Giving homeless people more control over services is helping them address problems in their lives
Western society is all about choice. What we eat, how we live, what we drive, how we communicate. I can chose from fifty different apps just to turn my phone into a flashlight. Choices are offered, probably expected, even when we don’t need them.
Oddly, when it comes to helping a person to rebuild their life – from homelessness to living independently, and through all the stages, complexity and barriers that involves – choice isn’t generally on the table. The system of funding has favoured a one-size-fits-all approach. But that’s changing. Homelessness services are becoming personalised.
Personalisation is happening across social care services and it’s an approach that homelessness services need to embrace.
It isn’t only about supporting people. Personalisation is about helping them to move on. It’s about developing services that can adapt to and evolve with someone at every stage – and it has resulted in a diverse spread of projects, ranging from rough sleeper pilots to culture change in organisations as they adapt to offer flexible approaches that can support people at crisis points, as well as with their ongoing complex needs.
In 2010, the DCLG commissioned personalisation pilots focused on long term rough sleepers in four areas across England. People who had been sleeping rough for years and rejected other offers of help were asked what it would take to help them off the streets. Often for the first time they were offered choice, based on flexibility and personal budgets, and the results were impressive, with the majority of people accepting accommodation.
Look Ahead developed a personalised approach for residents with high mental health support needs, providing ‘core’ support, which all residents get, and ‘flexi’ support, tailored to each resident’s needs and funded from their personal budget.
St Mungo’s views personalisation as central to a person’s recovery. Across their services they’ve adopted a fluid approach, recognising that different responses will always be needed for different people, in different places, and at different stages in their lives.
Of course moving from one-size-fits-all to personalisation demands an evolution in the way we work. When Thames Reach introduced organisation wide ‘person-centred planning’, they engaged staff and clients from the outset, involved all their departments to review the workforce and financial impact, redefined and personalised the pathways through their services – and they trained people to make sure they were ready for it. It impacted on everything.
It’s a direction that all homelessness agencies should consider – whether they develop person centred outreach or individual budgets for Housing First style supported living.
The difference for agencies is that they are able to diversify their funding by supporting people who are entitled to individual budgets.
The difference for individuals is that it puts them at the heart of their own recovery. It gives them necessary choice. In many cases, this is a vital step towards independence.
Homeless Link has published a briefing on personalisation for homelessness agencies.
Lisa Reed is head of innovations and good practice at Homeless Link.