In the run-up to the Assembly election coming on Thursday May 5, Homeless Connect developed a manifesto to take to political parties putting forward candidates.
We worked with our members and our policy forum to develop the manifesto. It includes ten policy proposals which, if enacted, would make a real difference in preventing and reducing homelessness here.
As polling day nears, we are going to publish a series of blogs unpacking the ten proposals and explaining why they matter.
For all our Assembly Election 2022 coverage (including the rest of our own manifesto) click here.
Ensure people with lived experience of homelessness are at the heart of policy development and design of services.
In the view of Homeless Connect, if we are going to see homelessness prevented and reduced it is crucial that individuals with lived experience of homelessness are at the centre of policy development and service design. Individuals with lived experience of homelessness have too often been marginalised and sidelined in this process with negative consequences for them and for the services seeking to support them.
The involvement of people with lived experience of homelessness can have three beneficial effects:
- People with lived experience have unique insights on policy and services arising from their experiences. There are some forms of knowledge which simply cannot be obtained from desk-based research and which can only be understood from the perspective of those with experience of services.
- When people with lived experience bring their insights to the table with service providers and policymakers, better policy can be developed due to the blending of the different forms of expertise involved. Better understanding can be developed.
- The involvement of people with lived experience of homelessness can empower those who will have often been ignored and marginalised.
It is not necessarily straightforward to involve service users in policy development and service design. If this approach is going to be adopted, it needs to be properly resourced. Tokenistic and superficial engagement can be counter-productive and may increase alienation rather than lead to better outcomes.
In a positive development, the Housing Executive in its Year One Action Plan under the Homelessness Strategy has committed to, “seek to appoint a Strategic Partner to develop and implement a Lived Experience Programme,” and to “host four Service User meetings over the course of 2022/2023.”[i]
For this to work, the Housing Executive will need funding to be made available. A commitment from our political leaders to this approach would help to ensure that it would be prioritised going forward.
[i] See actions 10 and 11 in Housing Executive, “Ending Homelessness Together, Homelessness Strategy 2022-27 Year 1 Action Plan”, 23 March, 2022, https://www.nihe.gov.uk/Documents/Homelessness-Strategy-2022-2027/Homelessness-Strategy-2022-27-Year-1-Action-Plan.aspx 4.