Consultation response - Addressing complex needs: improving services for vulnerable homeless people

By: Deborah Garvie
Published: May 2015

Addressing Complex Needs: improving services for vulnerable homeless people

  The financial support provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) during the 2010-15 Parliament to both council and voluntary sector homelessness services has been extremely important in preventing and tackling homelessness. It is vital that this funding is maintained under the current Parliament.

We also strongly support the Government's approach to ensuring adequate and appropriate local homelessness prevention services. As the report highlights, this has resulted in a further £10 million investment since 2010 in the National Homelessness Advice Service, providing invaluable support and training to frontline staff. Since 2010, the Service has trained over 23,000 homelessness advisers and has dealt with more than 40,000 telephone cases.

We are disappointed that this latest report of the Ministerial Working Group makes no mention of working with the Department of Work and Pensions to assess the impact of welfare reform on the availability of accessible and affordable housing, and the knock-on impact on both statutory and non-statutory homelessness. There is a growing body of evidence that welfare reform is leading to homelessness.

We are very supportive of the Government's desire to help long-term residents of hostels and other forms of supported housing move into settled mainstream accommodation, supporting them to sustain that accommodation and to become more independent.

We are pleased that the Government is interested in exploring whether the 'Housing First' model could be replicated in England. The 'Housing First' approach places homeless people into long term settledaccommodation and then uses this stability as a basis to address their other support needs. Shelter has long advocated this approach. In 2008, we published 'Housing first: Bringing permanent solutions to homeless people with complex needs'.

It is important to acknowledge that, without an increase in supply, a 'Housing First' approach outside of the statutory homelessness legislation could place further demand on the dwindling availability of decent and stable housing that is accessible to benefit claimants and other disadvantaged households.

A 'Housing First' approach will also require an adequate funding of support services. We are very concerned that the report overlooks recent changes to the funding and provision of support to vulnerable homeless people with complex needs.

Payment by Results models can be successful but this very much depends on the performance indicators used. If people have complex needs then there is a risk that a narrow results process can have unintended consequences, such as the exclusion of 'hard to reach' clients because service providers are incentivised to prioritise clients who are closest to achieving outcomes.

There is a risk that short-term intervention payments can leave people with little urgent support beyond this point. 'Soft' outcomes, such as increased confidence and improved motivation, should be included as these can be important incremental steps towards harder outcomes, such as entry into employment.