New Forest District Council: Integration of mental health homelessness practitioner
In November 2021 the council embedded a Mental Health Homelessness Practitioner (qualified Nurse) into the council’s Homelessness and Support Team to:
- Provide a flexible and immediate response to mental health crises of homeless clients rough sleeping or in temporary accommodation
- Improve access to mental health services for clients, and build partnerships with services
- Carry out professional assessments to inform mental health services about individual clients
- Inform housing teams on appropriate accommodation and support strategies to prevent breakdown of placements
- Inform discharge plans from hospitals to avoid breakdown of placements
The council’s Homelessness Service took the initiative to improve the outcomes for homeless clients with enduring mental health conditions, which affected their ability to sustain accommodation. These residents were often admitted to mental health hospitals in crisis, only to be returned to accommodation without adequate, timely and tailored mental health support. The service approached the local NHS Trust to begin a dialogue to create the role with mutual support and back up resources of clinical supervision.
The role has access to NHS data systems and uses this information to inform housing outcomes. The aim is to both reduce admissions to hospital and prevent homelessness through innovative practice, meeting the strategic aims of both the council and the NHS Trust. This work links in with the council’s wider Homelessness Support Team, and the range of refurbished or new single person accommodation units provided by the council to improve accommodation outcomes for such clients.
The role was secured through a bid to the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities’ Rough Sleeping Initiative, based upon a strong business case and corporate commitment.
Clients with mental health conditions benefit from improved outcomes and speedy interventions. Previously waits for GP appointments meant significant delays in service users receiving the crisis support they needed. This intervention is now accessed promptly via the council’s practitioner, bypassing the GP and freeing up their valuable time.
This innovative approach has reduced the demand for mental health beds and reduced the costs of temporary accommodation funded by the council through reduced stays in temporary accommodation and less damage claims by providers.
Good working relationships with adult social care have also been developed. 12 service users have been referred for a social care needs assessment, all of which now have had the assessment and ongoing care. One of whom was residing in a council property and required a 24-hour placement to meet their complex mental health needs.
The initiative has built significantly improved relationships with several statutory agencies, particularly between the council and the New Forest Community and Acute Mental Health Team. The Practitioner’s work has contributed to the creation of a new Duty to Refer (DTR) process, which has had a positive impact, the council having actively promoted meetings to discuss homelessness and developed additional mental health information.
The practitioner is able to gather information for housing officers so that they can risk assess and help inform accommodation decisions. They work closely with colleagues who work in accommodation specifically designed for ex-rough sleepers, visiting regularly, and developing regular mental health drop-in and mindfulness workshops.