Unfamiliar places – The impact of out of area placements

Looking at out of area accommodation placements and the impact on people with multiple complex needs


In the last seven years, Fulfilling Lives has supported people with multiple and complex needs (MCN) to get access to suitable housing. The particularly acute housing shortage in the South East means that higher numbers of people with multiple and complex needs are being placed in unsupported temporary accommodation, including out of area placements, and are remaining in this accommodation for longer.

This crisis of supply has led to local authorities placing some people who require housing out of area. Fulfilling Lives client data shows that out of area placements were offered by a local authority to our client group 20% of the time. This presents people with multiple and complex needs with impossible decisions around choosing between receiving the support they need or accepting accommodation out of area.  As a result, only 10% of out of area placement offers made to our clients were taken up.

The Issues

Relocating away from their local area creates a range of issues for people experiencing multiple and complex needs, such as –

  • Being unable to benefit from outreach services
  • Support workers are unable to effectively monitor well-being
  • The area is unfamiliar, so it is difficult to find services and facilities
  • Financial problems e.g. travel costs and council tax
  • Living away from social and personal support networks

In 2015, a Supreme Court ruling brought greater attention to the issue of out of area placements. Titina Nzolameso, a single mother of five children, was evicted from her home in Westminster and after making an application for housing support, was offered a house in Bletchley, Milton Keynes (approximately 50 miles away). Ms Nzolameso turned this offer down on the basis that she had already been a resident of Westminster, had on-going health concerns and did not want her children to have to change schools. Nzolameso decided to take her case to the Supreme Court, and the Court ruled in her favour. The case has impacted housing practice across the country and many local authorities subsequently reviewed and updated their allocations policies following the ruling.

Recommendations

A report completed by Fulfilling Lives and the University of Brighton reviews the policies relating to out of area accommodation placements of Brighton and Hove, Eastbourne and Hastings local authorities and sets out recommendations for how these policies can better support people with multiple and complex needs. 

Key recommendations:

  • All local authorities should publish their Temporary Accommodation Allocation policies publicly online. This provides greater transparency and clarity in order to avoid misinterpretation in practice and to ensure that clients and their support networks are aware of the allocations criteria.
  • Out of area placements are rarely suitable for people with multiple and complex needs and local authorities should make every effort to house this group in their local area.
  • The Nzolameso case should be revisited by local authorities and the learnings reviewed to ensure compliance with best practice in all areas.
  • If people with multiple and complex needs are offered a placement out of area and they refuse it, they should not then be considered ‘intentionally homeless’ and the local authority should continue to carry out its duty to house the person.
  • Should an out of area placement be unavoidable, the local authorities should maintain regular contact with the host local authority to ensure that there is continuity of care and intensive support available to people with MCN.
  • There should be cross county discussions between local authorities around supporting each other with out of area placements. There are similar challenges named by each local authority and we feel dialogue between local authorities and the production of joint working protocols would be useful steps.

Read the full report on out of area placements here: https://bit.ly/3zTiV5h


Author: Eve McCallam

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