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

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: rebecca.rieley@sefulfillinglives.org.uk

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:

INDIVIDUAL LEVELSERVICE LEVELNATIONAL LEVEL

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.

Campaigning


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 rebecca.rieley@sefulfillinglives.org.uk. The full report is out now and available to download here:

Author – Kerry Dowding