Stronger Together – How Temporary Accommodation Action Groups are achieving Systems Change

Improving unsupported temporary accommodation and the experience of those with multiple and complex needs living in this type of accommodation has been a focal point of Fulfilling Lives’ work over the past 8 years. With the use of Temporary Accommodation (TA) at an almost two-decade high  identifying the most effective ways to find solutions to the issues faced by those in TA is increasingly important. In this blog, we will tell the story of the East Sussex Temporary Accommodation Action Group (TAAG) and explore the successes of the TAAGs more widely in creating real change in this area.


“A Temporary Accommodation Action Group (TAAG) is a local initiative that brings together the key temporary accommodation stakeholders in the city to collaborate to improve the lives of those without a home.”

Justlife

Through our casework with people experiencing multiple and complex needs (MCN) placed in unsupported TA by Eastbourne and Hastings Borough Councils, we found there were recurring issues that were leading to repeat cycles of homelessness. These included a lack of support for specific needs, and lack of staff understanding of how past trauma can affect behaviour often leading to evictions.

Discussions with representatives across the sector, including support services, local housing authorities and TA providers culminated in a local learning event which highlighted the importance of partnership working and taking a local systems change approach to the problem.

The consensus was that forming a multi-stakeholder group would be welcomed and so a few months after the event, the first East Sussex TAAG was held. This has now developed into a regular, well-attended action group chaired by the Chief Executive Officer of Eastbourne Citizens Advice. 

Fulfilling Lives’ approach to systems change recognises that change is rarely something we can do in isolation and through our work locally we knew that there were individuals within the system who were demonstrating person-centred and trauma-informed practices. As a project we wanted to listen to that wisdom from within the system and help to build on positive behaviours to create change.    

By taking a collaborative and democratic approach, a common set of values and shared purpose was established within the group. A space was provided for members to raise concerns and build group-led solutions to the challenges associated with unsupported TA. The TAAG is also  a forum for learning and connecting, to reduce siloed working and identify opportunities for further collaboration. With Fulfilling Lives’ scope spanning across East Sussex and Brighton & Hove, we have been involved in the TAAGs in both areas and have used this position to utilise our learning widely.

A significant initiative arising from the East Sussex TAAG was the Temporary Accommodation Charter, which was developed from research carried out in 2018 by Eastbourne Citizens Advice into people’s experiences of living in TA. The Charter sets out a reasonable standard of emergency accommodation and provides an established agreement between the local authority and TA providers to help residents break away from homelessness. Building on the work of Eastbourne Citizens Advice and the East Sussex TAAG, Fulfilling Lives collaborated with Justlife in Brighton & Hove to develop a similar charter and after working closely with local TAAGs, it was agreed by Brighton & Hove City Council to include the higher quality of standards in their contracts with TA providers. With Eastbourne due to release its new Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for Temporary Accommodation providers, we hope to see the embedding of the Charter standards within these contracts too.

Reflections

The dedicated commitment of support services to the TAAG has continued to centre the client in the thinking and actions of the group and has led to an increased awareness of the issues faced by those at the intersection of multiple disadvantage. From this consolidated place, the TAAG has been able to think strategically about change at both a local and national level.

The newly formed All Party Parliamentary Group on Households in Temporary Accommodation, functions as a national forum with support from either end of the political spectrum to address the issues in TA. This presents an opportunity for the TAAGs to share their learning gained at a local level to influence and enact changes to national policy.

While striving for long-term solutions to the housing crisis continues to be necessary, it is important to acknowledge that for now, the use of emergency and temporary accommodation is only set to increase. Despite its prevalence, the hidden nature of temporary accommodation means it is largely excluded from strategic conversations around tackling homeless, further emphasising the value of the TAAG as a dedicated space for improving standards in TA. With this in mind, Fulfilling Lives encourages the increased use of TAAGs and the sustained and proactive involvement of local authorities and temporary accommodation providers in these groups. Local TAAGs should also be utilised in the evaluation and gathering of feedback on the standards in temporary accommodation. We recommend that, in line with the monitoring and evaluation standards as set of out in the Charter for Temporary Accommodation that “a person with lived experience of emergency accommodation and a representative with learned experience from a voluntary sector group on behalf on the Temporary Accommodation Action Group (TAAG) should take part in inspections, contract meetings and gathering feedback from residents. This should all be reported back to the TAAG.”

To learn more about our Systems Change approach and work with TAAGs, read our article for the academic journal Housing, Care and Support due to be published this Spring.  

‘If you are interested in setting up a TAAG, click here


Authors:

Eve McCallum, Systems Change Officer

For further information about Fulfilling Lives work in this area, please contact:

Rebecca Rieley, Systems Change Lead:

rebecca.rieley@sefulfillinglives.org.uk  

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