CHAPTER 3: INNOVATION IN HOMELESSNESS PREVENTION - CASE STUDIES
3.1 This Chapter features short case studies of each HPIF projects to give an update on progress and outcomes to date. Chapter Four then summarises the overall lessons about homelessness prevention, drawing on further evidence from individual projects as appropriate. The lessons for evaluation are addressed on Chapter Five.
Case Study 1: Safe as Houses ( SAH) - City of Edinburgh
3.2 The Safe as Houses ( SAH) project has been the first sanctuary scheme for women experiencing domestic violence in Scotland. It was developed as a part of an advice-led approach to homelessness prevention within the City of Edinburgh housing options interview approach, not as a deterrent to presenting as homelessness. In this respect, an important element of the pilot was to be able to test whether women experiencing domestic violence would welcome a chance not to have to apply as homelessness and move elsewhere.
3.3 The project has demonstrated that sanctuary schemes of this type can provide a valuable option for women who may be homeless due to domestic violence. Indeed, women have not wanted to move and valued the opportunity to 'stay put' at least for the immediate future:
"Why should I let anyone chase me out of my own home? It would have been running away from the inevitable. I thought 'to hell with this -why should I move?' Safe as Houses has given me the strength to stand on my own two feet".
3.4 For many women moving to avoid domestic violence is not a feasible option; perpetrators are often able to track women down, particularly where there are children. Safe as Houses has demonstrated that it is possible to break the link between domestic violence and homelessness, at least in the short term.
3.5 Fourteen households have had security measures installed in their homes and received associated advice and support. A further 33 households have been in contact with the project and most have been referred on elsewhere for support and advice. Less than one in three referrals resulted in the installation of security measures; this figure reflects both an inevitable attrition where working with a vulnerable client group and a relatively low profile and lack of understanding of the project's remit even amongst those most directly involved, causing some inappropriate referrals.
3.6 Of those cases where security measures had not been installed, about two in five were assessed as not being domestic violence or as cases of harassment or anti-social behaviour 18. About a quarter were assessed as being cases of domestic violence, but were ineligible on tenure grounds; this included some people living in private sector leased properties. In other cases, reasons for not proceeding (despite being eligible) included difficulties getting contact or access to the property, the woman changing her mind or returning to the perpetrator of the violence, or refusal by the women to go ahead due to Police involvement.
3.7 Where measures have been installed, greater security in the home and wider neighbourhood has provided an immediate impact for the women involved and their children. Case studies of women who have used the project suggest that they have gained greater personal safety in their home and wider neighbourhoods and considerable confidence and wellbeing for themselves and their children. The project has been an important source of reassurance and support and a route to, or back up for, other more specialist support and advice. It has been able to establish trusting relationships with a vulnerable client group and has provided a speedy and accessible service, valued highly by those benefiting from it. Whilst not seen as a way of preventing domestic violence, there may also be a beneficial 'demonstration' effect on perpetrators, women themselves and children because it sends out a clear message that domestic violence is unacceptable.
Case study 2: Multi-Agency Training Tool - East Dunbartonshire
3.8 The Multi-Agency Training Tool on the Risks of Homelessness aimed to ensure that front line staff working across a range of statutory and voluntary sector agencies can identify those at risk of homelessness and make appropriate referrals to the organisations that can offer advice and assistance or support them. Workshops have been held to develop the information content of the tool.
3.9 The project has developed a set of web-based diagnostic tools which will assist staff in assessing the extent and nature of the client's problem, the impact of combined risks and will then suggest which services might be able to assist. The diagnostic tools developed are for each of the groups identified as being at greatest risk of homelessness in East Dunbartonshire (as identified in their most recent homelessness needs assessment). However, the Council are confident that the system can be used for anyone who may be at risk and that that agencies will always be able to match a client into one of the 'risk groups'. It seems likely that the range of clients that may be affected by the project will be broad and include those at immediate or imminent risk of homelessness, as well as those who would benefit from services that build resilience. The tool itself has been developed by an external consultancy working alongside the Council and partners in the voluntary sector. Although the development phase has been completed there have been significant delays in 'going live' with the tool.
3.10 Feedback from partners involved in the development phase of the project has been positive but the tool has not been evaluated in use. The project has developed a set of performance indicators which are largely output, not outcome focussed; for example, the number of staff completing training on the system and the number of multi-agency referrals. User evaluation exercises are also planned to look at front line staff's knowledge of homelessness triggers and the services available.
3.11 It is intended that each time a member of staff uses the system they will be asked to complete a brief on-line survey that will track activity; it will ask how useful the process was and whether any referrals have been suggested. However, as no client based data will be collected it will not be possible to track any referrals made to assess outcomes for clients. Another issue is that once staff effectively 'know' what the system is going to tell them they may no longer use it. While this may mean the system is working as intended (that staff have been trained), it will leave a possible gap in monitoring data.
Case Study 3: East Lothian - Domestic Abuse Resource Pack
3.12 This project aimed to produce an information pack for women experiencing domestic abuse in East Lothian on behalf of the East Lothian Multi-Agency Violence against Women Forum. The pack has now been developed with advice from a series of focus groups of women who have experienced domestic abuse:
"The women have had a huge input into the content and the look and feel of the pack. We hope it will enable women to have knowledge about what their rights are in terms of some statutory services, so that they've got clearer expectations about what the boundaries of different agencies are. 'What can this agency do for me? What can't it do? What do I do if I experience a problem? What do I do if I believe I've got a right to temporary emergency accommodation, but my council is saying that 'saying no, we don't have any space, try elsewhere' you know?"
3.13 The pack provides essential information for women and their children about available support and assistance. A strong focus has been a desired to alleviate some of the chaotic and uncertain aspects of seeking assistances:
"Certainly the women of the focus groups were very keen that one of the main things the pack would do would be to alleviate some anxiety and give women some kind of sense of what to expect and where to go first."
3.14 The printed pack will be available through a variety of outlets in the voluntary and statutory sectors and will also be available on a non-Council website to ensure that information searches by women cannot be traced. Plans for monitoring and evaluation of the pack are in development.
Case Study 4: CAB Rent Arrears Project - East Lothian
3.15 The project was the first agreement in Scotland between a local authority and a Citizens Advice Bureaux to enable an external agency to have direct access to local authority finance information and as such offers valuable lessons for other local authorities considering similar arrangements. The immediate project outputs were the installation of the appropriate IT arrangements, a training programme and agreed operating protocols between the two CABs involved and the council and between the CABs and their clients and audit arrangements.
3.16 The number of cases where the CABs have used the access system where there have been rent, mortgage or secured loan arrears (that threaten security of tenure) has been relatively small in comparison to council tax arrears. Whilst this fell far short of the anticipated volume of rent and housing benefit arrears cases, much of the debt owed is consumer debt which whilst it is considered as a "non priority" debt influences the ability to pay priority debts such as rent and mortgages.
3.17 Qualitative evidence shows the impact of the project on clients, largely through faster identification of income and liabilities enabling identification of both the problem and potential resolution. However, whilst there is agreement that the project has been worthwhile, there are conflicting views about whether it saves time for advisors. The original plan to gather evidence of 'evictions prevented' as an outcome indicator was dropped due to difficulties of attribution. Advisors see debt advice work as largely about a 'lighter touch' or precautionary intervention over a longer time frame than a crisis-response to impending eviction.
3.18 Perhaps more significant is that the project has had an impact on the barriers to efficient and effective exchange of information between the statutory and voluntary agencies by establishing better working relationships and procedures between the local authority and the two CABs. Now the systems are in place and fully operational, it seems likely that this relatively small scale intervention can become an established way of working between agencies in East Lothian and there may be scope to extend these arrangements to other local agencies. Other local authorities in Scotland should also be able to benefit from this example.
Case Study 5: Glasgow Housing and Employment Service
3.19 The Glasgow Employment and Housing Service was a partnership project between Glasgow City Council Homelessness Partnership, Social Work Services and Milnbank Housing Association leading on behalf of the West of Scotland Housing Association Forum. The primary aim was to develop the young peoples' economic and social capital, placing them in a stronger position to respond to any future crisis, including any housing related crisis.
3.20 In terms of referrals, the project was concerned that young people should only be encouraged to join the project if they were both keen to exploit the opportunities being offered to them and able to take on the responsibilities associated with it. A set of competence based referral criteria were developed which were designed to ensure that young people who would most benefit from accessing the project could be identified.
3.21 Relatively early on in the pilot it was decided that expecting young people to manage the move to mainstream housing and full time employment at the same time had its risks and it was decided that young people should stagger their transition into employment and housing; usually this meant completion of a period of employment before being offered a tenancy.
3.22 The project worked with eleven young people during the pilot phase. Of these eleven, all gained some form of pre-vocational training and achieved part or full vocational awards; three have successfully secured their own tenancies with a local housing association; eight have sustained their existing accommodation; six have secured Modern Apprenticeships and two are employed on temporary contracts. The young people have responded well to the support and encouragement from the workplace mentors and have genuinely appreciated 'non social work' adults taking an interest in their well-being.
"I know I am really lucky to have been offered this great opportunity, here I am at 16 years of age with my own flat and about to enter a full apprenticeship. When I qualify in four years time I want to buy this place and know it will be mine for life. I would like to thank the project staff for all the support they have given me without which I know I would be running around the streets, getting lifted every weekend…. or more likely in Polmont by now."
3.23 The partners are clear that the housing association generally and certain staff in particular, have been pivotal to the success of the project…." You can't bottle what you've brought, what [name] the painter's brought."
3.24 As well as positive outcomes for young people there have been a number of other impacts. The model appears to be a robust and cost effective model of housing and in-work support that has provided consistent and flexible support. There has been a really positive response from staff within the housing association who report that they have been enthused and energised by working with the young people. Positive inter-professional connections have also been enhanced through the pilot with broader impacts on joint working within the field of youth housing across the city and spin-offs such as a new joint care leaver housing access protocol. The project has now secured multi-agency funding to secure the continuation of the service beyond the pilot project.
Case Study 6: Falkirk Anger Management
3.25 This project aimed to equip those with anger management difficulties with the skills they require to engage positively with the agencies that can help them address their homelessness and other issues. The project ran conflict resolution courses using either a group work or a one-on-one model depending on the needs and vulnerability of the client. The course was based on an accredited course developed by Criminal Justice which looks at cognitive behaviours and adopts a person centred approach.
3.26 The project was aimed at individuals with a history of social isolation, low self esteem and literacy problems. Referrals for the project were accepted from any agency and people were also invited to self refer. The group sessions have been run with residents living in temporary accommodation. Workshops ran from the beginning of April 2007 with a total of 33 individuals participating. Workshops sessions have now ceased although one-on-one sessions continue. The evaluation of this project was effectively undertaken retrospectively and has been limited as a result.
Case Study 7: Tayside Accommodation and Skills Project
3.27 The Tayside Accommodation and Skills project offered a programme of group work for former offenders to develop the skills and resilience that will help them in to access and maintain accommodation.
3.28 The core modules (Benefits, Budgeting, Health & General Well Being, Social Skills and Good Neighbour skills, Goal Setting and Problem Solving) were delivered through two routes. A ten week course of group work was offered post release with four groups running during the course of the pilot. In addition, and in response to feedback from clients and partners, the project developed a pre-release course which worked with offenders serving short term sentences in Perth prison. This course was offered three times during the course of the pilot.
3.29 A total of thirty people participated in the groupwork programme during the pilot phase. Sixteen people signed up for the community based programme and eighteen for the prison based programme. Attendance rates for the prison based programme were very good, ranging from at least half to full attendance. However, attendance at the community based sessions was much more variable and tended to drop off towards the later weeks of the course. After consultation with clients, the team has concluded that a five rather than a ten week groupwork programme is probably more realistic and they are restructuring the programme accordingly.
3.30 During the pilot period, the project employed two support workers who developed and co-ordinated the course. In addition, a number of partners, including the Dundee City Council Homelessness Service, a Financial Inclusion Officer (based at Hillcrest Housing Association) and a representative of Apex Scotland 19 delivered one of the sessions.
3.31 Both courses were voluntary; that is clients choose to attend and whether or not to 'stay the course'. Referrals could come from a number of sources including self referrals, referral from Criminal Justice staff or through the Homeless Team, including those at Dundee's direct access hostel. It had been hoped to deliver courses in a range of locations across Tayside but this did not prove possible during the pilot period but may be so in the future. After consulting with some of their female clients, the team have concluded that offering the course to women in its current format would not be successful. In particular, women were less keen on the groupwork approach and have also suggested they would be reluctant to cover issues around substance misuse. The team are now looking at ways the course may be adapted and made both appealing and relevant to women, both in terms of course content and the practical arrangements for delivering the course.
3.32 Feedback from both clients and partner agencies has been extremely positive. Clients interviewed as part of the evaluation process reported that all the subjects covered within the course had been useful and they had been given advice and information that they felt was directly relevant to their own experiences. They also felt that meeting representatives of support organisations had been valuable and many said they would be more likely to follow up and seek further support as a result.
3.33 A number of partner organisations were also interviewed and again the feedback was entirely positive:
"We strongly believe that the programme has been a great success! Any new or pilot programme is always difficult to launch, prisoners are naturally cautious and defensive. Volunteering is quite alien to our mainstream population. However, we are now in a position where prisoners are talking openly about the programme, asking to be included and asking when the next programme is due to start. This is a massive step forward."
3.34 There have also been some extremely positive 'spin offs' to come from the project, particularly in relation to increased joint working with Perth Prison staff. Tayside Criminal Justice Partnership are now co-ordinating work between the prison and the relevant local authorities to develop housing related protocols and staff from the prison have visited the Dundee Homeless Service to discuss closer joint working and develop a clearer understanding of the services that are available to prisoners prior to or on release.
Case Study 8: Women in Sport and Health ( WISH) Forth Valley
3.35 The WISH programme ran from January-December 2007. The lead partners were Forth Valley Health Promotion Department, the Big Issue and Clackmannanshire Council; a wider Steering Group was established to oversee the management of the programme. The programme was coordinated on a day to day basis by a Sports Coach employed by Falkirk Football Club, based at the club and operating across the local authority areas of Falkirk, Clackmannanshire and Stirling. The project evaluation has been completed by an external evaluator based on an evaluation framework comprising the use of questionnaires and focus groups with project participants and telephone interviews with stakeholders.
3.36 WISH has delivered fifty sessions with a total of thirty participants attending at least one session. Overall, attendance averaged about six people per session, although two sessions had eleven people present and one had no one attend. Attendance was slow to build but a core group of six to eight women was achieved by week nine. A committed group of seven women attended at least twenty sessions.
3.37 Most referrals were made through support agencies already in contact with the women, rather than through peer networks. Those attending required significant input from Support Workers to initiate and maintain attendance and the lack of provision for this level of support led to drop-out from the programme. Attendance was also adversely affected by the failure to communicate planned activities in sufficient time. Another factor in the poor attendance rate was that there was no one activity with a strong enough draw to overcome the anxiety women felt when having to travel to another area. The evaluation concludes that greater localisation of activities would help to overcome this issue and ease the logistics and time input for support workers accompanying the women.
3.38 The evaluation identifies a number of limiting factors that have affected the delivery of the programme, including management arrangements and the involvement of the football club which is more used to operating in a commercial environment. There was also a need for dedicated project coordination and project management.
3.39 The project proposal outlined a number of target outcomes for the women themselves, the wider community and the organisations involved. The evaluation acknowledges that individual change is a gradual process and values what might be seen as small steps with a traditionally hard to reach and vulnerable target group. The assessment of outcomes for the participants was intended to be based on the completion of before and after questionnaires although this was largely unsuccessful. The evaluation provides some examples of individual success including leaving the house for a positive reason, going on a bus alone, losing weight and making friends. A highlight of the programme has been participation in the Race for Life for cancer charities; for most this was their first experience of raising money to help other people and of winning a medal. There was also a strong element of peer support shown at this event.
3.40 Whilst there are lessons about engagement with vulnerable women, this was not a fully functioning project, with a high level of inputs in terms of financial and other resources for very little in terms of outputs or outcomes. There are clearly lessons here for future funding and evaluation arrangements. Many of the lessons from WISH have been taken on board by a successor project in Clackmannanshire.