Spotlight -

Turning Point Scotland's Position Statement on Homelessness Prevention

Ending homelessness demands a quick and effective response when homelessness occurs AND efforts to prevent it from occurring at all.

As well as a homelessness system that can respond in this way, we need other support agencies and service providers to understand what risk of homelessness looks like, and to take the opportunities they have to act.  Preventing homelessness is about more than housing – it is a responsibility shared across the public service system. 

Understanding risk of homelessness – We asked people we support what their life looked like six months before they became homeless; they talked about losing their job and entering the benefit system for the first time, domestic abuse, mental ill-health, involvement in the justice system, problematic alcohol and other drug use and relationship breakdown.  The threat to homelessness – and the support that people need – at this stage, might have nothing to do with housing

Ask and Act – People facing housing difficulties may be involved with various services before they make contact with housing or homelessness services, providing potential opportunities to act early.  Health and social care services, children’s services, police and prisons may all work with people who are at risk of homelessness, as well as social and private landlords, providing more opportunities to identify issues early and intervene.”  We need to make more of these opportunities; services need to  know what to look out for and what to do when they engage with someone at risk of homelessness. 

Missed Opportunities – People at risk can get lost in the system.  The Prevention Review Group “… noted missed opportunities to address homelessness, such as when social work notes someone as ‘not open to service’ after trying to engage with them and subsequently the individual loses their home.  This can mean that responsibility for tackling homelessness is left to the homelessness (or housing) department alone and/or after situations are escalated to crisis point”.  We need a better response for people who are not engaging with services or support offered.

Homelessness we can plan for – people leaving institutions, such as prison, the armed forces or mental health services often face homelessness that is largely predictable, and can be planned for, but it requires input from a range of agencies including institutions, housing and support providers.  The Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Advisory Group (HARSAG) recommended that plans be put in place, and that pathways be developed and implemented to prevent this outcome.

Sustainment is prevention – When a person has gone through the homelessness system and settled in secure accommodation, support that enables them to sustain their home is preventing further homelessness.  We must not neglect this element of homelessness prevention.

What helps

Assertive Outreach – People at risk of homelessness should not be required to fit into what suits service providers; providers have to adapt to reach people where they are and with what they need.  We should not dismiss people who ‘fail’ to attend appointments – this should trigger a more assertive response.

Person centred approach – working with people on what they believe to be most important, right now, helps to establish a relationship based on trust and respect; such a relationship is fundamental to addressing risk, reducing harm and preventing homelessness.

Partnerships – A housing officer might not be the best person to follow up on someone who has not attended appointments.  Evidence shows that a third sector team skilled in assertive outreach and person centred support can be much more effective in establishing relationships, engaging people with support and reducing risk of harm.  No one agency can do everything; we must draw on the strengths, experience and approach required for the purpose.

Information and data sharing – working in partnership means being able to communicate and share information safely and effectively across public services, including third sector providers.

 

Key Asks

A shared mission: Every public service provider should understand the role they play in preventing homelessness and accept a shared responsibility. This demands more than a new legal duty – we need a shift in culture, driven by strong leadership and investment in the training and development that underpins a Whole System Approach.

Understand the barriers: What is stopping us work in this way now?  We’ve had a mission to end homelessness since 2018, and a Code of Guidance on preventing homelessness since 2009 – what can we learn?  A new statutory duty may give greater priority to the issue, but alone will not remove the barriers that have prevented the action that’s needed.

Better integration: We can make better use of established integration structures – Health & Social Care Partnerships, Community Planning Partnerships, Community Justice Partnerships – to integrate housing and homelessness into all areas of public service planning and delivery, and to facilitate more coordinated, more effective service responses.

Case coordination: While we build this new approach, people face a fragmented system.  People experiencing multiple and enduring support needs are at particular risk of falling through the gaps, and therefore at particular risk of homelessness; case coordination, as recommended by the Prevention Review Group in 2021, should support people to navigate the system while we work to improve it.

More homes: A commitment – and real action – to address the structural drivers of homelessness around availability, suitability and affordability.

 

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