By Daniel Allman, Greater Manchester Housing First
Housing First comes with an open-ended offer of support. But at different stages their personal journeys, residents might require an alternative approach. Within Greater Manchester Housing First to date, we have only seen a small number of people choose to positively move away from our support because they feel they no longer require it. However, a larger number have transitioned into alternative pathways that better suit their current support needs and recovery journeys.
Our ultimate aim for people supported by Housing First is integration into the community and to reach a point in their recovery where they decide they no longer need such intensive support. With that said, there is often some trepidation - from the individuals and frontline workers - around what moving away from our support actually looks like.
In the programme’s fourth and fifth years, we are expecting to see more people move towards what is widely termed ‘graduation’ from the service. As such it is important for us to issue guidance to our frontline teams to support them in discussions with the residents around positive transitions away from the service. Equally it is important to recognise that support is individualised, and each person’s journey will be unique. This is why the new Managing Transitions in Housing First guidance developed by Homeless Link is so welcome.
We recently held a transitions workshop day, bringing together frontline workers, members of our co-production panel and people currently supported by our service, to develop our approach to transitions in Greater Manchester. The Managing Transitions guidance has been central to our discussions and using this, live case examples and the voices of our residents and frontline workers, we are currently developing our Transitions Framework. This builds on Homeless Link’s excellent work and will provide some structure and understanding on what moving away from our support might look like for people on our programme and our delivery teams.
Two clear messages from the people we support came out of the workshop. First of these was the need for a way of trialling a reduced level of support for a period of time. Helpfully, Homeless Link’s guidance has case studies from other Housing First services that demonstrate different ways of reducing support.
Second was that they wanted a way to return to Housing First support should they have the need in the future, which again links to the well-known fact that recovery journeys are not linear, and levels of support needed will fluctuate. We have seen this demonstrated recently by a person who was settled in their flat and recognised that they had relatively low support needs so requested to move away from Housing First support, until several de-stabilising events caused them to reach out to their worker for support and a potential relocation.
Clearly, we’ve reached a point where services should be thinking proactively about managing transitions – and I would recommend using the new guidance as a starting point. For new Housing First services, it will prompt and support the development of approaches to moving away from their service, which can be overlooked due to the focus on intense support. For existing services, the guidance provides useful tools and practice examples that enable you to sense check your own approaches and learn effective transitions support methods from other providers across England.