AN ESCALATING CRISIS
Significant policy change is needed to tackle the steep rise in homelessness , hears DDN
My door is always open to stakeholders ,’ Paula Barker MP , the new shadow minister for homelessness and rough sleeping , told the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drugs , Alcohol and Justice . Labour would be looking for true partnerships and a cross-governmental , trauma-led approach . ‘ My eyes are wide open to the complexities ,’ she said . ‘ It ’ s an enormous task .’
Chris Hicks from Crisis demonstrated this . There had been huge changes since the pandemic , when 37,000 people were supported into emergency accommodation through ‘ partnership working like we ’ d never seen before ’.
However , we were at risk of going backwards ; since then there had been huge rises in people facing homelessness , eviction and rough sleeping . Cost of living pressures had affected not only energy bills but rent , with average rents increasing by 11 per cent . The gap between housing benefit and private rent had risen by 40 per cent in just five months . Without ‘ significant policy change ’ Crisis predicted that we would see homelessness a third higher by 2024 , he said .
On substance misuse specifically , Homeless Link ’ s health audit had found that 45 per cent of homeless people questioned were self-medicating with drugs or alcohol to help them cope with their mental health issues . Crack use had increased the most , with 24 per cent of respondents using it , and 20 per cent were using heroin .
So what was being done by government ? A rough sleeping strategy promised £ 2bn investment over the next three years , while the drug strategy earmarked £ 53m to fund a menu of housing support for people in treatment ( see page 4 ). NICE guidelines on health and care for homelessness advocated multi-disciplinary specialist teams and joint commissioning between health , social care and housing – 42 integrated care strategies were in the pipeline .
Crisis called for a move towards a more preventative homelessness system , which included a duty to refer on to drug treatment . This needed to take place alongside much wider provision of Housing First , as 16,500 more places were needed . Michelle Christiaens gave her perspective as recovery project manager at Amy ’ s Place , a joint initiative between the Amy Winehouse Foundation and Clarion Housing to provide supported housing to women aged 18-30 . It had been set up to bridge the gap with residential treatment by giving women a two-year period to find their feet , she explained , and was ‘ a beautiful example of how a charity and a housing association can work together ’.
Co-production was at the heart of the home and their ‘ unique approach to relapse ’ took a different approach to the all-too common ‘ one strike and you ’ re out ’. ‘ It takes a lot of courage to come through the door ,’ she said , and that deserved the chance to work together to figure out what went wrong . Through holistic and personcentred support , ‘ we get people confident to go back into society and do their thing ,’ she said .
Former resident Melissa shared how she had found accessing residential treatment really difficult . After an assessment at Amy ’ s Place she was offered a safe female-only environment that became ‘ a once in a lifetime opportunity ’ – a time of creativity , emotional growth and blossoming confidence . She discovered the ‘ major difference between a house and a home ’ and was set on the path to thriving . ‘ It was like slowly taking stabilisers off ,’ she said . It was ‘ a bridge to independent living ’. DDN
dull toil of tiresome nights and days , always they came together over alcohol . The saloon was the place of congregation . Men gathered to it as primitive men gathered about the fire of the squatting place or the fire at the mouth of the cave .’
While calling for better treatment , education , awareness , challenging stigma and much greater resourcing and policy initiatives are crucial . We do need also to recognise the social determinants of our lifestyles and the commercial determinants which exploit them . Adrian Bailey and Martin Paterson , directors , The Machine Zone Community Interest Company
A RARE AND REMARKABLE FIGURE
Your tribute to Lord Ramsbotham ( DDN , Feb , p22 ) was spot-on . With his military background and bearing , the former chief inspector of prisons commanded respect , but also treated others with respect . He held treatment providers on the frontline in high esteem and was a staunch opponent of the damaging ‘ War on Drugs ’.
It was a privilege to work with David for many years during his inspirational leadership of the Drugs , Alcohol & Justice Parliamentary Group , which he described as offering ‘ unique
and invaluable opportunities for peers and MPs to hear directly from treatment providers and get the most up-to-date information from those working on the frontline ’.
Although always courteous and dignified , he had a rare and remarkable ability to cut ministers and officials down to size and cut through what he called ‘ the cult of managerialism ’.
In recent years he entitled a paper on probation for former shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon People are not things . What appears an obvious observation was something he realised was too often overlooked . We must ensure policymakers remember this – and we will always remember him . Richard Hanford , co-ordinator , Drugs , Alcohol & Justice APPG
DDN welcomes all your comments . Please email the editor , claire @ cjwellings . com , join any of the conversations on our Facebook page , or send letters to DDN , CJ Wellings Ltd , Romney House , School Road , Ashford , Kent TN27 0LT . Longer comments and letters may be edited for space or clarity .
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