Social Finance & LGiU: Homelessness Prevention Seminar

On Tuesday, 2nd May 2017, Social Finance co-hosted an event with the Local Government Intelligence Unit that attracted over 40 local authorities to learn about early Trailblazers in Newcastle and Southwark, and the implications of the Homelessness Reduction Bill which received royal assent on 27 April.

Dr. Jonathan Carr-West from LGiU gave a great welcome & introduction, followed by keynotes from panel members, Cllr Michelle Lowe from Sevenoaks District Council, Tim Gray from Brent Council and Ian Swift from Suffolk Council.

After lunch, it was straight into four breakout sessions run by Social Finance — below are some of the key points discussed:

1. Supporting high needs groups back to independent living

  • Different challenges faced in different areas?

Yes, but discussion is still centered around two populations: i) highest needs individuals (incl. rough sleepers); and ii) supported accommodation move-on. Some Local Authorities are exploring truly multi-disciplinary teams i.e. bringing specialist skills such as drugs and alcohol and mental health support within the team, rather than relying on users to attend appointments around their city/county.

  • Effective cost:benefit analysis?

Effective cost:benefit analysis is central to getting other public agencies to contribute to funding intensive services for highest needs populations, and at the very least into multi-agency forums and governance structures.

“The costs of complex needs should fall across public estate.”
  • Communication?

Communication is vital as adversarial relationships between the Council and providers are not conducive to better outcomes for people, however well the Council manages contracts. It should not be underestimated how important it is to set a shared vision for supported accommodation services (i.e. move-on, addressing underlying needs) so that the commissioners and providers are not working at cross purposes.

2. Preventing Homelessness through data and partnerships

  • Use of data in homelessness services?

While Local Authorities produce a lot of data for national returns, not many use that data locally with other performance information to manage their homelessness services. There is general recognition that better data on who is becoming homeless, why and a better understanding of the impact of subsequent interventions would be vital following the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act.

“There is much that can be done through better use of existing data sets held by local authorities. This requires managers to prioritise resources to that end and make it a part of the way homelessness services are commissioned.”
  • Specific data?

There are challenges around access to data on mental health, children’s services, troubled families, as well as the quality of existing data.

3. Securing Additional Housing Supply

  • North/South Divide?

The North/South divide is evident and there were discussions of a nationwide mismatch of available property — in the South lack of affordable property, whilst in the North, the issue being the quality of property rather than supply. A key issue identified is that the low level of market rent doesn’t pay for improving the quality.

  • Private Rental Sector?
“The private rental sector is not working — it is too expensive for benefit claimants.”
  • Modular housing?

There is a lot of interest in modular housing — particularly for temporary accommodation. Local Authorities would benefit from coordinated research/cost:benefit analysis.

4. Designing, commissioning and managing Social Impact Bonds

  • Finding investors?

Typically, investors are identified by the providers who will provide in-principal agreement to invest in the SIB if the application is successful. Some Local Authorities have held market engagement events for investors and providers to meet.

  • Exit strategies?

Local Authorities shared that they have committed funding for a significantly smaller scaled service, although this has been through fee-for-service. Typically, the view was that commissioners stuggle to find available funding to continue the service despite recognising the value of the programme — this will require a strong savings case.

“More work needs to be done during the project to demonstrate the value created and why it would be feasible to continue funding.”
  • Practicalities of measuring the SIB?

Key practicalities include: requirements of good data systems which are user friendly and flexible, clearly defined outcome criteria and understanding of the challenges and time lags to evidencing outcomes.

Summary:

Government has indicated there will be a total of £61m available over two years to Local Authorities to support delivery of HRA duties, with potential for a review within two years. Local Authority feedback is that this will not be sufficient and there was a general consensus that the Homelessness Reduction Act would create an increased strain on resource as it will stimulate demand for services. Therefore putting in place the necessary tools and service culture to manage this will be important.