This afternoon at the Assembly the All Party Group on Homelessness held its latest meeting. The APG heard from David Polley, Director of Housing Supply Policy in the Department for Communities, and Billy Crawford, Head of Homelessness Branch at the Department.
David and Billy presented on the Interdepartmental Homelessness Action Plan, known by the acronym IDHAP. The IDHAP is one of the key mechanisms through which Executive Departments seek to work collaboratively to address homelessness here. The Department for Communities leads on the IDHAP but it also involves the Departments of Health, Justice and Education. You can read the latest version of the plan here.
In their presentation and in response to the questions afterwards, David and Billy provided some constructive examples of how Departments here collaborate together to seek to prevent and respond to homelessness. They reflected on the significant challenges the lack of a budget poses for the Department and for Government as a whole here in this area. It was noted that the Department is currently facing a fifteen to sixteen million pound overspend for homelessness services arising from the lack of a budget and the pressure on the system.
They particularly highlighted the ongoing development of the ‘Complex Lives’ pilot project in Belfast. The ‘Complex Lives’ model was developed in Doncaster in the early 2010s. In brief, the model is a whole-system approach focused on supporting people experiencing chronic homelessness. At the core of the model is collaborative working between Government, statutory agencies and the voluntary sector to ensure that people experiencing chronic homelessness can provide the right support to those who need it at the right time and in the right place.
In Doncaster, this involved:
- The introduction of more joint commissioning of services
- Moves to better integrate services
- The use of a single case management system
- Changes to governance to increase accountability
Several Executive Departments, Belfast City Council, the Housing Executive and community and voluntary sector organisations are working collaboratively to seek to support individuals experiencing chronic homelessness in Belfast. Funding from a variety of partners has been secured to see the project progress. Representatives of the PSNI and the Housing Executive also provided some helpful context around Complex Lives in Belfast. This will be something the APG will explore further in future meetings.
The next meeting of the APG will be on Monday December 5, when the APG will be holding an event to mark Homelessness Awareness Week 2022 at the Assembly. The event will focus on supporting families experiencing homelessness.