Homeless Network Scotland statement on the disbanding of the Glasgow Alliance to End Homelessness

Homeless Network Scotland is saddened to learn Glasgow Alliance to End Homelessness has disbanded. This is a painful time for colleagues who have worked so hard and with such ambition to end homelessness in the city and change the story around homelessness.

The Alliance and Glasgow City Health & Social Care Partnership can stand tall having tested a truly collective approach that put people who have been homeless at the centre of decision making. Acknowledging the impossible challenges wrought by the pandemic and taking this difficult decision is equally courageous. The learning must be reviewed and shared so that progress can be made.

This is a hard knock for members of GHIFT, the platform for people with lived experience of homelessness who are supported by Homeless Network Scotland. They have put their heart and soul into exploring ambitious new ways to deliver services and achieve systemic change, driven by their invaluable first-hand insight.

But GHIFT will continue to inform and influence the Health & Social Care Partnership’s homeless strategy and delivery. Homeless Network Scotland will continue to provide strategic partnership and support to both bodies and create opportunities for everyone in the third sector to work together in tackling homelessness.

We will build on the knowledge and connections that flourished through the Alliance to pursue our shared ambitions. There is still much work to be done to end homelessness in Glasgow and Scotland – in the face of the cost of living crisis and rising homelessness this has never been more important.

Read the statement from Glasgow Alliance to End Homelessness

Martin and Mark from GHIFT reflect on being part of the Alliance. Read their blog here. [pdf]

The Housing Minister meets All in for Change

Members of All in for Change were delighted to be invited to meet new Housing Minister Paul McLennan this month. Having built positive working relationships with his predecessors, the team were clear that this was to be the first of many conversations, and focused on building a relationship that would have impact.

To bring the Minister up to speed on the work of All in for Change, the team shared the key messages from the last national roadshow, ‘Taking the Temperature’. The team informed the Minister that people are seeing progress, despite increasing pressure on the system due to housing challenges, covid recovery and the cost of living crisis.

The team had four asks to close the implementation gap between our progressive homelessness policy and the reality of homelessness services on the ground:

  1. Put people first by ensuring services are person-led, designed to meet the needs of people who are accessing support rather than designed to meet the needs of the systems or the organisations that work in the system.
  2. Less competitive tendering with a shift towards ethical commissioning models that encourage partnership between services. Longer funding cycles will allow longer contracts, more stability for practitioners and better relationships with the people they support.
  3. Better, fairer housing with more innovative approaches to increase the supply of good quality social housing and to create real choice in where people can live and build a good life. This would alleviate the pressure on temporary accommodation, meaning fewer transitions for people and a faster resolution to their experience of homelessness.
  4. Support for frontline workers because to provide quality services we need practitioners who are supported and empowered. This includes paying good wages, providing training, encouraging reflective practice, making people feel part of a team. More investment in staff wellbeing, keeping caseloads low to prevent burnout.

The Minister welcomed these messages “from the ground” and encouraged the team to continue bringing life to these issues through their personal and professional testimony. It was clear from the very beginning that the Minister shares the same values as the Change Team, he wants to understand what’s happening in reality as well as in policy and legislation. The Change Team are the perfect mechanism for this information to flow from communities back to the Minister, which is an exciting opportunity for both parties.

Going forward, the Change Team have highlighted four areas of focus and shared these with the Minister to get his take:

  • Homelessness prevention as a focus given the new prevention duties on public bodies to Ask & Act, and how those without a duty can strengthen efforts to prevent homelessness closer to home, in communities.
  • The team want to focus energy on influencing across the country to improve the quality and reduce the scale and use of temporary accommodation in Scotland.
  • In order to reduce the use of temporary accommodation we need increased housing supply, particularly in areas where there is significant housing pressure.
  • And encompassing all of the above, the team will be focusing on the No Wrong Door concept, advocating for stronger coordinated working between different services, with clearer pathways for those most at risk and no one turned away.

It seems that All in for Change and the Housing Minister are very much on the same page, with Minister McLennan sharing details of his future plans, including setting up a cross-ministerial oversight group which will be a strong catalyst for creating a system with no wrong door.

If the aim going into this meeting was to begin a positive relationship, the number of smiling faces at the end of the meeting would indicate a success! The Minister has asked to come back to All in for Change in a few weeks time to continue pushing forward towards the reality set out in the Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan.

Watch this space.

Blog: Amanda and David – focus on what works to drive change

Two Change Leads from All in for Change, Amanda Rutherford and David Pentland, share their reflections on facilitating the national roadshow.  

In helping to produce ‘Taking the Temperature’, the latest report from the All in for Change roadshow, we held workshops and focus groups across Scotland to find out more about the current reality of the homelessness system. We were delighted to engage with more than 100 people working in homelessness and using homelessness services and we owe our heartfelt thanks to those who took the time to come along and share their views on working or being cared for in many different homelessness settings.  

What was apparent in every conversation was a mixed bag of participants with lots of sectors represented and common themes emerged when we talked about challenges, such as the well-known challenge frontline workers and people experiencing homelessness face when services don’t interact with each other. A particular example that we heard in many different places was the lack of connection between mental health, addiction, and homelessness services.  

We also made sure to hear about the good stuff – the more we talked with different people, in different places, the more we learned about the brilliant work currently taking place.  

Whether that’s Aberdeenshire’s use of remote appointments to remove barriers to people making homelessness applications, or South Ayrshire’s approach to providing wrap-around support in Housing First, we found examples of inspirational work taking place all over Scotland. 

In Edinburgh, Cyrenians are running a hospital in-reach programme with the NHS to help patients and staff navigate the homelessness system and prevent discharge into homelessness, while in Kilmarnock, a wellbeing unit within the police is focusing on early intervention, to tackle the root causes of homelessness. 

The list could go on and on – there just isn’t space to cover them all in one blog. But while there are countless examples of good practice taking place at present, it is also clear that many of these projects do not get the recognition they deserve. That means, all too often, good practice in one area is not replicated in another.  

In that context, it is vital we coordinate – that we work together, to learn from each other – to move towards more joined up services, where good practice in one area inspires the same quality of delivery in another. It is also vital that people with experience of homelessness drive this change. 

Because listening to people with experience of the homelessness system can never be an after-thought. People with lived experience of homelessness, and those with expertise from delivering frontline services, must play a central role in mobilising plans for ending homelessness.  

The homelessness system needs to work for the people who need it. That means we need to make services more streamlined, with better links between different sectors – such as health, justice and housing – as well. 

If we do that, we can build a system that works for everyone. 

The full Taking the Temperature report can be found here.  

All in for Change are recruiting new members! If you want to be part of this team, using your experience to collaborate with decision-makers and engaging with people using and providing services, get in touch for an application pack – changeteam@homelessnetwork.scot  

Blog: Pedro Cameron – equal connections

Read this reflection from Change Lead Pedro Cameron on joining the All in for Change Team, the importance of partnership working and his priorities as a Change Lead. 

As Engagement Lead for the Homeless Housing Options Scotland (HHOS) project, it’s important for me to make sure that me and my project are connecting with the sector as far and wide as possible. Partnership working, and joined up approaches are, in my view, essential to delivering effective homelessness services. Another crucial thread to this is the input and participation of those with lived experience. All In For Change is a prime example of how this approach can work. 

I have worked for Housing Options Scotland for over 7 years now, and in 2021 we launched our HHOS project – marking a move from our usual housing advice service into one that can offer emergency advice and support to disabled people, older people and members of the Armed Forces community who find themselves in housing crisis.  

During my first two years working on HHOS, I became more and more aware of the work that All In For Change was doing through various online events, and through talking to people involved, and I was always impressed by the knowledge and wisdom shared by its members. I eventually attended in person one of the All In For Change Roadshow events in 2022 – and while in that room I was finally convinced to join the team. 

Collaboration and connection are key to ending homelessness 
One of my key priorities in the role has been establishing ways that we can work together with our clients, other organisations, local authorities and the government to help to ensure that there are positive relationships between all involved in the homelessness process. I think that the key to this is collaboration and connection.  

Being part of the Change Team, and the wide range of people who work on it, fits in perfectly with that aim. Everyone involved with All In For Change is dedicated to ending homelessness, and there is a great sense of community, with a shared goal, which I believe should be the way the whole sector works together. 

Highlighting hidden homelessness – with a focus on equality, diversity and inclusion 

There are a few other priorities that I wish to bring to, and enhance within the Change Team. As a housing professional, who has themselves experienced homelessness, it is extremely beneficial to be on a team which marries lived experience with professional experience. When I was homeless in my late teens, sleeping at a friend’s in a cupboard under the stairs, I had no idea that I actually qualified as homeless.  

I am passionate about perceptions of homelessness, who can be affected by it, and what it actually looks like. At HHOS, the majority of our clients are not roofless, and are actually what we would consider as “hidden homeless”. I think it’s important that those voices are heard too. 

Finally, I am extremely passionate about equality, diversity, inclusion and accessibility in homelessness. Those with protected characteristics are more likely to experience homelessness, and experience additional barriers, so it makes sense for us to look more closely at the impact of that. It’s really important to me that minority groups are considered at every part of service design and delivery, and not retrofitted.  

I have spent a lot of my professional life working in this field and I want to bring that to the Change Team and make sure the experiences of protected groups are heard and considered in the fight to end homelessness. 

All In For Change is going to be instrumental in making sure homelessness is ended, and I’m delighted that I get to be involved in the team. 

All in for Change are recruiting new members! If you want to be part of this team, using your experience to collaborate with decision-makers and engaging with people using and providing services, get in touch for an application pack – changeteam@homelessnetwork.scot  

The Big Ask: acting now to prevent homelessness

A summary of the key themes from a webinar hosted by Homeless Network Scotland on 21 February 2023 which was attended by over 120 colleagues from 19 local authorities, from the NHS, health and social care partnerships, housing associations, academia and the third sector.

In a cost-of-living crisis with rising homelessness, confirmation that the new homelessness prevention duties will be included in the housing bill in the second half of 2023 provides some much-needed optimism – or at least anticipation.

Homeless Network Scotland are among those who have been involved at different stages in the development of the duties and we are strongly committed to ensuring that as many people as possible are consulted and briefed on the duties and their implications.

The purpose of ‘The Big Ask: acting now to prevent homelessness’ webinar was to update on the expected timeline of the duties. And further, to explore what more can be done now to prevent homelessness by learning from 3 important insights – lived experience, the third sector, local places.

1. Prevention: what did the Christie Commission say?

The christie commission is a rare example of a report that both unified and articulated a diverse range of perspectives about the future delivery of public services. Published over a decade ago, it still reads as if it was an analysis of today. On prevention, the christie commission said:

  • The adoption of preventative approaches, in particular approaches which build on the active participation of service users and communities, will contribute significantly to making the best possible use of money and other assets.
  • Such approaches will help to eradicate duplication and waste and, critically, take demand out of the system over the longer term.
  • Maximise scarce resources by utilising all available resources from the public, private and third sectors, individuals, groups and communities.

The webinar was opened in this context, with the package presented reaching across these themes.

2. Prevention of Homelessness: what type?

With such a wide range of activity potentially contributing to preventing homelessness, an organising framework – the 5-Stage Typology of Homelessness Prevention – was developed by colleagues at Heriot-Watt and Cardiff universities and which defines activity as follows:

The prevention of homelessness duties, combined with existing homelessness duties, would span stages 2-5. The learning presented and themes discussed in this webinar span the same stages 2-5.

3. What is expected in the Housing Bill?

The prevention duties will be included in the housing bill which is expected to be published in the second half of 2023 with the intention to strengthen housing rights and to include:

  • Wider public bodies to ‘ask and act’ about housing situations.
  • Local authorities to take reasonable steps to prevent homelessness (with the steps set out in either secondary legislation or statutory guidance).
  • Referrals from public bodies to be treated as an application for assistance by the local authority.
  • Window for homelessness risk extended from 2 to 6 months.
  • Aligning homelessness assessment with prevention assessment, recognising households may balance between both.
  • Changes to the definition of domestic abuse and the need for social landlords to have a domestic abuse policy.
  • Assessment of housing support needs to be included in local homelessness strategy  and/or Local Housing Strategy.

4. Three key insights

The webinar welcomed the insights from lived experience, the third sector and from local places on what works to prevent homelessness. This was invited from:

(i) Learning From Lived Experience

Shea Moran, who represented the Change Team, reflected on the work of their Prevention Commission, which shaped the recommendations of the Prevention Review Group’s final report. Shea articulated the importance of ensuring through the new duties that people who experience or are at risk of homelessness, especially young people, do not have expectations or responsibilities on them that do not apply to other members of the public.

(ii) Learning From the Third Sector

Pauline Kerrigan from The National Lottery Community Fund shared the learning from the fund’s strategic investment in homelessness which was intended to respond to their own findings that homelessness is a priority at local level, while complementing a strategic priority for government. Uniquely, the process included peer review across the applicants so that the issues most important to the sector as a whole could be funded.

(iii) Learning From Local Places

Andy Peline from SWAMP reflected on his involvement with the Staying In programme which took a place-based approach to preventing homelessness. In this project, popular community organisations who were not ‘homelessness’ organisations were invited to ‘Ask and Act’: to ask about housing, and to act to prevent homelessness where there was a risk. Andy shared how this was done at point of initial contact and that mirroring the prevention duties informally at community level was very effective at preventing homelessness.

All homelessness starts in a community, which means that local places can play a pivotal role to help prevent it. However the risk of homelessness is not equal, with some people and places more affected than others. Places that are most affected also need to see more progress in the bigger factors that create homelessness. Preventing homelessness starts here:

5. … and six key themes from discussion

Some of us will have an enhanced duty to prevent homelessness. Some of us will have a new duty to prevent homelessness. And some of us will have no specific duty – but want to help. The following key themes emerged from the feedback that was shared in the breakout rooms:

  • The ‘Ask and Act’ duties were coined by the prevention commission and so are well informed by what people closest to the issues, people with lived experience and frontline responsibilities, think will work best to prevent homelessness earlier.
  • We need a strong balance that focuses on both parts of the duties, ask and act. In many cases, the public sector will need to act after asking about housing. In other cases and at earlier stages, a household can be enabled to act to resolve their own housing situation. Routine enquiry and a supportive line of questions will maximise that outcome – asking the right questions sensitively to get to the root of the problem. Guidance and training will be key.
  • Although the duty to ask and act will not be on communities and community-based organisations, it will be important to encourage a local role to prevent homelessness earlier and closer to home. As well as the range of local groups and services that people connect with, communities host housing activists, community champions, connectors and others with an interest in local housing who want to be involved in preventing homelessness in their area.  
  • It has been demonstrated that good outcomes are possible when subject experts (on housing and homelessness) collaborate with local experts and people with lived experience to problem solve at a local level. Adopting a place-based approach to preventing homelessness means connecting with existing community groups and networks to help identify housing issues earlier. This can be a simple two step approach of asking about housing and acting on what people tell you – mirroring the prevention duties.
  • Cementing preventing homelessness as a priority outcome in Local Outcomes Improvement Plans can help non-statutory and place-based approaches to branch out right across communities in Scotland. LOIPs are the mechanism by which Community Planning Partnerships deliver improved outcomes for their communities.
  • Preventing homelessness will be radically more cost-effective in the longer term. But the potential will be limited if the transition is not resourced properly in the short-to-medium term. This can also harness the enthusiasm for prevention more widely, with some services already reshaping and shifting towards a more upstream approach in anticipation of the new duties.

You can view the slides from the webinar here.