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Prioritise prevention: Homeless Network Scotland Annual Conference

Blog by Zhan McIntyre, SFHA Policy Lead.

Posted In

The best way to end homelessness is to stop it happening in the first place.

This year, SFHA was proud to partner with Homeless Network Scotland for its annual conference to highlight the wider role of housing associations and co-operatives across Scotland in preventing homelessness and the issues that drive it.

Deftly hosted by writer and broadcaster Stuart Cosgrove, speakers on the day included:

  • Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning Kevin Stewart
  • Sir Harry Burns, Professor of Global Public Health
  • Bill Scott, Chair of the Poverty and Inequality Commission
  • Celeste Singleton, GHIFT at Homeless Network Scotland
  • David Signorini, Director of Better Homes Division of Scottish Government
  • Neil Munslow, Service Manager at Newcastle City Council
  • Dr Beth Watts, Senior Research Fellow at I-SPHERE at Heriot Watt University
  • Councillor Elena Whitham, COSLA Community Wellbeing Spokesperson

I was also very pleased to represent housing associations and co-operatives as part of an expert panel, highlighting the importance of increasing the supply of affordable housing to help prevent homelessness as well as the important job social housing providers do as community anchor organisations, acting as the ‘glue’ that holds communities together.

Many SFHA members were also there, highlighting the good work that they do.

A really important message to emerge from the conference is that prevention of homelessness is everyone’s business. Crucial to this is the Prevention Framework that sets out the different levels of prevention that organisations can undertake.

A Prevention Framework:

Level 1 Universal Prevention Preventing homelessness risk across the population as whole, including poverty reduction, affordable housing, security of tenure, employment and adequate welfare benefits.
Level 2 Targeted Prevention Early intervention focuses on those at the highest risk of future homelessness, e.g. people leaving prison, young people leaving care.
Level 3 Crisis Prevention Working with people threatened with homelessness within the next two months.
Level 4 Emergency Prevention Working with people at urgent risk of homelessness, e.g. of sleeping rough that night.
Level 5 Recovery Prevention Working with people who have previously been homeless to prevent experiencing being repeated.

 

Level 1 Universal Prevention
Preventing homelessness risk across the population as whole, including poverty reduction, affordable housing, security of tenure, employment and adequate welfare benefits.
Level 2 Targeted Prevention
Early intervention focuses on those at the highest risk of future homelessness, e.g. people leaving prison, young people leaving care.
Level 3 Crisis Prevention
Working with people threatened with homelessness within the next two months.
Level 4 Emergency Prevention
Working with people at urgent risk of homelessness, e.g. of sleeping rough that night.
Level 5 Recovery Prevention
Working with people who have previously been homeless to prevent experiencing being repeated.

From my point of view, every social housing provider at the very least is engaged in Level 1 Universal Prevention. By working in local communities to provide good quality affordable homes, with the security of tenure offered by a Scottish Secure Tenancy, all housing associations and co-operatives offer universal prevention.

Many housing associations also work at Level 2, working with local authorities and third sector partners to offer pathways to those at risk of homelessness. For instance, Elderpark Housing Association was one of the early adopters of the Statement of Best Practice for young people leaving care in Glasgow. Since then, many more have signed up to help increase choice and support for these young people.

For me, a real highlight from the conference was hearing from Neil Munslow at Newcastle City Council, who highlighted the Active Inclusion Newcastle programme.

Active Inclusion Newcastle (AIN) was set up to respond to the:

  • growth in demand for financial inclusion and homelessness prevention information advice and support when resources and certainty are reducing
  • transition residents and organisations need to make to a reduced welfare state
  • scale of poverty and disadvantage many Newcastle residents face
  • need to change our culture, to promote preventative and partnership responses

AIN has provided a framework to improve the co-ordination and consistency of information, advice and support, helping partners to increase residents’ financial inclusion and to prevent homelessness.

This has been in the familiar context of the government’s welfare reforms, reducing income relating to working age benefits in Newcastle by an estimated £129 million annually by 2022-23. This is at the same time as the council faces around £283 million of cuts to its budget by 2020.

AIN’s partnership approach is supported by Newcastle City Council’s Active Inclusion Service which provides governance arrangements, policy and sector leadership to build trust, encourage collaborative working and support compromise.

This infrastructure, explained Neil helps to maximise the resources to support residents maintain the foundations for a stable life:

  • somewhere to live
  • an income
  • financial inclusion
  • employment opportunities

Like many tenants of SFHA members, across Scotland, many residents helped by AIN face interconnected challenges that cannot be effectively responded to by single service silos.

Since 2013, AIN has made good progress in promoting the means and benefits of service co-ordination. The team is applying the principles of public service transformation to its partnerships to change culture, behaviours and expectations; the goal is to make co-operation and prevention the norm, and crisis the exception.

In Newcastle, residents and services are being helped to transform to a system where they can do more because less resources are available. This is guided by the following principles:

  • Practical – providing partnership approaches to the reduced and changed welfare state
  • Preventative – making it everyone’s business to predict and prevent crisis
  • Problem solving – considering how people, policies and processes work.

More information is available at the Active Inclusion Website.

Overall, the day gave great insights and inspiration. SFHA is particularly proud to become members of Homeless Network Scotland and looks forward to working with it going forward to support housing associations and co-operatives across Scotland to prevent and tackle homelessness.