Transition planning: Four questions for every local area and the new homelessness taskforce
MEAM has launched a new ‘working document’ to support local areas and the new homelessness taskforce with transition planning.
On 2 May 2020, the Secretary of State Robert Jenrick MP announced a new taskforce, led by Dame Louise Casey, to shape the next phase of the Government’s support for rough sleepers during the Coronavirus pandemic.
This is welcome news, because the Coronavirus crisis is having – and will continue to have – a disproportionate impact on people facing multiple disadvantage. These individuals experience a combination of problems including homelessness, substance misuse, mental health problems and repeat contact with the criminal justice system.
Over the last few weeks, many of these individuals have experienced a significant change in their circumstances. Five thousand homeless people have been housed in hotels; the benefits system – and particularly Local Housing Allowance – has been substantially increased; support for people using substances has become more flexible; there is greater focus on transitions from prison and hospitals to accommodation; and mental health and wellbeing are at the forefront of people’s minds.
In many cases, a system which has often failed this group has turned its attention to helping them, responding to people’s problems with the urgency that they deserve. Not everyone has been supported, but many have been. There are numerous examples across the country of increased flexibility from services, a reduction in ‘silo’ working, a better response to risk and a collective ‘let’s get things done’ attitude that may have been missing in the past. As a result, we are hearing that many people are currently more accepting of help and are re-building trust in services. This has made a very noticeable – but not yet a fundamental and sustainable – difference to local systems.
What happens next is the subject of debate. In local areas – and in the new taskforce – the question being discussed should be this: When the time comes to leave this crisis-response period are we going back to a system of services that looks remarkably like it did before; or are we going to grasp the opportunity to take a cross-sector, system-wide approach and re-build our policy and practice to better serve those in most need?
Everyone involved in tackling multiple disadvantage– and those facing it – has a vital role to play in determining the answer to this question. The transition plans developed by government and local areas need to be ambitious, cross-sector and take full account of multiple disadvantage.
In the document we’ve launched today, MEAM argues that every local area – and the new taskforce – needs to develop a “multiple disadvantage transition strategy”, which can answer four key questions:
- Do we know what people need and want?
- Do we have cross-sector leadership?
- How can we maintain and expand flexible responses from housing, substance misuse, health, mental health and criminal justice services?
- Do we have appropriate accommodation?
The document explores each question in turn. We are working with local areas to collate their current thinking on these questions and will update the document as further information emerges. We would welcome your thoughts and comments.
Oliver Hilbery, Director, MEAM