Housing and Homelessness: What is the role for Liaison and Diversion?
Homelessness and general accommodation issues are on the rise in the UK, particularly amongst those people who are already vulnerable, such as people with mental or physical health problems. The NHS England L&D Service Specification states that L&D services should be assessing a client’s level of housing need and working with local housing organisations to help address any issues. Of all adult cases seen during the last financial year by NHS England commissioned L&D services, 8% were homeless and a further 7% had an identified accommodation need. For children and young people, 7% of cases were identified as having a housing need.
The Essex L&D service reported some of the highest rates of homelessness and housing need amongst their adult clients. Sharon Payne, Service Manager in the Essex L&D service notes “Homelessness in Essex is a big problem and according to the housing departments this is because of the increasing private rents, lack of private affordable accommodation to rent and house prices being so high that on average a house is 5 x the national wage. We do have a high level of clients that are homeless, this may be because we have a couple of big night shelters in the county and also because of the proximity to London we also get a lot of clients that have moved into the Essex area. We work closely with our partnership agency ‘Full Circle,’ who have good links with all housing departments in the county. I also attended a conference last week with them on the new provisions of the Housing and Planning Act (2016) which start from April 2018. This was a good opportunity for us to get our concerns across regarding the high level of homelessness in the client group that we see.”
Stephen Jenkins, Service Manager at Birmingham Liaison and Diversion Service, describes here how his team helped a homeless client find housing and support and ultimately helped him to stop re-offending.
“Andrew was homeless the first time he came into contact with our L&D service. The service was able to find him accommodation but he experienced more issues with housing in between short stretches in prison. Our L&D Support Time Recovery (STR) worker and also our Peer Mentor (who is employed via Shelter and works as a full-time member of the L&D team) did a great job helping the client with his accommodation needs each time, as well as other related needs such as providing food parcels, getting his benefits sorted, registering him with a local GP and getting him onto a drugs programme.
We saw him regarding two separate arrests and each time the team were able to get him back on his feet. He was discharged from the L&D Outreach Service in March 2017 and hasn’t been in custody since. The STR worker was able to liaise with the prison so support could be put in place on his release. They worked with the housing organisation Shelter to ensure accommodation was still available for him and even met him at the prison gates and took him to his new home with a food parcel and other benefit information.
Shelter is just one of the housing organisations that the L&D service has links with. The team work with the Local Authorities Housing Office, as well as other local organisations such as St Basil’s who help young people experiencing homelessness, Sifa Fireside a charity working to improve the health and inclusion of homeless people, the holistic women’s support charity Anawim, Trident Reach who offer care and support to vulnerable groups in the Midlands, including homeless people, the housing organisation Midland Heart and the mental health charity MIND who provide residential and supported housing, to name a few. Each provides different types of housing support which, together with the different types of care and support other organisations also provide, can help an individual stay off the streets and out of the criminal justice system.”