A report released on Tuesday 27th September 2022 explores staffing issues in the homelessness sector in Northern Ireland and gives voice to frontline workers who support some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
The report, which is 133 pages long, was commissioned by Homeless Connect and was funded by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE).
It was written by academics Dr Karen Orr and Dr Leeanne O’Hara from Optimum Research and Innovation.
It has been informed by desk-based research; a survey of 205 frontline staff in the homelessness sector from 27 organisations across NI; and six focus groups with 28 staff working on the frontline and in management.
The report highlights the dedication and commitment of frontline staff in the homelessness sector. However, it also shows that pay and conditions for staff are not keeping up with the wider economy and brings to the fore some of the many challenges frontline staff face.
One respondent wrote in their response to the survey:
“I would like to see more pay for the responsibility we have. The job is taking on a different role as we have to deal with mental health issues. We need more training in this area. Outside agencies are putting more pressure on staff by not dealing with our client’s mental health issues. There seems to be no professional supervision regarding staff mental health. Staff are becoming burnt out which leads to sickness. Which then takes its toll on the rest of the team, having to meet the shortfall of cover. If it wasn’t for my manager, I don’t think I would still be in the job. She is very supportive.”
Another respondent said:
“I feel like the efforts of staff are not appreciated by those who are not working in the hostels. Staff are required to be support workers, social workers, addictions workers, mental health professionals, counsellors, provide financial support, housing officers and I do not think that this is recognised by those who are not in the sites.”
Regarding the current freeze in the Supporting People (SP) funding and policy framework for housing support services, one respondent said:
“We are very concerned that without an SP increase we will be unable to recruit and keep a staff team over the next 2-5 years. To the extent that we won’t be able to run our services. We are already struggling to recruit relief and have seen a huge drop in applications especially from those under 30 in the last 5 years.”
You can read both the executive summary and full report by clicking on the links below.