Everyone Home Collective – Everyone push!

by Martin Gavin

Have you ever watched someone struggle to push a car that’s broken down, edging forward an inch at a time trying to get the vehicle to the side of the road? Then someone else begins to push, followed by another couple of helpful passers-by and quickly the vehicle is rolling forward.

Everyone Home collective came together in May 2020 in response to the pandemic with a few people who knew one another. Membership is now 37 organisations and individuals, all pushing in the same direction. At the time it provided momentum and mutual support in response to a crisis and was a space for senior leaders in the homelessness sector and leading academics in the field to focus on the issues amid the intense noise of the initial reaction to Covid.

More than 18 months later, the Everyone Home collective has set out priorities for tackling the biggest issues in homelessness coming up, with a ‘Platform for Change 2022’. It builds on successful measures to address homelessness during the pandemic and consolidates the ‘Ask About Housing’ message developed last year, aimed at anyone who comes into regular contact with individuals and families, from GPs and teachers to neighbours or friends.

For me, being involved in the Everyone Home collective has been inspiring and sometimes surprising. Witnessing the impact and sustainable change that has come about through genuine collaboration is refreshing – it’s a lively, friendly and challenging environment where some of the biggest and smallest teams work collectively, along with individual members, with scale and specialism valued equally.

Over the summer in 2020, as we all tried to make sense of how the first global pandemic in a century would affect our own objectives and goals, it was clear that no one organisation could ensure homelessness remained high on the agenda of local and national government with competing and urgent priorities vying for resources and attention.

The collective’s first move was to identify three urgent priorities. These are: more homes for good health; no return to rough sleeping; no evictions into homelessness. The collective now meets less frequently but still regularly – providing a platform to Scottish Government, local authorities and housing associations to implement shared priorities to end homelessness.

These measures remain central to ending homelessness for good and still underpin the platform for change in 2022 – setting out what works and what matters along with the change that’s needed over the coming 12 months and the specific role that the Everyone Home collective will contribute. Among the measures are: 

‘Ask About Housing’ professional and public perceptions programme to support implementation of new duties to prevent homelessness

commissioning expert support to scope the potential of high-value social investment to increase housing supply in targeted areas

a route-map on a role for the private rented sector to increase housing capacity and options to prevent and respond to homelessness

securing a strategic funding partnership to mobilise Fair Way Scotland and bring about an end to destitution among people with no recourse to public funds. 

We have all benefitted as individuals and organisations from being part of Everyone Home and I’ve learned a lot about what real collaboration looks like. Out of adversity, we’ve seen huge strides forward in dealing with the systemic issues that lead to homelessness. For me, the collective captures the soul of this sector perfectly.

Respected Colleague Peter Anderson retires

Peter Anderson is Training Lead at Homeless Network Scotland, and a well know figure in the sector for his work on addiction, Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE) and for delivering top quality training throughout Scotland. Peter retires in December after more than 30 years working in homelessness and related fields. We wish Peter lots of happiness in his retirement and a huge thanks for his work with Homeless Network Scotland.

Below are Peter’s thoughts on how we can all ensure our work is making a difference.

Working for Homeless Network Scotland I was often asked, “We all know the work you do, but what defines you?” As this is an agile, responsive organisation, our work wide reaching and influencing to help end homelessness in Scotland, it can be a challenge to pin that down. Travelling to work on the bus I was reflecting on our role as an assay of knowledge, research and solutions to homelessness when, from the small circle I had cleared in the steamed-up bus window, I saw a poster for a new exhibition in the National Museum of Scotland.

The Galloway Hoard comprises around 100 gold and silver objects from the Viking Age discovered in 2014. Found by a metal detectorist it has been described as, ‘one of the most significant Viking hoards ever found in Scotland’. When excavated it was found to be a varied collection of jewellery from the Viking world, Anglo-Saxon England and elsewhere in Europe dating to the mid-9th or -10th-Century.

The hoard consists of a variety of gold and silver objects including armbands, a Christian cross, brooches, ingots and what is possibly the largest silver Carolingian pot ever discovered. Of course a visit was planned. Among the wonderful exhibits the guides stopped alongside was a large gold decorated pendant, within this frame nested a strange, perfectly shaped piece of black schist. The guides explained schist is common and would not be accorded the status of a gemstone save for its function as a “Touchstone”.

The guide explained the meaning, which was confirmed when a clasp on the pendant released the schist and subsequent analysis of the stone showed traces of gold and other precious metals, a touchstone therefore was used to assay precious metal – gold being malleable leaves a streak on the schist and the greater the streak the purer the gold.

Later online I gazed at the touchstone, not just at its beauty but the ingenuity of our ancestors. What is the equivalent of Touchstones in what we do, whether policy driven or front-line? How do we assay whether our work is 24 Carat or base metal? Too often we see reports on what people have done, how they do it and why, but often no mention of the impact; what has changed as a result?

Applying virtual touchstones to our work at Homeless Network Scotland has helped identify what works and what matters, while measuring the quality of the outcomes for people. We produce regular Impact reports capturing activity and outcomes and everyone can introduce Touchstones into their work triggered by changes in performance, complaints, a ceiling on evictions for example leading to quick assessments and effective action.

Touchstones at higher levels, front line, long term, and short-term can assay and illuminate our work and help us keep on a true north. Lessons from a visit back in time 1000 years, and an exhibition we should all see to help put recent events into perspective.

Scottish Government Budget 2022-23

The Scottish Government’s Budget for 2022 to 2023 sets out the direct spend on homelessness; £10 million is being made available from the Ending Homelessness Together fund including additional funding for rapid rehousing transition plans. The £23.5 million homelessness support fund to local authorities is being maintained. More detail on the homelessness and housing content below.

  • The £10 million being made available from the Ending Homelessness Together fund is part of the overall investment of £100 million between 2018-19 and 2025-26.  The 2022-23 allocation for homelessness includes further funding for rapid rehousing transition plans, with a key focus on supporting delivery of the national Housing First approach.
  • Scottish Government remain committed to delivering 110,000 affordable homes, 70% for social rent, by 2032.  Total investment in the Affordable Housing Supply Programme is maintained at 2021-22 levels at £831 million.
  • Rented sector reform work will be kick-started with a £2.75 million investment to progress the Rented Sector Strategy, with a focus on quality, affordability and fairness in private and social rent.
  • A further £80 million is being made available for discretionary housing payments to help people meet housing costs and mitigate the bedroom tax in full.

Other relevant announcements

  • Chapter 1 sets out the spending priorities with a focus on tackling inequalities – some of the key points are noted here: 
    • Investing £197 million in the Scottish Child Payment – doubling it to £20 per week from April 2022 and expanding eligibility to children aged 6-15 from December 2022. 
    • A new public sector pay policy underlines that national mission to tackle poverty by introducing a public sector wage floor of £10.50 per hour from April 2022, with additional funding for Local Government to ensure this applies to adult social care workers in commissioned services.
    • The Protecting the Scottish Welfare Fund with £41 million. 
    • Scottish Government has allocated the 2022-23 budget using a human rights-based approach, which means work continues on the new multi-treaty Human Rights Bill, to be introduced this parliamentary term incorporating the right to adequate housing.

Ruth Whatling joins Homeless Network Scotland

Homeless Network Scotland welcomes Ruth Whatling to our Leadership Team this week in the role of Head of Policy & Equality, a newly created post that speaks to a growing awareness and importance placed on equality considerations in ending homelessness in Scotland.

Ruth joins Homelessness Network Scotland on a two-year secondment from the Scottish Government’s Homelessness Team and with two decades of public sector experience including equality, policy and public administration roles in the Civil Service.

Originally from near Reading in Berkshire, with close family connections to Edinburgh, Ruth trained as a nurse in Hull before working in nursing in London then later relocating to Scotland.

Ruth says: “Having seen the work of Homeless Network Scotland from an external perspective, I am excited to see up close the collaborative way of working that the organisation is known and respected for – finding a way through those tough, obstinate problems that get in the way of what works. When interacting as a civil servant there is often a feeling that a power imbalance exists, whether real or perceived. Engaging with our membership and partners at eye-level is something I am really looking forward to.

“One of the attributes Homeless Network Scotland possesses is credibility and trust, a reputation for delivering that incentivises partner organisations and others to engage and participate to find solutions. The leading role of lived experience in informing and guiding Homeless Network Scotland’s work also impressed me. It is clear that expertise by experience sits at the heart of everything we do in a really meaningful way.”

Ruth is going to be actively involved in the work to scale up Housing First in Scotland, the first part of the UK to roll out the approach as a national policy. Starting in the New Year a check-up process will support local authorities to embed the policy in their Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans.

Building on the Prevention Review Group report and new public sector prevention duties another focus will be the increasingly high-profile prevention agenda, which is a key strand of work for Homeless Network Scotland, local authorities and third sector organisations. “Prevention and equality share a characteristic, both must be applied while also doing the day job,” says Ruth. “We can’t switch to real equality overnight. Despite a robust legislative framework, attitudes must change; practice must adapt and improve. Similarly, prioritising prevention rather than responding to a problem after it has happened is a process. Frontline workers must continue to respond while simultaneously shifting focus to preventing homelessness before it starts. Part of our role is to support the great work already underway across the country by sharing learning and facilitating effective and meaningful partnerships.”

A key focus for Ruth is equality. Ruth said: “I am looking forward to supporting local authorities and partners understand what’s needed and what can be achieved when we all pull in one direction. The legislation is there, and part of the challenge is about illustrating what we mean by equality – what it looks like. We all have a role in breaking the ‘big’ issue down into smaller, manageable chunks that really mean something to people in ordinary workplace settings – it is not an abstract idea. True equality is about understanding people’s needs as an individual and having a vision of how to meet those needs in the way we provide services and address disadvantage.”

The future for Shared Spaces

Claire Frew, Homeless Network Scotland

Since I joined the sector in 2004, congregate supported accommodation has played a big part in our common responses to homelessness. While some of the provision has changed over time, questions about its purpose as a response to homelessness, as well as its advantages and disadvantages, have remained. The policy shift to a nationwide focus on Rapid Rehousing and Housing First is the first time I really remember fundamental questions being asked about what we are trying to accomplish.

This new policy agenda has seen our efforts focused firmly on providing people with their own safe, secure homes as quickly as possible. And through Housing First this includes people who experience homelessness alongside trauma, mental ill health, and substance misuse; people who might otherwise have been spending time, sometimes long periods of time, in supported accommodation. As we continue to deliver rapid access to mainstream housing and, based on Housing First principles we reject the belief that people need to spend time in supported accommodation to become ‘housing-ready’, we were pleased to bring the sector together to think through what we offer to the small number of people whose needs cannot be met in mainstream housing, even with Housing First support.

The Shared Spaces research project offered an opportunity for us to start asking some big and challenging questions, knowing that while we might not always be able to answer them definitively, that we’d at least move a step forward. The research fieldwork took place during 2021 and at Homeless Network Scotland we offered as many opportunities as we could for people to come together to ask questions and share their views. As always, the position we have reached today is stronger because of the sheer number of people who took the time to get involved.

So what did the research find?

That the common circumstances where mainstream housing may not be possible or preferable are when people have a range of overlapping needs such as mental ill health, physical or learning disability, and experience of criminal justice. This is linked to the recent interim evaluation of Scotland’s Housing First Pathfinder which found that Housing First is not successful for people who lack the capacity to understand the terms of tenancy agreements, people who have very high healthcare needs, and people who don’t want Housing First.

That key features of supported housing include that it is self-contained, maximises security of tenure as a settled rather than temporary housing option, has a culture of rights and independence, offers skilled and flexible support, is delivered in a core & cluster model, is small, and is integrated in the community

That in terms of scale it is estimated that between 2% and 5% of people assessed as homeless would benefit from this type of settled housing option. This would be equivalent to 550 to 1400 people nationally.

In response to the research findings, our next task is to develop a transformation programme that moves us away from shared, supported accommodation to meet temporary accommodation duties, toward health and social care led supported housing as a settled housing option for a small number of people using homelessness services who need or want long term care on-site.

This will require significant thinking about the role of Health and Social Care Partnerships, resources, and commissioning. But it’s the next part of the transition to rapid rehousing that we look forward to completing.