MEAM welcomes Select Committee report into homelessness – now government must act

Today the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee has called on all parts of government to commit to a common approach to ending homelessness, and ensure that people with multiple and complex needs receive the support they need.

homelessness

Publishing a report on its inquiry into homelessness, the Committee made specific recommendations for government, and backed a private members bill on homelessness prevention. Chair Clive Betts MP said:

“The scale of homelessness is now such that a renewed Government strategy is a must. It needs to not only help those who are homeless but also prevent those vulnerable families and individuals who are at risk of becoming homeless from joining them. All Departments will need to subscribe to this common approach and contribute to ending homelessness.”

The MEAM coalition partners welcome this important report, and particularly its call for a cross-government strategy to end homelessness. Coalition director Oliver Hilbery and Homeless Link’s head of policy Helen Mathie gave evidence to the inquiry, alongside Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk and the No Recourse to Public Funds Network.

We are pleased that the Committee recognised the need to support homeless people experiencing multiple and complex needs including vulnerable women, care leavers, people with mental health and substance misuse problems, ex-offenders and those who have been affected by trauma and abuse. These individuals face challenges that require a specific and coordinated approach.

The report calls also calls on government to:

  • Develop a new cross-departmental strategy to end homelessness
  • Review the funding of mental health services for homeless people and develop a clear action plan for change
  • Support the Homelessness Reduction Bill 2016-17, introduced by Bob Blackman MP and backed by a broad coalition of charities including Homeless Link. The proposed legislation has been published also today and sponsored by the Committee
  • Exempt all supported accommodation from the proposed reductions to the level of social housing rents and Local Housing Allowance, and provide supported housing providers with “the certainty they need to plan ahead and deliver services”

A response from the government is expected later this year and the Committee will review progress on its recommendations in a year’s time.

The MEAM coalition will continue to work with its partners, frontline services and people with lived experience to advise and challenge government on homelessness and related needs.

New Life Chances Fund recognises the need for a joined-up approach to complex social issues

Yesterday the government launched the Life Chances Fund, an £80 million programme of social investment funding directed at a range of complex social issues. Expressions of interest are now open for two of the themes addressed by the Fund: drug and alcohol dependency and children’s services. Further call-outs around young people, early years, healthy lives and older people’s services will follow.

Photo: @minforcivsoc

Rob Wilson MP, Minister for Civil Society, at the launch of the Life Chances Fund.
Photo: @minforcivsoc

At the launch, Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson MP offered reassurance that working closely with the voluntary and community sector will continue to be a priority for government.

“This is about central and local government, academia and the voluntary sector all coming together to work at tackling some of the most entrenched social challenges we face,” he said, adding that addressing these challenges is even more important in light of the social divisions highlighted by the referendum.

The Life Chances Fund is designed to encourage more use of Social Impact Bonds, which commission services based on up-front payment by external investors to be repaid by commissioners as outcomes are achieved. Overseen by the Cabinet Office, it will ‘top up’ investment in locally commissioned Social Impact Bonds that deliver new and innovative programmes (rather than replacing existing funding). The £80 million fund is pooled from different departmental budgets, in the expectation that savings will be made across government.

The design of the Fund reflects a growing recognition that resolving complex social issues, such supporting people who are experiencing multiple needs, requires a cross-government approach. £30 million of the funding is allocated specifically for proposals addressing drug and alcohol dependence, and the scope for these recognises the close links between substance misuse and other outcomes including stable accommodation, reduced offending and improved mental health.

The Fund was conceived as part of a wider Life Chances Strategy, first announced by David Cameron in January as the centrepiece of the government’s commitment to tackling social disadvantage. The planned launch of the strategy was postponed in the wake of the EU referendum result, but officials have indicated that work on its themes is set to continue over the coming months.

MEAM welcomes the new funding provided by the Life Chances Fund, although it is clear that it can only achieve its aims if local areas continue to receive sufficient general resources to deliver the existing services on which any new interventions would build. We will continue to engage with officials as work on the Fund develops, and make the case for a comprehensive cross-government strategy to address the challenges faced by people experiencing multiple needs.

Yesterday also saw the launch of the Government Outcomes Lab, a partnership between the Cabinet Office and Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government aimed at providing independent support, data and evidence on outcomes-based commissioning. This is a particularly welcome development given the mixed success of payment-by-results to date, highlighted by the National Audit Office. The need for a more sophisticated understanding of the outcomes that services are trying to achieve has been a consistent theme of MEAM’s policy work with frontline services and people with experience of multiple needs.

If your organisation is considering social investment funding, we encourage you to read the Life Chances Fund criteria and application process. Expressions of interest are being invited from commissioners, service providers and intermediaries, and are due by 30 September 2016.

Parliament hears calls for a national strategy on multiple needs

This week, MEAM has called for cross-government action on multiple needs in Parliament.

Photo: grahamvphoto on flickr (used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Photo by grahamvphoto (used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

On Monday, we gave evidence to an inquiry into homelessness led by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee. We are delighted that the Committee recognises the importance of tackling multiple needs and that they committed a whole session to exploring these issues.

During the hearing, our director Oliver Hilbery and Homeless Link’s Head of Policy Helen Mathie answered MPs’ questions on the experiences of homeless people with multiple needs and the role of services in supporting individuals. The session also featured representatives from Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk, and the No Recourse to Public Funds Network.

Towards the end of the session, MEAM called on the government to set out a national strategy for how it can incentivise coordinated services for people with multiple needs in local areas across the country, and ensure that all devolution deals reflect the challenges faced by this group.

The video and transcript of the session is available online.

Then, on Wednesday, MEAM Chair Baroness Tyler of Enfield spoke in a Lord’s debate on the government’s forthcoming Life Chances Strategy.  Baroness Tyler welcomed the Prime Minister’s commitment to develop a richer picture of how social problems combine, how they reinforce each other, and how they can manifest themselves through someone’s life.

Making clear the links between adverse childhood experiences and the problems of multiple needs that individuals face in later life, Baroness Tyler called for the forthcoming Life Chances Strategy to tackle underlying issues of inequality, directly address multiple disadvantage faced by adults, and support parents and families.

Baroness Tyler noted in her speech that it is increasingly the case that government policy within departmental silos is calling for a more coordinated approach.  However, there remains no national cross-departmental strategy to support and incentivise local areas to develop better responses for people with multiple needs, despite evidence showing the benefits that this can bring to individuals, communities and the public purse.

Baroness Tyler asked the Minister, Baroness Altmann, what plans the government has to put an overarching strategy on multiple needs in place. In summing up, the Minister stated that the Life Chances strategy will be a cross-government initiative.

The video and transcript of the debate are available online (debate starts at 16:13:35; Baroness Tyler’s speech at 16:23:35).

The contributions this week represent positive progress towards a national strategy on multiple needs. MEAM looks forward to continuing to work with parliamentarians and policymakers on this issue, drawing on our local experience in over 25 areas across the country and the important insights of people with experience of multiple needs.

New research shows scale and complexity of destitution in the UK

Sam Thomas (@iamsamthomas)

In an important report published today, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation provides stark new evidence on the scale of destitution in the UK. Based on detailed research by colleagues at Heriot-Watt University, it reveals that 1.25 million individuals annually find themselves unable to afford the basic essentials they need to eat, keep clean and stay warm and dry.

Destitution in the UK

Within this group, around a third have slept rough, begged or accessed a service intended to support complex needs such as substance misuse, mental ill health and contact with the Criminal Justice System. These issues are a huge part of the picture of destitution in the UK, and MEAM was glad to be involved in the research as a member of the advisory group.

The research shows that there are few straightforward reasons for why people become destitute. Income plays a large part: delays or interruptions to benefits, as well as debt and arrears payments, loom large in the findings. But for those with the most complex needs, being unable to afford life’s basics is often the result of a more complex web of factors, including relationship breakdown and domestic violence.

The research identifies that people with more complex needs (which includes many of the people that MEAM and its partners work to support) experience longer periods of destitution and sometimes have no money to hand for months or even years. This is also true for migrants, particularly those claiming asylum. People in these situations can become incredibly isolated, and lacking friends or a network of support become reliant on benefits, voluntary services and sometimes begging.

The study found that most people who are fit for work see employment as the best route out of destitution. However, for most, the immediate challenge is resolving issues with their benefit claims and, particularly for those with the most complex needs, finding appropriate accommodation and support to address the wider issues in their lives. Even those who are able to improve their situation remained vulnerable to sudden changes in circumstances, such as their benefit entitlements.

The research highlights the importance of ensuring people are properly supported by the benefits system, which should be the first line of support for people who are destitute. This has clear parallels with MEAM’s current work on employment support. However, it also shows that without effective support for the underlying problems that lead to destitution, people will struggle to move on.

The research is invaluable in highlighting both the scale of the problem, and the complexity of the response that’s needed. There are already good examples of how local areas (such as those we support in using the MEAM Approach) can help people address the long-term issues that they face – but this report shows how much more work there is to do. We hope it is read widely and carefully, and look forward to collaborating more with the JRF on these issues as their work develops.

Statement on MEAM and Collective Voice

We are pleased to announce that Collective Voice has become an associate of Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM), the national coalition of Clinks, Homeless Link and Mind working to improve policy and services for people with multiple needs.

Following the closure of DrugScope, Collective Voice was formed last year by eight of the country’s largest voluntary sector drug and alcohol treatment and recovery service providers to ensure that the voice of the drug and alcohol sector and the individuals who use these services are represented.

Today’s announcement extends existing joint-working between MEAM and Collective Voice and establishes a route for Collective Voice to become a full member of the MEAM coalition over time.  From 1 April 2016, Paul Hayes (director of Collective Voice) will attend meetings of the MEAM Programme Board in a non-voting capacity and MEAM (over time and subject to funding) will begin to ‘embed’ staff resource in Collective Voice.

Baroness Tyler, chair of the MEAM coalition, said:

“We are delighted to welcome Collective Voice as an associate of the MEAM coalition.  Substance misuse is a central issue for people with multiple needs and since the closure of DrugScope we have worked hard to keep these issues at the heart of our work.  Collective Voice will bring new expertise, insight and reach to the MEAM coalition as we continue to work together to create change in policy and practice for people with multiple needs.”

Karen Biggs, chair of Collective Voice, said:

“We are very pleased to become an associate of the MEAM coalition.  The majority of individuals using substance misuse services have a wide range of other needs.  To support them we need to influence policy and services across different sectors and MEAM will provide excellent links across criminal justice, homelessness and mental health.”