Sharing the learning from Manchester's co-produced, grassroots response to homelessness
Manchester Homelessness Partnership Toolkit
In 2015, the number of visible rough sleepers in Manchester city centre was increasing significantly and homelessness was on the rise across Greater Manchester. The general public was becoming increasingly concerned, putting additional pressure on local councils, and a growing charitable movement was emerging to address it – made up of both formal organisations and street-based outreach groups.
Substitute Manchester for almost any other place in England right now, and this statement would still likely be accurate. However, Manchester has been doing things differently since 2015 and is seeking to completely change the way homelessness is addressed: developing a co-produced and grassroots partnership. Three years since those initial conversations and two years since the Manchester Homelessness Partnership was officially convened with the launch of the Manchester Charter, Homeless Link has published a Toolkit to help others learn from their efforts and apply similar localised changes.
What are the key lessons from Manchester?
1. Co-production, co-production, co-production
With a key motivator from the very beginning being to think differently about homelessness, involving people with lived-experience was an early priority to change the underlying dynamics in the effort to end homelessness.
Co-production is happening right across the Partnership and is influencing all actions and recommendations. All of the key people involved in the project are required to attend training on co-production. Each of the action groups is co-chaired by someone with lived-experience, with further representation on the driving group and partnership board.
This culture is now spreading across Manchester, where it is increasingly the norm for service redesigns to be co-produced and to make sure that people with lived experience are involved in all conversations which take place about the service.
2. Agile, bottom-up culture
The Partnership has deliberately avoided adopting a formal structure, which has the benefit of keeping power in the action groups focused on key issues. Although a driving group helps connect activity and the Partnership Board facilitates the link to senior decision-makers, no one involved in an action group is required to get permission before doing something.
This allows the groups to be agile, respond to developments and harness the knowledge of people who have experienced homelessness. Many achievements have stemmed from this, such as alerting the Council lead and Community Mental Health Team to the placement of people with high support-needs in unsupported temporary accommodation (UTA), as soon as it was raised at the UTA Action Group.
3. More resources are needed
The Manchester Homelessness Partnership has existed, for the most part, without any dedicated resource. Instead, it has relied on the efforts and energy of all the partners involved (including, of course, people with lived-experience). Inevitably though, some of those partners have found themselves putting in more and more time. So earlier this year, two roles were funded to support the activities of the Partnership.
When the Partnership began, the ‘connecting’ role played by the Street Support website was vital in bringing people together, along with the ‘guiding’ role of the Charter and galvanising effect of the affiliated Big Change Manchester diverted giving scheme. Together these provided enough infrastructure to draw together everything that was happening and may have dissipated without it.
Homelessness and rough sleeping, in particular, has not been solved in Manchester. However, the Partnership has learnt a lot during its two short years and it is now addressing the situation in a way that is long-term and systemic. For other parts of the country considering grassroots partnerships, Manchester can provide some excellent lessons.
Whether you are a person experiencing homelessness, a support worker at a charity, a commissioner at a Local Authority, a leader in a faith organisation or an interested member of the public - we hope the Toolkit can help get you started.
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Partnership manager (north)
Robbie is currently covering Helen Dudzinska's maternity leave, as partnership manager for the north of England.
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