Demos is currently looking at how social housing providers can act as coordinators and hubs for joined up support and earlier intervention for their clients. In particular we are looking at the potential for social housing providers who provide both housing and support to deliver a more consistent approach across the “spectrum of need”.
Social and affordable housing services are coming under increasing pressure: a shortfall of housing, constrained mortgage lending and higher rents, increased rates of repossessions (now estimated to be 100 per day) and the capping of Housing Benefit rates (which are reportedly driving some private landlords from the market) are all working together to create an increase demand for safe and affordable homes.
But economic and social change is not just leading to an increased volume of customers. The current economic climate is creating higher rates of unemployment and financial insecurity. In parallel, the Government is driving benefit and service cuts to reduce the deficit.
Social housing providers are also faced with a client group at increased risk of very low income, family breakdown, alcoholism and poor mental health. These providers see firsthand the human impact of the economic downturn, the Government’s welfare reforms and local authority budget cuts.
In line with the Government’s new vision for open public services, Demos believes that social housing providers have the potential to become coordinators for local agencies and support services by using the home as a “hub” for services – creating more joined up and integrated “whole family” support in challenging times. They are also in a unique position to identify early signs of problems among their residents and alert community partners in health, social or community services, in order for support to be put in place before problems escalate.
The project explores two primary issues:
- How affordable and social housing providers can grasp the opportunities presented by the localism and personalised service agenda, and make greater use of their homes as hubs to coordinate a variety of support services.
- How providers can work pro-actively with their residents to provide early and preventative support and to tackle problems “upstream”. This will include identifying families and individuals at risk of poor outcomes (worsening health, unemployment, financial distress, social isolation, family breakdown, substance abuse and so on), and putting support in place by working with community partners to prevent these problems from escalating.
The project uses a four-phase methodology:
- Interviews with front line housing managers and support managers in three different areas, and with a range of housing providers. These are looking at current opportunities for and barriers to integrated and preventative support work with housing customers, from the practitioner perspective.
- Focus Groups with social housing clients to better understand the social and economic problems they face, the range of agencies and services they use, the escalation of problems they might have had and how housing/support services increased as a result, and gather their ideas and suggestions for how these services might be better integrated and whether their housing provision might play a greater coordinating role.
- Mapping the movement of clients from housing services to housing/support services to gain a sense of the scale of the phenomenon.
- An idea swapping workshop, bringing together a range of high level policy makers and advisers from DCLG and DH, representatives of local authorities (LGA, ADASS) and local authority commissioners, housing experts, academics and third sector organisations representing vulnerable groups.
The final report will be published in March 2012. This project is generously supported by Home Group