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Chris Dutton, the London Strategic Lead for London PLUS at Homeless Link, gives us an insight into the work of the London PLUS project.

It’s the time of year where services are setting budgets for April, set against a wider environment where money is short, and funding is stretched. Inevitably this means that difficult decisions are being made to ensure that delivery can be optimised for the people accessing services. Often this can mean that the basics are maintained but the “nice to have” parts of homelessness services are overlooked due to prioritising ongoing support being available.

This is where our work at London PLUS can be beneficial to both the statutory and voluntary sector working in homelessness in London. We are a partnership between Homeless Link and Shelter, funded as part of the London Councils Grants Programme 2022-26. Our aim is to support the work of housing and homelessness organisations and professionals to improve the response to homelessness in London.

What we do

As a second-tier support service we provide; training, webinars, one-to-one advice, broker relationships, sharing of good practice and are really keen to speak to charities and local authorities across London to see where we can support development of their services. As we are externally funded this is essentially a free service to those we work with, and where I see our real value being at a time of uncertainty.

From attending forums across London and speaking to different services we are acutely aware of the difficulty in funding suitable training. Part of our work is providing fully funded training to individuals which is delivered by Shelter or Homeless Link, and we are really keen to support a breadth or organisations across London but especially smaller organisations and allied services where funding is difficult to justify spend on training.

London PLUS is also keen to share opportunities for future funding with services and we do so regularly via our newsletter and via webinars such as previous ones looking at the do’s and don’ts of grant applications. Part of this is also trying to understand what innovative practice is being delivered across London and how it can be shared with other services or funders so that the effective work you are doing can be better understood to the benefit of those that need the support. We are keen to hear from people working in the sector who feel that their work should be shared more widely and would love to coordinate the dissemination of this across the wider sector.

Supporting local authorities

Last year we worked with one specific Local Authority to undertake a consultation for their new Homelessness Prevention Strategy. This consisted of designing the process catered to their need with their Head of Housing Options and colleagues, for which it was paramount that we aligned the design with national strategy but considering a local context.

We undertook in-person consultations with internal staff, external partners surveyed customers. Ideally we would have undertaken in-person consultations with customers as well but due to specific time pressures this was not possible. These events took the form of exploring 5 key areas and considering what works well currently and what could be improved, as well as looking at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

The 5 key areas were:

  • Prevention
  • Intervention
  • Outcomes
  • Recovery
  • Partnership Working

Alongside these consultations we undertook desk-based research of current processes and local data and our partners at Shelter spent 2 days completing staff observations in the Housing Needs department.

Gathering all this information, both quantitative and qualitative, we produced a thorough recommendations report which will form a base for the new Homelessness Prevention Strategy.

Supporting voluntary organisations

At London PLUS we are currently supporting a third sector organisation to review their outreach practice, how they design the service they deliver but also how they work in partnership with their local authority. Again, this will consist of supporting by undertaking some desk-based research, and viewing the practice in person. Combined with supporting the development of further partnership working with the local authority.

Homeless Link’s national Practice Development Team have recently released new Principles for Rough Sleeping Outreach which will feed into our work with this specific organisation enabling us at London PLUS to support the implementation of theory into practice.

How we can help

As we approach the half-way point of our funding we are reflecting on where we have had an impact so far and where can have further reach. We would love to reach more medium and smaller sized voluntary sector organisation and allied services who are working with people experiencing homelessness.

As well as accessing our training and webinars, please do get in contact with our team if you:

  • would like to discuss what is happening in your service
  • would like support as a critical friend or to discuss 121 support
  • would like to access good practice from other areas nationally
  • would benefit from us brokering relationships with other services or partners
  • would like general advice to develop your service

Find out more about our work and sign-up for our newsletter and get in touch if you have any questions.