Blog by Rebecca Slack, External Affairs Manager at the National Housing Federation
For me, the opportunity to visit our supported housing members is always a highlight of Starts at Home Day. Launched in 2015 when vital funding for supported housing came under threat, Starts at Home Day is an opportunity to talk about the unique, crucial work that supported housing teams do in towns and cities across the country, every day of the year. Starts at Home Day returned for a fifth time this year. It is part of our continued efforts to protect supported housing long-term with our ask of £1.6bn ring-fenced funding for housing-related support. This funding will help ensure vulnerable people get the quality support services they need to retain their independence and change their lives.
As part of Starts at Home Day 2021, alongside the NHF’s Chief Executive, Kate Henderson, I visited one of our member organisations, Framework Housing Association. Framework are based in Nottingham and have schemes across the East Midlands and South Yorkshire. We shown around three of their Nottingham city centre services: Nottingham Wellbeing Hub, Michael Varnam House, and Forest Road West by their Chief Executive, Andrew Redfern and Operations Director, Claire McGonigle.
Nottingham Wellbeing Hub, is hosted and managed by Framework Housing Association. The Hub is an amazing service that brings a number of existing employment and support services, including housing, drug and alcohol, mental health, sexual health, offender support and a number of employment support providers under one roof. This means that people can access more than one service in one place, and ask for additional support if they feel they need it. The Hub has a daily footfall of between 200 and 250 people. It shows what can be achieved by integrating services across housing and health when partners work together to meet the individual needs of vulnerable people.
Michael Varnam was a local GP who dedicated 35 years to tackling health inequalities in deprived areas of Nottingham, including those with a history of alcohol misuse. Named in honour of this work, Michael Varnam House is a gated supported housing complex designed to help homeless people with a history of alcohol misuse. With a beautiful garden, maintained by the residents and a calming atmosphere, the house focusses on creating the right environment to allow specialist support to be delivered effectively.
Forest Road West provides specialist support for people with multiple and complex needs. The existing building is due to move to a much needed new purpose build self-contained accommodation which has been enabled by joint funding from Homes England, Nottingham City Council and internal fundraising by Framework. Across all three schemes, it was the professionalism, care, compassion and resilience of the staff delivering these vital services that stood out the most. We spoke to Chief Executive, Andrew Redfern, about the importance of schemes such as those we visited, and what the future could hold for them:
‘Starts at Home is about the value of supported housing. Over the years supported housing has been undervalued in the way it has been thought about it, developed, operated and funded. At its best, it can make a huge difference to the life chances of vulnerable people. To make it work, as a service with the outcomes that it should and can produce we need to make it work financially, and in regulatory and policy terms. If we can do that, we will find that we can reduce homelessness, reduce rough sleeping, crime and anti-social behaviour and create a better community and society for everyone.’
That is the power of supported housing at its best. It can change the life chances of those most in need of support, offering both independence and support. In doing so, it can better our communities for everyone.