Putting people first
Lessons from the Greater Manchester Housing First pilot
Housing First Team Leader, Great Places
I have spent my entire career supporting vulnerable people and understanding the struggles individuals have had in combining both substance misuse and mental health treatments. Being part of the Greater Manchester Housing First (GMHF) pilot has given me real hope that systemic change is possible. Here is why.
The Housing First approach is person-centred, aimed at people receiving support and ensuring they have control over their own lives. The GMHF pilot works across 10 local authority areas, divided into four zones. The partnership is made up of 11 organisations aiming to create a blueprint of our Housing First approach for others to use in the future.
The GMHF pilot adheres to seven core housing principles:
- People have a right to a home
- Flexible support is provided for as long as it is needed
- Housing and support are separated
- Individuals have choice and control
- An active engagement approach is used
- The service is based on people’s strengths, goals and aspirations
- A harm reduction approach is used
What has ‘person-centred’ meant in our experience on the pilot?
We have found that when clients have secured a tenancy that they chose themselves, the empowerment they feel has really helped them to focus on their wellbeing. This epitomises the benefits of the person-centred approach.
Yet we have found this approach has not been easy. Providing a person-centred service when other services are not, is challenging. If the reason for these services continuing to work in isolation from each other is due to how services are commissioned then systemic change is necessary. Shouldn’t the person at the heart of this support have their own decision-making ability?
“Providing a person-centred service when other services are not, is challenging. If the reason for these services continuing to work in isolation from each other is due to how services are commissioned then systemic change is necessary”
Partnership working on the pilot
Housing First workers have benefitted from the input of the Creative Inclusion co-production panel that is part of the pilot. Having the benefit of this experience on recruitment, training, policy and other areas has been very important in shaping services and has been a key part of the process.
This has been reflected through the pilot’s approach to creating a platform for people receiving support to have control over what that support looks like. The need to have substance misuse treatment alongside treatment for mental health issues, to develop coping strategies and resilience in key. Whether individuals choose harm reduction or abstinence, it is their choice.
There is clear scope to provide additional services to enhance this approach, such as trauma-informed care or resident psychologists. Within the GMHF pilot there are four dual-diagnosis practitioners – one for each of the four zones covering Greater Manchester.
Further to this, having their own personalisation budgets has meant clients in the GMHF pilot have gone a step further to take full control over their treatment and purchased their own therapies.
One person has experienced many years of numerous diagnoses, medication and hospital admissions and wanted to take full control of how they receive treatment of their mental health issues by utilising their budget. They are now making good progress as a result.
Here to stay
Working in the GMHF pilot has shown me that we can support people no matter where they are on their journey to reach their goals. A crucial aspect of this is ensuring individuals have control over their treatment decisions.
I can see first-hand that system change can be achieved. We do not need to wait for changes to how services are commissioned to experience it. However, the pilot has shown that, with increased partnership working to enable a person-centred approach across different service areas, the scope exists to achieve much more.
For more information on the GMHF pilot, visit our website.