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.”


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.


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


Eve McCallum, Systems Change Officer

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

Rebecca Rieley, Systems Change Lead:  

For more information sign up to our newsletter:

Empowering staff in Temporary Accommodation to best support people with Multiple Complex Needs 

The crisis in housing supply and growing numbers of people becoming homeless, has resulted in increased pressure on local authorities to source and provide temporary accommodation. Higher numbers of people with multiple and complex needs are being placed in unsupported temporary accommodation (TA) and in turn TA staff have become a key part of peoples’ journey out of homelessness.

Fulfilling Lives’ research shows that from our clients in TA, 57% of placements broke down due to behaviour or failure to comply with their accommodation provider’s licence agreement and expectations. With staff not trained to work with people with multiple and complex needs (MCN), behaviours that arise as a result of trauma can be seen as too challenging for the environment. As a result, clients can be evicted quickly and find themselves back at square one, in need of accommodation.

“We have experienced multiple situations where a TA resident has displayed progressive changes in their behaviour which have ultimately resulted in cancellation of their booking. Examples might include failure to maintain medication, depression or relapses into substance abuse. We are keen to find solutions to reduce the frequent cycles in TA and support progress towards stable living.”

TA Provider

As identified in FLSE’s Manifesto for Change, establishing acceptable minimum standards of training and quality for temporary accommodation providers is essential if local authorities are to use them in providing TA for people with MCN.

Over the past three years, Fulfilling Lives has facilitated training sessions for providers of temporary accommodation on how to better support people with multiple and complex needs. These sessions were led by members of the Service User Engagement team and client facing workers and gave insight into the experience of people with MCN and offered practical tools on how staff can support this group.

The sessions:

This training took place in a number of temporary accommodations across East Sussex and explored topics such as Stigma, Psychologically Informed Environments and Trauma, in the context of working with people with multiple and complex needs.

The training sessions were led by the FLSE team, and set out the following aims:

  • To introduce the learners to the concepts of – Multiple and complex needs (MCN), the impact of trauma on MCN clients, brief introduction to trauma-informed approaches (including psychologically informed environments PIE) and establishing professional boundaries with the client group. 
  • Share with learners the experiences of people with lived experience, including the impact of stigma, with a view to promoting increased empathy and understanding.  
  • The hope is that staff will feel more confident in working with people multiple and complex needs who are placed in temporary accommodation, and that these clients will have better outcomes such as increased ability to sustain a placement and better relationships with the staff. 

Feedback gathered from learners before and after the sessions highlights the positive impact training has on the understanding and confidence of staff. Learners gained knowledge around the impact of trauma and how this can present itself in the clients they work with.

“Trauma is not the event, it’s the person.”

Another learner said they would go away and particularly consider the impact of first impressions when working with MCN clients –

“The impact of first impressions on someone that is likely to be in a chaotic or stressed state. Their ability to retain information will be reduced as a result.”

A particularly valuable element of the training that was mentioned again and again in feedback was the opportunity to hear about the lived experience of temporary accommodation from the FLSE Project Consultant.

“I was really impressed with [the Project Consultant’s] story as having a real person’s account makes it more relatable”

The session received a net promoter score of 100, meaning that it was rated ‘excellent’ by attendees. Respondents valued the real-world insight gained on working with complex trauma and with multiple and complex needs.


It is clear that adequate training empowers staff to best support people with multiple and complex needs and establishes a greater understanding of the impact of trauma and challenging behaviours.

In line with our commitment for change, set out in our Manifesto, and based on the positive feedback from Fulfilling Lives’ training sessions, we recommend the following:

  • The adoption of minimum standards as documented in The Emergency Accommodation Charter, which requires TA providers to train their staff with a focus on safeguarding, Multiple Complex Needs awareness and trauma informed care (TIC) and Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE) approaches.
  • For local authorities to embed Fulfilling Lives’ multiple and complex needs training videos within their online induction resources and for these videos to make up part of the mandatory training for staff in temporary accommodation.

For residents in temporary accommodation to be asked for regular feedback on their accommodation, including a section on staff conduct and adherence to trauma-informed principles.


Eve McCallum

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

Rebecca Rieley, Systems Change Lead:  

For more information sign up to our newsletter:

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.


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:

Author: Eve McCallam

Housing Assessment – a guest perspective

Fufilling Lives South East has collaborated with the University of Brighton to conduct research on how local authorities can effectively support people with multiple and complex needs during the housing assessment process. The work draws together interviews with Fulfilling Lives Workers and existing academic research to present a detailed list of recommendations for local authorities.

The Problem

It is well-acknowledged that mainstream services often struggle to engage with people living in complex situations and people with multiple and complex needs often go without the help they need (McCarthy et al, 2020). At the forefront of the disadvantages experienced by people with multiple and complex needs is the difficulties they experience accessing appropriate housing. There are significantly reduced housing options for people with multiple and complex needs and they are increasingly difficult to access.

Throughout their work and research so far Fulfilling Lives South East found a significant knowledge gap on approaches to the housing assessment process and how it can best support people with multiple and complex needs. Most people with multiple and complex needs will be assessed by a local authority at some point to see if they are eligible for housing support. This assessment is a crucial step and often happens when a person is most in crisis and in need of shelter. The process can be frustrating, long winded and invasive, therefore this research sought to develop a better understanding of effective approaches to this pivotal process that demonstrates a positive impact on their lives.

The Solution

The three themes identified in the research lead to this list of recommendations for local authorities in how their housing assessments can best support people with MCN:

  • Follow a clear more concise assessment process, that doesn’t take too long to complete.
  • Ensure that the assessment process follows a trauma informed approach. This means being understanding of the trauma applicants may have experienced and ensuring the process is not re-traumatizing
  • Show compassion and kindness to the applicants. 
  • Maintain confidentiality throughout the assessment. This includes providing a safe and private environment to carry out the assessments in order for applicants to feel more comfortable sharing their situation and experiences.  
  • Take an interprofessional approach to the assessments, in which housing officers utilise the applicants existing support network. This could include working alongside the individual’s key worker who will know them well. 
  • Allow for flexibility in the application process, work creatively around the obstacles that may arise when assessing people with multiple and complex needs.

Read the full report: here.

Author: Izzie Bloxham-Shelley

If you would like to hear more about our work in housing, then please do get in contact with Rebecca in the Fulfilling Lives team:

Rebecca Rieley, Systems Change Lead:

Fleeing domestic abuse whilst having multiple disadvantages: How we can improve housing options

Fulfilling Lives South East has collaborated with the University of Brighton to conduct research on what good housing could look like for women with multiple complex needs who are fleeing domestic abuse. The work draws together interviews with Fulfilling Lives’ workers and existing academic research to review the issue originally highlighted in Fulfilling Lives South East’s Manifesto for Change

The problem with domestic abuse and housing options

Domestic abuse does not occur in isolation from other issues. The research finds clear increases in likelihood of mental health issues, substance misuse and homelessness for people who experience domestic abuse. Despite this connection with multiple needs, services are not always able to provide suitable housing options for people in this group who are fleeing domestic abuse.

61% of local authorities do not have a homeless service specifically for women with multiple and complex needs (original source: ‘mapping the maze’ research report).

Managing complex risk, active addictions and trauma presentations often requires specialist knowledge and support. This is a challenge for services which may not be financed or equipt to provide the physical space or staffing required to support MCN women to stay safe. The result can be limited, inflexible offers of housing which can lead to rejection, eviction, or the choice to stay with an abusive partner to avoid having to engage with the system. Pair this with a limited housing stock offer in the South East, and the limitations of housing options are only exasperated for these women.

What can help women in this situation?

The research indicated that the following approaches could be beneficial in addressing the issues:


Advocacy & trauma-informed support

Workers help individuals to get the best from the system, challenge stigma and support the emotional wellbeing

Flexible policies which acknowledge complexity

Identify MCN women through referrals and plan for specific needs. Provide as much flexibility as possible.

Funding for housing options

funding to provide staffing levels and spaces for women with complex needs to feel safe and maintain tenancies

Empower women with MCN

Use information and support for MCN women to make informed decisions about their support

Trauma Informed Workforces

Identify MCN women through referrals and plan for specific needs. Provide as much flexibility as possible.


Providing evidence of the need for specialist housing options and sharing best practice with national decision makers

The research also acknowledged that funding limitations into new housing approaches for women fleeing domestic abuse contributed to the restricted offer available and in the current context, the report encourages us to explore enhancing and improving existing services and systems to effect positive change.

What next?

Whilst academic research on the impact of domestic abuse was prevalent, finding research on domestic abuse and multiple needs was more challenging. This highlighted the need for further research in this area, both in terms of academic contributions and pilot projects which seek to improve outcomes in this area. Our student researcher concludes:

Working with Fulfilling Lives helped me understand the work that goes behind organisations that offer services for communities. The concepts of multiple complex needs and trauma informed responses really resonated with me, as I believe they can be applied to any services that provide help and support for communities.’ – Student Researcher

If you are interested in working with us in this area, please contact Rebecca at The full report is out now and available to download here:

Author – Kerry Dowding