Why the information you give us can lead to better planning for homelessness

Tuesday, 1 December 2015 - 10:53am

Our Annual Review of the sector has become a vital tool for identifying trends, gaps in provision and future risks to the support people need. As we start our research for this year’s Review, we look at how the information you provided last year has been invaluable over the past twelve months.

For eight years we have gathered evidence of the support available in England for single people experiencing homelessness.  This Annual Review is the only source of information of its kind and we rely on homelessness services to provide us with accurate and comprehensive data to help us build a picture of what is going on in the sector.

We launched this year’s survey was launched today – one for accommodation services and one for day centre provision – and we need your help in completing these.

As we start the ninth year of the Annual Review, let’s take a look at how last year’s findings have been crucial in shaping issues that affect the sector.

Ensuring changes to policy and practice are evidence based

Annual Review data has influenced recent policy changes in a number of ways.  The development of new legislation giving Jobcentre Plus advisors discretion to apply an easement to conditions around looking for work was partly based on the number of services reporting that sanctions were an issue for their clients in last year’s review survey. Civil servants who drew up the revised regulations used the data to estimate the proportion of people experiencing homelessness this would apply to and the efficacy of proposed changes.

In the past year the Government and other statutory bodies have published a series of consultations asking for views on changes to policy and practice. Evidence collected in the Annual Review has helped identify current gaps and make a compelling case to ensure the changes take the needs of our client group into consideration. For example, the Making Every Adult Matters coalition responded to the Mental Health taskforce citing that 44% of day centres experienced difficulties for clients accessing mental health services. This helped build a case that high quality, holistic, primary mental health support should be available to everyone with multiple needs.

The data also enables us to respond reactively to changes as well. The recent proposal to reduce social rents by 1% has drawn on evidence about the number of bedspaces, the support needs experienced by clients, and the average length of stay in accommodation services. The fact we know that half of people using homeless accommodation services are aged between 16 and 25 has been used to estimate the impact of restricting housing support for 18 to 21 year olds if it is implemented in 2017. In light of these proposals we have designed this year’s survey to more accurately quantify the provision of support for this age group.

Please help us complete this year’s survey

Following the Spending Review announcement this week, we know that the challenges faced by the sector are likely to increase over the year ahead. It is more important than ever that we have a compelling evidence base about the support provided and the people receiving it to use in discussions with commissioners, government and providers.

Please help us complete the survey so we can build up the evidence base for the need for change and to ensure the sector can continue this work.

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Francesca Albanese

Francesca was our Research Manager from April 2014 to December 2015.