In our latest spotlight on the work of Homeless Link’s Partnership Managers, Sirea Jabar talks about her work across the North of England to make local partnerships better. Sirea is the Partnership Manager for Yorkshire & Humber, North East, Lancashire & Cumbria at Homeless Link.
As the Partnership Manager covering a large part of the North of England for Homeless Link, I have the privilege of being able to meet and work with some amazing, creative people who are passionate about ending homelessness.
My focus is on bringing services together and creating opportunities for people to turn that passion and creativeness into strategic and operational solutions to local challenges. At Homeless Link, we believe that everyone has the right to their own home and receive the support to help them keep it.
One of the things I hear often across all areas and disciplines is that “partnerships could be better”! Even where there are examples of good partnership working, there can still be gaps. My role is to support in bridging those gaps.
What makes a good partnership?
Along with my other Partnerships team colleagues, I am currently in the process of piloting a ‘partnership self-assessment framework and toolkit’ across 12 local authority areas. The toolkit aims to support areas in assessing the strengths and effectiveness of their local partnerships. One of the key markers for good partnerships, set within the framework, is to have in place an active homelessness forum. Each local area should have a homelessness forum. This is where partners from a cross section of organisations can meet, share information and influence local strategy, funding and new initiatives. It is also an opportunity to connect and partner with other organisations and share good practice. I have recently supported Preston City in co-developing a Homelessness Forum Preston were keen to resurrect the homelessness forum which had gradually disintegrated during the pandemic. As we started to emerge from the world of panic, isolation and fear, Preston services were absolutely ready and raring to reconnect! I supported this amazing group of passionate individuals from a cross section of organisations to create a strong collective vision for the new partnership forum.
For a homelessness forum to have a strong impact, it would need to be rooted with a shared vision of all partners. It should be independent, with all partners taking ownership and accountability. A direct link to key strategic forums is crucial to ensuring that the views of the partnership are being reflected within local strategy. In some instances, many partnership forums can often fall in to a culture of where one or two dominant organisations are steering the agenda, and over a period of time this can become the norm and people can lose the sense of ownership. Therefore, it is necessary to review the terms of reference on a regular basis, ensure an annual election for a new chair takes place and review the overall impact that the forum is having.
My advice to any organisation who would like to see the creation of a homelessness forum, is to talk to a few other organisations including the local authority homelessness lead and initiate a conversation about how you can create a forum.
Throughout my twenty-five year career, I have come to realise that the key to achieving great outcomes for people is through maintaining strong connections with a wide range of partners and stakeholders. No service is an island. We cannot be everything to everyone. We need to work collaboratively with partners big and small, to ensure that people who require help will receive the right support that they need.