“You can’t do Housing First to people.” How the second evaluation of the Housing First regional pilots shows the importance of choice and co-production
Blog posted by: Alex Smith, Thursday, 29 July 2021.
“You can’t do Housing First to people.” This mantra, asserted by one of the providers of the three Housing First regional pilots in England, echoes throughout the latest evaluation report of the schemes, showing the importance of choice and co-production in effective Housing First services.
People with lived experience are at the heart of Housing First, and for the first time the evaluation has had the opportunity to engage with 29 participants across the three pilot areas (Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region and the West Midlands) painting a powerful picture of the impact of the Housing First approach.
The report, published by MHCLG, shows the pilots have supported an incredible 904 people to date. There is often an assumption with Housing First that housing is the most important element, and that people offered a Housing First approach will be immediately responsive. However, we see through the report the importance that relationships play and of staff being ‘trustworthy, non-judgemental and empathetic’ towards people who have felt previously let down by services.
Further to this, it’s important to note that the first home provided does not always work out, with participants sharing that their second property was often more suited to them, showing the need to embrace the principle that it is an offer of housing that is permanent.
Overall, 534 people have been housed across the pilots with a tenancy sustainment of 87%. A breakdown of the amount time people have spent in their tenancy so far shows how it can take time to find the right property for someone:
- 148 people between 6-12 months
- 149 people between 12-24 months
- 26 people between 24-36 months
- 1 person over 36 months
The housing outcomes are in-line with international evidence on tenancy sustainment, showing again how effective Housing First is at supporting people to remain housed. However, it’s worth noting that 123 people have exited the programme for a number of reasons. These are wide ranging and show the complexity of those being supported; withdrawing consent, imprisonment, moving away or to alternative accommodation, accessing detox treatment, losing contact and sadly, for 33 people on the programme, passing away. As yet, no exits were ‘positive’ graduations from the service; highlighting how central the principle of ‘support for as long as it is needed’ is to successful Housing First delivery.
The benefits of Housing First reach further than tenancy sustainment and evidence from the pilots continues to support the Centre for Social Justice Close to Home calls for multi-agency commissioning of Housing First, seeing it as much as a health intervention as it is a solution to end rough sleeping.
Beyond the housing figures lie some inspiring outcomes for individuals, including maintaining substitute prescribing and reducing illicit drug-use, improved health and regular attendance at G.P and re-establishing connections with friends and family; including children who were estranged or in care. As Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said at a recent event discussing the pilots, “Housing First is one of the most successful health policies I’ve ever seen.”
The picture from the pilots is clearly a positive one. But there’s uncertainty around the corner with the current funding due to end next year and, as yet, no guarantees from Government about continuation or further expansion across England. As such, we will continue to call on Government to provide long-term funding for the three regions as well as other service . As the Conservative Mayor for the West Midlands Andy Street recently said, “in years to come I hope we won’t be talking about Finland, but what we have done in Greater Manchester, Liverpool and the West Midlands.”
The message from the pilots is simple:
“Continue. Fund it. It works.”
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