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Supporting people with multiple needs: A Commissioner’s View

12 February 2014

Nick-HooperI am filled with optimism now that I know Big Lottery Fund will be funding the Multiple Needs programme in Bristol.  Things are really tough in the current environment with many more people presenting as homeless, many more sleeping rough and real pressure on everyone trying to help homeless people.  Not only can it be a thankless task, but too often we see the same people becoming homeless over and over.  We have had a strong focus in our commissioning on preventing repetition and yet this is clearly not yet having the desired outcomes.

A few months ago we took a quick snapshot of people we were unable to place in any services – and came up with the astonishing answer of about 50 people per year.  That’s 50 individuals that no housing or support providers were willing to accept; 50 people, whether on the street, or in B&B because their needs were too great for any provider!  And when we got round the table with colleagues from probation, mental health etc. it quickly became apparent that we all had involvement with this group and they were often moving from prison and mental hospital, to hostel to drug treatment, to the street…. and then back again.  And all at huge personal and financial cost.

So why did I become involved in the Complex Needs project? I have responsibility in Bristol City Council for preventing homelessness and managing our housing advice service; both operational and commissioning roles. We have nearly completed re-commissioning all of our homelessness and prevention services based on a ‘pathways’ approach and remodelling our in-house services on the same basis. For those households with more straightforward needs we now deliver a good service, and reported outcomes are steadily improving. Yet for clients at the top of the ‘needs triangle’ it was clear that something more holistic, based on system redesign, was needed.

So once Second Step became the lead agency I readily agreed to join the Partnership Board, feeling not only that this was a great opportunity ‘to do things differently’, but also knowing that it would require my authority and leadership to help bring about some of the required system change. At the same time the Council is going through a fundamental redesign of how it both commissions and delivers services. Here was the opportunity to bring the learning from the Big Lottery Fund project into a much wider spectrum of changes built around customer needs.

Now finally, we have the resources, the commitment and all the agencies ‘in play’ such that we can genuinely re-design the whole system and create solutions that people with complex needs, as well as commissioners, know are possible.

Second Step, a mental health charity in Bristol is celebrating today after receiving a further £9,949,500 in National Lottery Funding to continue developing its pilot project for adults with multiple and complex needs.

The Golden Key pilot project is led by Second Step and brings together a number of service delivery and strategic partners including Bristol City Council.

Nick Hooper Service Director, Housing Solutions & Crime Prevention

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