Social return on investment

John Glenton, Executive Director of Operations for Care and Support services, at Riverside, takes a look at the social value for their Newbury First service.

During the 25 years I have worked in the housing sector, I have seen many challenges and opportunities. One critical threat was the proposal to restrict rents to the local housing allowance cap. I am proud to be part of a sector that successfully lobbied the government to  help ministers see the devastating impact this policy would have had.

For me a key outcome of this lobbying is a greater understanding of the role of supported housing and how it can improve quality of life for individuals and offer value for money to the public purse.

Rising homelessness

Our services are needed more than ever – Homeless Link recently reported that since 2010  rough sleeping in England has increased by 134%, while according to The Homelessness Monitor the number of statutory homeless acceptances increased by 44% in the same period.

Many entrenched rough sleepers have multiple complex issues relating to mental health, substance misuse, or other medical conditions. These issues can make it difficult for people to work their way through the traditional, target driven supported housing system.

In the US and Europe the Housing First method of support has successfully supported formerly homeless individuals with complex needs to sustain their housing. The model provides a person with a stable home with no conditions and intensive personalised support. High success rates have led to pilots being run across the UK.

Last year Riverside Care and Support worked with 11,000 people who had experienced homelessness or were at risk of becoming homeless, supporting 5,000 to move into permanent accommodation.

At our Newbury First project in Manchester, while retaining some transitional elements, we  have adopted Housing First principles. Customers of Newbury First are provided with accommodation and support workers engage intensively with them, offering long-term, personalised support. Many of the traditional rules associated with supported housing have been removed from Newbury First with the focus being on harm reduction and risk management.

Significant impact

Our evaluation of the impact and effectiveness of the service showed an 88% rate of accommodation retention for customers living within the service. Although many had struggled to adapt from life on the streets, all the customers who were interviewed valued the safety, privacy and warmth of their flats. Customers valued the relationship with their support worker and felt they could access them when they needed to. Most customers noted improvements in their general well-being and self-esteem, and felt more motivated and optimistic about the future.

The evaluation calculated a social return on investment which showed that for every pound spent on the service there is a return of £3.83. This calculation took into account the costs of the average rough sleeper on public funding, including costs to the NHS and criminal justice system.  This means that for every £100,000 invested in the Newbury House service there is a return of around £383,000.

Despite not strictly adhering to the principals of Housing First, Newbury First demonstrates that the model is adaptable, and the principles have a positive impact for customers.

Our evaluation provides further evidence of the value of supported housing, and its offer of a better alternative to rough sleeping, prison or life in some form of institution – outcomes that can be all too common for those who find themselves homeless.

To discuss the issues raised in this article, contact

This article also appeared in the CT Brief, Issue 33: Care & Support edition.