use the experience in my interview to support my application.
What is accredited training?
I started Homeless Link and CIH’s accredited training programme whilst I was working as a recovery worker to gain a wider knowledge of the homelessness sector and how I could best advocate for my clients within my role. Until this course, there was no specific certification for people working for homelessness services even though we need lots of different skills. This course is more geared to the specific (and broad range) of things we do in homelessness services.
One of the great things about the course is just taking yourself outside to be able to look in at your role and see that’s why we do what we do.
I was part of the pilot programme that started in October 2020. We did four full-day training courses on homelessness prevention and the related law, the role of the practitioners in supporting people, client involvement, and housing practice skills. After each training session, we had to submit a written assignment.
What did you learn and how has it changed the way you work?
I was keen to learn more about homelessness legislation and my responsibility as an advocate for the clients when working with local authorities and was pleased to see this was the first module. Taking part in the course has helped me understand that my role is not just the support element but I’m also a housing practitioner. Understanding things like rents, housing benefit, the housing market and the role of the social landlord has given me a lot of confidence so I now feel I can advocate for better for the clients.
I was pleased to learn about client involvement in the course and how this includes not only activities but also the design of the service and service delivery.
It has helped me to see how being involved in decisions concerning the service itself, clients are able to feel empowered and valued as individuals, building upon the strengths and skills they already have.
For example, I used to think that repairs and maintenance as just something we needed to do but I didn’t realise that it could also be the focus of client involvement. For example, if I reported something to my landlord and didn’t get an email back then I would chase it up, but that is exactly the sort of thing that some of our clients struggle with and what we’re supposed to be preparing people for, so engaging people around repairs is a practical way to involve people. Following the course, I’ve already started some initial planning sessions for a tenancy group for one of our services so tenants can advocate for the changes they want.
Part of my new role as a team leader is to apply for funding and applications and the course has also helped me to know what needs to be included and what I should be highlighting to be able to get funding for things like client involvement.
What makes the course different from other training?
Although we get lots of training in Two Saints, I really enjoyed this course because you feel connected to the wider sector – other charities, Housing Associations, Homeless Link, and the Chartered Institute of Housing. It’s all the networking as well as the learning and development.
I have been able to share the information I learnt on the course with colleagues and it has provided me with a lot of avenues to explore further, as well as knowledge of where to access reading materials and other sources of useful information.
I now feel confident in sharing my newly acquired knowledge with my managers and colleagues to make the overall service more effective for the clients we support, which for me, is the end game.
Who would you recommend it to?
I would really recommend it to other people working in homelessness support services, I think that it is very worthwhile doing. As a team leader now, there is a support worker that I’ve got in mind that loves learning so as it’s rolling out, I want to get her to apply for the course.