Updated: Feb 3
WHAT makes GM Housing First’s delivery unique is its commitment to co-production.
People with lived experience are involved in every part of the pilot – everything from helping to recruit staff to helping to shape policy.
The co-production efforts are led by Matt Kidd from Creative Inclusions, who have worked closely with the team to ensure the correct voices are being heard.
He said: “We are here to offer support and provide challenge to the providers of Housing First because everyone who is involved in it has been affected by services emotionally in both positive and negative ways.
“They understand that policies and procedures written on paper actually manifest themselves when they are delivered in people’s lives and how they impact on them; particularly when the service feels really impersonal and you are told that we can’t do this because you don’t meet this threshold or you don’t tick this box.
“It just makes you feel like someone’s got their priorities all wrong. It feels like this service is supposed to be about being able to help people and sometimes you just feel like you’re a number and you get into this position where you go for an assessment with a service and you worry about whether you can be honest.
“You worry that if you tell them the truth they’re just going to tell you that you’re not eligible. They’re just going to tell you can’t have support and you feel completely helpless in that situation.
“So the panel is there to support and challenge providers around that and making sure they are viewing people as people.”
The co-production panel have been working hard to ensure the service is fit for purpose and have provided invaluable insight into the direction we should head, both as the pilot was being set up and as it progresses.
And tailoring the service to the needs of the individual is what differentiates the Housing First philosophy from traditional models.
Matt added: “I always say that to make your processes and your paperwork fit around people and their relationships rather than the other way around. And good services do that. Not so good services will these are our processes and this is our paperwork, you either fit in with that or not.
“This really needs to be about relationships and we invest in the relationships first and foremost and everything is built around that.
“So far it’s been really positive. Those bits of red tape, the policies and procedures, are always going to be there. At times that can slow things down but I think that what we have experienced is a genuine will to work alongside us and build really meaningful relationships with us, listen to us and where it’s possible to share decisions as equals.
“A key thing is Emily, the lead, has told us that there are things that we know more about than the team and there are things that they need and I suppose that makes you feel valued.
“It’s not just a nice add-on to say ‘Haven’t we done well that we’ve asked some people what they are saying’. It’s actually ‘You know a lot about this and I need your help’ and that’s made us all feel valued.
“It’s empowering when it’s genuinely used. You can see it within people if you’re just given the smile and nod and ‘That’s all very nice but actually I still think I’m the expert.’ I think all of us have worked with services like that.
“We can see that it’s genuine and that empowers you. If you can look someone in the eyes and you know that they value your input then that’s really empowering.
“Especially when you’ve had that flip side of it and you know someone’s just smiling and nodding but doesn’t really want you to be there and doesn’t want to take any notice of you but is doing it maybe because funding requires some user involvement.”
The three-year pilot is in full swing and people are being re-housed, but Matt has how own thoughts on what success looks like.
“My measure of success is how quickly can people access the support that’s right for them,” he said.
“I think if we can move away from these services that put these people on a sort of conveyor belt almost, that would be a huge plus.
“They say we get you into drug treatment then we get you in to employment and maybe there’s a volunteer group first. That’s how they measure success to whether they have ticked all the boxes regardless of whether it’s actually what the person wants or not.
“I think the relationships within Housing First flipped that because it’s about making it fit the person and making then go through this process to prove that they meet certain criteria, that they are ready to change. That is able to save peoples’ lives and provides that support in a really responsive way.
“Housing First is not about assessing someone and putting them through this conveyor belt and just saying everyone gets this.
“It’s about understanding people and responding. You understand people through genuine, human conversations and relationships and you respond according to what they say. Which, to me, seems like common sense.”