Reflections on #Leadership in the #Homelessness sector

The London Housing Foundation Leadership programme comes at a very important time in transition of the sector, reflects Julia Unwin of Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Next year is the 50th anniversary of Cathy Come Home – this will bring a sharp focus on the work of homelessness and housing. Julia reflects how this narrative set in train a series of actions that changed things within the sector- putting a statutory and regulatory framework around the sector which offered a stronger base to support individuals and families at risk of homelessness.

Despite the focus on street homelessness in the 80’s and the public outcry that ensued, the problem still grew. A critical breakthough came about by the ability to define the problem in a way which showed that it could be solved. The ability to do this, and lobby government to understand the problem, was critical in shaping the Rough Sleepers Unit. During the 90’s under the Rough Sleepers Unit there was real reduction in the number of people living on the streets. Importantly, Julia feels that during that period there was a real break in the connection between poverty and squalor. Is there evidence that we are slipping back to this connection – when we are seeing the advent of ‘beds in sheds’.

Are we heading for another significant transition – what are the key factors that we need to recognise, anticipate and understand. Deficit reduction will be the priority of any future government’s top priority. This drive is raising a really big discussion about the size of government and this impacts on the views about what government can do and what it’s priorities are. This has huge impacts on the available directional spend of local authorities, but perhaps almost in response, authorities are now flexing their power in defining their legitimacy in terms of their local democratic responsibilities.

It is important for the homelessness sector to understand the impact of a hugely bifurcated workforce – where there are two completely different experiences of employment – those with better paid job security – and in a contrast a huge growth in very insecure positions, with an extreme levels of casualization in the labour market – and the crisis in the housing market is making that notion of ‘getting on your feet’ being further from the reality for the vast majority.

Julia also reflected on how technology is not just changing the way we do things, but also the things that we do. This provides the ability to deliver much more detailed analysis of individual’s potential outcomes – around health, educational attainment, and many other social determinants. The homelessness sector needs to understand the potential impact on those who are homeless and we must understand how that might impact on the ability to generate ‘solidarity’ within communities. Need to recognise that welfare reform and the sanction regime will drive many people under the radar.

Leaders of the future need to recognise that there will be even more accountability, even more scrutiny and even less understanding of those who are homeless, a strong creation of ‘other’ that we must challenge and ensure that the voice of those who are homeless is heard and listened to.

Matthew Taylor of the RSA then joined the session – and from the start – was modelling his vision for effective leadership by bringing challenge and support to delegates on the London Housing Foundation leadership course. He urged the sector to bring some clarity to what it is talking about when it talks of homelessness. By conflating issues associated with inadequate housing and those who are sleeping on the street – the sector runs the risk of being out of control of how the discourse we wish to inhabit is interpreted, or with what it is aligned.

Matthew also laid out some pointers to the future leaders of the sector – starting with a timely reminder of the moral imperative that you must constantly ensure that you focus on mission rather than organisational glory!! We share challenges that the third sector as a whole faces around impact and the need to have clarity about what we want to do, be courageous and understand what your ‘model of change’ will be. In the process of change, then you may need to ‘dethrone the elite’, capitalise on untapped assets, co design and examine culture.

In order to be successful leaders you need to collaborate. He reminded us we are not in a ‘self indulgent’ period, where existence is a given, you need to get challenged, ask for help, break down barriers and look outside of the sector. Innovate – but radically – not incrementally – and ensure you have, or make, the capacity to stand back and look at how things could work differently. For example, if we fail to understand and connect with new social movements then we will get left behind. The way in which the homelessness sector operates needs to tap into this much more localised space.

He also left us with a poignant thought around the politics of ‘telling it as it is’. What are we afraid of? If we are clear what we are talking about, and give people the full picture, then they can act. He warned of the dangers of ‘progressives’ (I think he was talking about us!) leaving a vacuum in social and political debates where there is no obvious ‘blanket’ incitement or opposition in support of the sector as a whole. If we can’t or won’t articulate a nuanced response – then the space is left wide open for those who wish to polarise and simplify opinion and perspectives.

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Shining a blue light on housing……

Domestic news has been dominated this week by hospitals – with headlines focussing on the rate of admissions – and behind the scenes focus on the rate of discharge. The connect with the hospital location has meant that so much of the dialogue has been around peoples immediate health needs, but in a sense, the story I want to talk about is about what do people need to get back home.

Over the last month Sitra have been working with the LGA to promote the role of Housing in the integration agenda – recognising that together health, housing and social care can provide real alternatives to the existing models of provision. I think that this is the thinking that housing can bring to the current acute crisis. For most people entering or leaving hospital, they will be coming from home and wanting to return home. It stands to reason then that those who offer housing services are a critical part of the response. To date that contribution has been largely untapped – now we want that to change.

I have been talking with our members about what could be offered to support the immediate challenge – and there are definitely both national and local responses which could support both the push and pull on acute services. Key resources exist within the housing sector.

For example there are large numbers of highly skilled housing support workers whose focus is on supporting people to live independently who could be a critical force in enabling someone’s smooth return home. They are often strongly connected to a locality, and could be an immediate bridge to local services, helping build up a robust network of support, for instance, in those first 48 hours and beyond, when someone comes home.

Many localities will have handyperson or home improvement teams who can rapidly respond to help make temporary adjustments to individuals homes to ease their return home after an operation or fall – including grab rails, moving furniture round for ease of access or beginning the process of longer term adjustments such as stair lifts or flat access bathrooms. Peoples entry to hospital can often be exacerbated by their living environment – and connecting up with landlords early on can mean that issues around heating, damp, condensation or hoarding – can be addressed during the hospital stay – meaning that they can return to a safer healthier environment.

Finally, housing may have suitable short term accommodation to offer a transition for those who no longer need hospital care, but are unable to return to their own home – potentially for short term access reasons, for example they have short term use of wheelchair for recuperation purposes or indeed whilst repairs or longer term adjustments are being made to their own home.

To get the most out of housing, we need coordinated responses which have housing at the table. There are a small number of existing examples of housing support professionals embedded in hospitals – both in the accident and emergency room – and in the discharge team. We need to escalate this approach and make sure that every hospital has the support it needs to make the best use of these housing resources. Pilots have shown it works – it saves money – and most importantly – it gets people back where they want to be – home.

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Dementia Leadership – Housing takes up the challenge…..


Earlier this year, a new partnership was formed between Sitra, the Housing LIN and the Association for Dementia Studies (University of Worcester). This partnership developed a number of courses that were specifically tailored to help housing providers – both general needs and specialised providers – to understand the role that they could play in supporting people with dementia living in the community.

Professor Dawn Brooker, International expert on Dementia, leads Day 1 of the strategic leaders event and here reflects on the importance of the course.

“If you’re wondering why managers in the housing sector should be interested in dementia, read on. The housing sector has a vital role to play in helping people with dementia to live well as most people with dementia live in their own homes, including sheltered housing, extra care and general needs housing. With the number of people living with dementia set to double over the next 30 years, having an informed and skilled workforce is essential for improving care and support for people with dementia and their carers and as a manager you are a key part of this picture.

In order to be an effective leader and manager you need to have the right knowledge and new courses have been developed specifically for managers in the housing sector, so whether you are a manager working at a strategic level or an operational scheme manager, there is a course to suit you.”

The Strategic Leaders Programme a 2-day course, was recently held in Birmingham in July, and received excellent reviews. It covered  a range of topics including person-centred care, the enriched model of dementia care and how it relates to practice, and the VIPS framework. The course also provided an insight into developing best practice around housing and dementia, helping you to appreciate ‘what good looks like.’

I was involved in delivering some of the sessions, and attended the review day for the course, where participants talked about how they had implemented the learning. I was inspired at the progress that organisations had made including:-

  • Work taken place with property services team and in the process of setting up dementia friendly brief for all new developments and for cyclical planned work.
  • Visits made to over 400 older residents – providing a fantastic opportunity to understand what they want from services to support their continued independence.
  • Senior Directors have attended dementia champions training. They are now rolling out dementia friends training to five hundred care and support and housing staff including the chief contractor, handypersons and voids services

Recent research carried out by the Housing LIN into the skilling up the general needs housing sector around Dementia highlighted the need for a bespoke course. I am really pleased that Sitra, Housing LIN and ADS have formed this exciting partnership to put this into action. We are running another strategic leaders course on the 25th and 26th November in London and taking bookings now – for more details check our the Sitra site here.

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Housing and Safeguarding

The need to enhance safeguarding provisions has dominated discussions around the provision of care and support for vulnerable adults in recent years. It is with this in mind that the important role housing has to play in the safeguarding of ‘adults at risk’ is recognised and it is imperative that as a sector, we understand the contribution staff and organisations can make in keeping people of all ages safe.

Last week Sitra ran a consultation event looking at the implementation of the Care Act 2014 and how housing is both represented in the guidance, and where it should be involved. There is much work to be done across the broad spectrum of implementation, but it is clear that one of the most significant areas of practice where there is wholehearted agreement is about housing’s engagement in Safeguarding.

Of course, for many years, providers of housing and housing support services have taken a very proactive approach to safeguarding – providing training and guidance to staff, contractors and, in many cases, to tenants and service users. However, it is important to understand that the Care Act ties together a whole raft of recent legislation connected with safeguarding. The guidance and legislation rolled together are outlined in the Department of Health factsheet. The overarching impact of this is to strengthen the focus on housing as a key source of both identifying and addressing safeguarding concerns. Reinforces the contribution housing can make to serious case reviews/Adult Safeguarding Boards and emphasises the importance of multi agency working and partnership.

One of the hotly debated elements of the Care Act 2014 pertains to the changes in eligibility threshold. However, it is critical for housing providers to understand that the safeguarding responsibility extends beyond those who meet the eligibility threshold to qualify for care services, and in addition includes those who pay for their own care and support. This means that it is just as important for those supporting tenants in general needs housing to understand the implications of the Care Act on their role and procedures as it is for those in specialist and supported housing.

Sitra recognise this is an area of critical importance for the sector to take forward, and to support this we are doing a number of things:-

  • Sitra have joined the Safeguarding Alliance and will be actively identifying opportunities to share resources and information about safeguarding with members, and to showcase excellent practice.
  • Sitra are hosting a session with Imogen Parry, UK expert on housing and safeguarding. This is running on the 10th July – BOOK NOW!
  • Updating all our training materials to comply with SCIE guidance and best practice on Adult safeguarding for housing staff


Are there other ways in which we can support you in this crucial area? Get in touch.

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One Page Profile – Housing Challenge Day!

Or should I say – “It started with a tweet…… never knew it would end like this!”

Risky business this late night tweeting – can get you into all sorts of exciting relationships! Earlier this year, I happened upon a tweet by the marvellous Helen Sanderson, whose passion and commitment to personalisation have been an inspiration to me for a number of years. Helen was busy championing one page profiles in the health service, as part of the innovative NHS Change Day. She posed a challenge as part of change day to galvanise the health profession into taking up one page profiles.

The concept of one page profiles was not new to me, I knew about Helen’s work, and through Sitra’s detailed personalisation work with housing and support providers we have long championed their usage. However, as those of you who know me will be aware, I do like the notion of a challenge! So, I hooked up with Helen and a plan was formed. Social media champions out there will be pleased to know that all this was done on line – and it was only last week that Helen and I actually met in person!

The challenge was set at the Sitra #changemakers conference in March this year. By the 1st July, Sitra would have supported the development of 100 One Page Profiles for Housing. Supported by a fantastic team at Sitra – including Dani, Geni and Luke – the challenge campaign took shape – and the results are pretty astonishing.

Firstly we built up our gallery of profiles, drawing together example profiles from clients, staff and leading figures in the housing, care and support world. The gallery can be found here – and it is growing all the time.

Next we connected up with organisations committed to implementing one page profiles or growing their usage of them. The details of these organisations can be found here.

Then we pulled together some case studies and presentations on how organisations were using them, and what difference they had made. Some sample cases are here.

Finally we pooled a whole host of resources, ran workshops and developed templates to make it straightforward for others to take up this way of work. Resources are here.

And what about numbers – I am thrilled to say that through the campaign we have been able to identify that the best part of ten thousand profiles are in use in the housing sector. Now – not even I will claim that all these are down to our challenge! But the challenge has helped bring together what feels to me like a leading example of best practice – helping organisations take a first step towards personalisation – towards breaking down barriers between clients and staff – and to embarking on a pathway to culture change which sector leaders feel they will never look back from!

So challenge day is upon us – and the final piece of the challenge jigsaw again came together on line. Helen put us in touch with the inspiring Community Integrated Care, one of the largest national providers of social care services. They too are embarking on an internal voyage to get all clients and staff ‘profiled’ up within a year – now they really like a challenge! We have just finished a jointly hosted session in the NW, bringing together housing and care providers, to encourage even broader take up of one page profiles. With the added bonus of showcasing #integration between housing and care in action!

Big thank you to those who have already put forward their example profiles – the gallery and our resource centre remains very much open for business. And huge thanks to Helen Sanderson and her fantastic colleagues who have given so much support to help us get housing on board. The story definitely does not end here………….

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Care Act 2014 – Housing – More than a foot in the door…….  

Hotly anticipated Guidance for the Care Act 2014 has been issued by the Department of Health. The full guidance can be found here – The Act as it is to be found on the statute books can be found here.

Headline news in this guidance is the recognition that “Housing is a crucial component of care and support as well as a key health related service.”

The Care Act 2014 has been highlighted by Norman Lamb as “the most significant reform of care and support in more than 60 years, putting people and their carers in control of their care and support”. Important changes include a new prevention duty placed on local authorities, improved information and advice, introduction of national eligibility criteria, and a cap on the contributions that people have to pay towards the cost of their care. The main legislation will be supported by regulations and guidance to help local authorities with implementation and will include specific advice on links with housing.

The guidance is divided into 8 sections and is intended to provide localities with ‘on the ground’ guidance for implementing the Act. Critically, there is a section specifically dedicated to Working with Housing, resulting from a stronger understanding within government at both central and local level, of the critical role housing has to play in both integration and personalisation.

The Housing section of the guidance (sections 15.54 to 15.74) highlights the connections between housing and relevant clauses in the legislation including:-

  • Clause 1 on Wellbeing
  • Clause 2 on Prevention
  • Clause 3 on Integration of Care and Support services with health and health related services
  • Clause 4 on Providing Information and Advice
  • Clauses 6 and 7 on Co-operation Duties
  • Clause 23 on the Exception for the Provision of Housing

This consultation provides an opportunity to review the strength of understanding demonstrated of housing and housing related support in contributing to this critical agenda. Do you feel that it goes far enough? Can you identify additional case studies or information that could be incorporated to strengthen the guidance? The Act makes prevention a key focus, but do you feel it says enough about housing’s role in this? Are Better Care Fund plans showing housing at the table in high level integration plans?

Make sure you get your voice heard………..

A)     Contribute as an individual or organisation to the consultation by visiting the Department of Health website and share your submission with Sitra

B)     Attend a Sitra consultation workshop, where you will hear directly from both the Department of Health and a Local Authority representative with responsibility for the implementation of the guidance. Book a place on these workshops via the Sitra website

As noted, the Act also incorporates putting for the first time, a cap on the amount anyone will have to pay towards the costs of their care. Sitra worked with the Office of Public Management last year to try and unpick some of the issues that will be prevalent in the implementation of this complex reform, particularly in relation to self funders. Our full report on this can be found here.

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One Page Profiles – Taking up the challenge…..

At Sitra, we are delighted to be working with Helen Sanderson Associates to take forward the challenge of introducing One Page Profiles to housing. In Sitra’s work around personalisation with providers and commissioners we have been promoting their usage, and seeing the value of them in driving forward personalisation. How can something so simple – make such a difference?

Well – the beauty of it is that it is straightforward. It is about putting onto one page the key things that you would like others to know about you in order to better support you, work with you, understand you, value you, share with you …..the list goes on,but don’t take my word for it……

Look Ahead have been using One Page Profiles for some time – and Ceri Sheppard shares their learning here 


 “Using One Page Profiles has been positive across the organisation. They are very important for relationships and mutual respect. Honestly, I can’t think of a single reason not to do it.”

So what do you need to do now! Take part in the challenge of course…… We have set the sector the target of producing 100 housing profiles by the 1st July – and we have got some great tools to get you on the road. Taking the next step is critical – and there are many routes you can take! Visit the Sitra website to take the plunge. View some of the profiles already on line, Come to our free workshop on the 12th June, where Helen Sanderson Associates will be there to help you build up profiles for clients or staff, share the existing templates with colleagues and clients to build up your own bank of profiles, send us completed profiles to share, champion the approach using the #onepp tag on social media, share barriers and solutions… This is a great opportunity for housing to grab hold of this accessible tool to take one step closer to personalisation. Hold my hand and we’re half way there…….

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