In his latest blog, co-production lead Matt Kidd, from Creative Inclusions, describes how the co-production panel continue to help the pilot while helping to provide a support network for each other.
It’s the fact that they’re living it, or they’ve lived it, and you know that they know the pain you’re going through. That gives you the confidence to open up about something. This is why I love it when you tell me about your experiences of the past because I’m like he understands, he knows what I’m saying and it gives me confidence that anyone else who needs it will get the exact help they need – Ash Zone B on his experiences of co-production
Whilst the pandemic has undoubtedly presented a lot of challenges for the co-production panel’s work, we have adapted to new ways of working and have still managed to actively involve several people from the programme in mutually beneficial ways.
Over the past year, we have predominantly been building relationships with people through phone calls and video calls. This presents extra challenges because lots of people have anxiety about speaking to people they don’t know over the phone.
We know people have trust in their Housing First workers, and we build on this to break down any barriers to participation. The HF workers discuss with the people they are working with:
Who the co-production panel are
What they do
What some of the potential benefits of being involved could be.
If people are interested in getting involved then we start off with a phone call which is focussed on them, their interests, strengths and experiences of accessing Housing First.
Whilst undoubtedly more difficult over the phone than face-to-face, these conversations have produced many really valuable insights around what makes HF so valuable, such as:
"They didn’t talk about a bad perspective (like other services in the past who had based every conversation by highlighting what they thought was wrong), they fully understood me they gave me choices."
“I'd describe (some of the services I’ve accessed in the past) as almost military-style in terms of what they expect from you. That has never worked for me. Housing First has got to know me and done things that were important to me, I've not had to jump to their tune."
"Before Housing First I'd been homeless for a few years, I'd worked with lots of different agencies for short periods but never really got the consistent support I needed. When someone explained what Housing First was, it sounded amazing like a dream come...That is the way it turned out as well.”
Following on from these conversations we encourage people to come together on weekly video calls with others with lived experience of homelessness and interlocking conditions such as mental health.
People have told us that video calls aren’t an ideal way to start getting to know new people, and we hope to have some face-to-face outdoor meetings over the summer months so people can get to know one another in a more sociable environment.
Despite the challenges, we have seen the following benefits emerging from these collective meetings:
People gaining confidence
The co-production panel has provided a space in people’s lives where they are free to express themselves about things they know others in the group will have experiences, especially social issues such as homelessness, mental health and substance misuse which are highly stigmatised. People are sharing artwork, poetry and creative writing and getting a lot of positive feedback from other group members which is helping people grow in confidence.
People building a new support network
The co-production panel is providing an extra source of support for people where they can benefit from the experiences and perspectives of other people who have faced similar challenges.
“It’s the understanding a lot of the time, a lot of the time what people need is the understanding and to be told ‘I understand why you feel that way, you have a right to feel that way and you’re going to be alright’ - Ash on what he is getting from having a support network which includes others with lived experience
People influencing sustainability planning and systems change
People on the programme who are involved in the co-production panel have articulated to us some of their anxieties about what might happen if there isn’t funding to extend the GM Housing First pilot.
This has led to people contributing testimonies to the All-Party Parliamentary Group which is committed to scaling up Housing First, we have also helped Crisis to coordinate a focus group to feed into this review.
On a regional level, the panel is linked to Greater Manchester’s homelessness programme board and homelessness action network and is supporting people to advocate for sustainable funding for Housing First through these forums.