Research into the supported housing sector’s impact on homelessness prevention, health and wellbeing

Introduction to the Research

1. Research into the supported housing sector’s impact on homelessness prevention, health and wellbeing (2023) is a research report commissioned by the National Housing Federation (NHF) and its members.

2. It was conducted by Imogen Blood & Associates in partnership with the Centre for Housing Policy, University of York.

Study aim

3. The study aimed to better understand how supported housing specifically impacts homelessness, health, and well-being, as well as the challenges it faces and its interactions with public services.

Research Methodology

4. The research methodology comprised two primary approaches:

  1. a snapshot survey, and
  2. qualitative interviews. 

Snapshot Survey

5. Conducted on 1 August 2022, this survey encompassed 2,119 individuals living in supported housing projects for working-age adults. Notably, the survey responses were provided by the residents’ key workers, offering insights from those who knew the residents’ circumstances intimately.

Qualitative Interviews

6. The study further involved qualitative interviews with 30 professionals from various organizations, including housing associations, the NHS, and key national bodies like NHF, NHS England, HACT, and Homeless Link. These interviews aimed to gather diverse professional perspectives on the impact of supported housing.

Key Research Findings

7. The study revealed significant findings regarding the positive effects of supported housing.

Resident Needs and Complexities

8. The research highlighted the complex needs of residents in supported housing, where 9 out of 10 individuals had at least one health condition or disability, including mental health issues, substance misuse, and physical disabilities. Moreover, a substantial proportion of these residents faced multiple health challenges.

Homelessness Prevention

9. Supported housing plays a crucial role in preventing severe forms of homelessness, such as rough sleeping. The study estimated that annually, around 50,000 people are resettled from transitional-supported housing into more stable living situations.

Health and Wellbeing Improvements

10. The findings demonstrated that supported housing significantly aids residents in accessing primary healthcare, attending health appointments more consistently, and receiving necessary diagnoses and treatments for both mental and physical health conditions.

Challenges and Barriers

11. Despite the positive impacts, the sector faces several challenges.

Transition to Independent Living

12. The transition from supported to independent living is hindered by factors like lack of affordable housing and concerns about potential anti-social behaviour, causing prolonged stays in supported housing for some residents.

Integration with Health Services

13. The research identified a need for better integration and coordination with health services, particularly mental health teams, to enhance the effectiveness of supported housing.

Value for Money and Service Pressures

14. The study underscored the financial challenges facing the supported housing sector, with an average cost of £21,000 per supported housing place per year. Without the sector’s intervention, there would likely be increased homelessness, higher demand for psychiatric inpatient places, and additional strain on residential care and prison facilities.

Conclusions and Recommendations

15. The research concluded that supported housing significantly reduces homelessness and improves the health and well-being of individuals facing multiple disadvantages. However, to maximize the return on public investment, the study made the following recommendations relating to: 

  1. enhancing move-on housing and support
  2. improving access to health services, 
  3. leveraging integrated care systems (ICSs). 

Enhancing Move-On Housing and Support

16. Providing more move-on housing options and floating support would further reduce pressure on local homelessness services.

Improving Access to Health Services

17. Better access to NHS Secondary Mental Health support and more consistent partnerships with primary healthcare could significantly reduce demand on NHS inpatient services.

Leveraging Integrated Care Systems (ICSs)

18. The new ICSs provide an opportunity for strategic integration of supported housing, enhancing collaboration and co-design with NHS mental health services.

Final Thoughts

19. The research highlights the critical role of supported housing in addressing homelessness, health, and well-being. While showcasing the sector’s successes, it also points to areas where further improvement and integration could yield even more substantial benefits for individuals and society.

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