Updated: May 3
Insights from our National Advisory Panel
There have been a lot of positive stories this week. Communities are coming together to provide food for those who cannot access it. Voluntary organisations are transforming some of their ways of working to empower people to connect. Councils are adapting their practices, doing what it takes to ensure that the housing offers they make meet the needs of the individual.
And whilst many people are experiencing increased restrictions, for others restrictions have been lifted, allowing some to access accommodation for the first time in decades. Instead of rules and pressure, people have been trusted to make decisions about themselves, and the opportunity to offer advice for others. People are thriving.
“People like it in the [...]. You’re not pressured. You don’t have to keep to appointments with key workers else they chuck you out.” Member of National Advisory Panel
“It’s really good to see so many people at the same time thriving, and really making the most of this opportunity. One from services, and two, most importantly, from the service users. It’s been great to see them adapt to what has been a difficult time for anybody.” Member of National Advisory Panel
There is good news also in the announcement over the weekend of a taskforce to "lead the next phase of the Government’s support for rough sleepers during the pandemic." The taskforce will work to ensure that people "continue to receive the physical and mental health support they need over the coming weeks," and support people "move into long-term, safe accommodation once the immediate crisis is over."
This provides an opportunity to build on the tremendous success of the last month, but also learn from what hasn't worked and why. Some things to us seem clear.
People and partnerships
Everything that happens from now on must begin with people. Successes we have seen with people moving into accommodation and thriving have been because people have been listened to at the beginning of the process.
If the taskforce wants to "know what support people need," and "what long-term, safe accommodation looks like," they need to be working directly in partnership with people now. Assumptions are assumptions, but we each hold our own truth.
“Is anyone having conversations right now, asking what that accommodation looks like, what that support looks like?” Member of National Advisory Panel
Trust and Relationships
A lack of trust is often cited as a key reason why people do not accept accommodation offers. But where trust has been installed, there has been phenomenal success. All of us involved need to nurture trusting environments, where concerns are genuinely listened too and genuine offers are made.
“It’s highlighted the need (for co-production), and it should have been done from beginning, the co-production, the talking about it.” Member of National Advisory Panel
Over the last month this has been happening; many positive relationships have developed, and lives have been lengthened as a result. Trusting relationships can take time, but losing them will cost us more.
Choice and Control
For too long, too much support has been about controlling people, rather than giving people control. Many are now gaining an insight into how this feels, even for a relatively short time.
To get accommodation options that work, therefore, we need genuine choices, not a stark choice between controlling environments or the streets. Where people have choices, people thrive. We must all now work to ensure that there are a range of accommodation options, a range of options that are safe and supportive for people.
“We need to be working to where the client needs to be, not to where the worker needs to be.” Member of National Advisory Panel
Dame Louise Casey announced on the weekend that "in bringing people inside, there is now a real opportunity to address the health and social needs of these individuals and if we can stop them going back to the streets." If we listen to each other, build trusting relationships, and offer genuine choice, we can take that opportunity and end rough sleeping.
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