Our Women’s Strategy turns 1

    Today is International Women’s Day, and Cat Glew, our Women’s Strategy Manager, celebrates the first anniversary of our Women’s Strategy, and shares details of our exciting projects for the year ahead.

    Today, on Sunday 8 March 2020, the world is celebrating International Women’s Day – and St Mungo’s is celebrating the first birthday of our Women’s Strategy!

    A lot has changed in 12 months at St Mungo’s and beyond. Across the world and in our services, women are facing challenges to their rights and their safety that we can’t ignore.

    The UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) has published a new Gender Social Norms Index warning that progress towards gender equality is slowing worldwide. Nearly nine in 10 people across the world hold some bias against women.

    The data showed that half of men and women think that men make better political leaders, and four in 10 think men make better business executives. Twenty-eight per cent of people think it is justified for a man to beat his wife.

    Progress is possible, even if it does feel far too slow. Last week saw the return of the Domestic Abuse Bill to Parliament, more than two years since it was first introduced. Along with the commitments to tackle rough sleeping made by the Government, the new bill offers a once in a generation opportunity to make sure the voices of women who are homeless and sleeping rough are heard by those in power.

    What’s changed since the launch of our Women’s Strategy

    It has never been more important to build alliances and partnerships with women’s organisations so that our clients can have access to the specialist support they deserve. This year, we were delighted to be awarded funding from the Homeless Link Ending Women’s Homelessness Fund for a partnership project led by Standing Together Against Domestic Violence.

    The Safety by Experience project will develop bespoke tools for homelessness services working to end violence against women. We’ll be working with clients to ask what safety advice they would give other women in homelessness settings, and with staff to create tools that fit our services much better.

    We’ve also made progress towards our Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance accreditation this year. We’ve got new domestic abuse training and e-learning available for staff, along with an updated domestic abuse policy, quick guide, posters and leaflets.

    The Women’s Strategy work has focussed this year on our core challenge – creating an environment of physical and emotional safety for women, who are at disproportionate risk of harm from those they love and trust. But as the strategy enters its second year, it’s also time for a positive celebration of the strength and resilience of our female clients and women’s services.

    The Government wants to end rough sleeping, is it going about it the right way?

    Last week the Government released new figures on the number of people sleeping rough in England. Our Head of Policy, Campaigns and Research, Bea Orchard, takes a deeper look at the figures.

    It’s not unusual for election promises to be greeted with scepticism, and perhaps many took this view of the Conservative Party manifesto commitment to end rough sleeping. It’s still very early days, but since the election in December there have been some positive signs the Government is determined to achieve its target of ending rough sleeping by 2024.

    The Prime Minister has made two visits to homelessness services in London to talk about the commitment, the Rough Sleeping Initiative (RSI) Fund has been extended and expanded beyond 2019/20, and last week a further £236m was announced for ‘housing first style’ accommodation to support up to 6,000 people away from sleeping on the street.

    The annual rough sleeping statistics for England were also published last week, providing an opportunity to scrutinise progress so far, and the distance still to travel.

    What do the latest rough sleeping statistics tell us?

    The statistics show the number of people estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in England in autumn 2019. They show a 9% decrease taking the total number from 4,677 in 2018 to 4,266 in 2019. This is the second year in a row the number has fallen, which is something of a relief, given the truly shocking rate at which rough sleeping had been rising since 2010.

    However, the number of people sleeping rough on a single night in 2019 is still 141% higher than in 2010 when the current method for recording rough sleeping was introduced.

    A more detailed look at the statistics suggests some of the measures taken by government as part of the Rough Sleeping Strategy are having a positive impact. 244 local authority areas have now received some funding from the RSI Fund since it was introduced in March 2018 and overall these areas reported a 12% decrease in rough sleeping in 2019, compared to the previous year. While rough sleeping in the 73 areas without any funding has continued to rise.

    Not all areas in receipt of RSI funding reported a fall in the number sleeping rough locally. And only 50% of areas in receipt of funding for the first time in 2019 reported a decrease. This should be a reminder that services supporting people to find and keep a home take time to set up, and that new and expanded services are likely to find people who weren’t getting any help before.

    However, it should also be a reminder to government that funding for outreach services and short-term accommodation can only do so much when wider factors such as cuts to council budgets, housing benefit and a shortage of social housing mean more people are pushed into homelessness in the first place and struggle to get the long-term support they need to recover.

    How helpful are the statistics?

    The statistics are widely criticised for not offering a more accurate account of the total number of people sleeping rough over the entire year, rather than on one night. What they do offer is a useful indicator of the relative size of the problem and particular trends which can be monitored over many years. This is essential for holding the Government to account and keeping ministers focused on ensuring a significant, sustained reduction in the number of people exposed to the dangers of sleeping rough.

    Can government action end rough sleeping?

    St Mungo’s is calling on government action to end rough sleeping because we know it can be done. By 2010, 20 years of government action meant the end of rough sleeping was in sight.

    We also know that since 2008, nearly £1bn has been cut from vital homelessness services. Services that provide specialist one-to-one support to help people cope with complex problems like poor mental health, substance use and domestic abuse, and prevent people from sleeping rough in the first place by helping them before they become homeless.

    If the Government is going to end rough sleeping in a sustainable way, then it needs to restore funding to the levels invested before the financial crash and ensure that this funding is maintained long-term. This is why we are calling on government to invest an extra £1bn every year in services that prevent homelessness and end rough sleeping and ring-fence the money so it can’t be spent on anything else.

    726 people died while sleeping rough or in emergency accommodation in 2018. The consequences of not taking further action to prevent homelessness and end rough sleeping should be unthinkable.

    We’re certainly not planning to let the Government lose sight of its commitment on this crucial issue.

    LGBTQIA+ Network: Emma’s experience

    Emma joined St Mungo’s in the Strategic Asset Team and has also been an active member of our LGBTQIA+ Network ever since. In this blog, she tells us what the network means to her, reflects on the importance of, and shares a powerful poem on, LGBT History Month.

    When I came to work for St Mungo’s, I was astounded on my first day at the obvious dedication to diversity and inclusion. I have never worked anywhere before where they were so inclusive, and it blew me away.

    I felt like a weight had been lifted off me; here, finally, was a place where I didn’t need to hide parts of myself to fit in, somewhere I wouldn’t be asked stupid and intrusive questions, and I wouldn’t face judgement. I was so excited, I even took a picture of the notice up on the toilets about using whichever bathroom made you more comfortable and text it to a loads of friends, gushing over it (I’ll be honest, they didn’t quite understand my excitement).

    I was excited to work for a company that had been consistently recognised by Stonewall, and that showed such acceptance of all different types of people, and celebrated these differences. I wanted to be a part of this, which is why I volunteer to help for as many events as I can, even if my contribution is just a poem.

    When I then learned about how many different diversity networks there were, I immediately contacted the ones that fit me, that meant the most, and one of these was the LGBT+ Network.

    I can’t put into words how it feels to know there are other people in the office that, like me, are proud of their sexuality and want to encourage others to be the same. It’s an amazing feeling to not feel so alone.

    Despite growing up in Greater London, I didn’t know that many openly LGBT+ people in my area in my younger, formative years. I knew experimenters, a few gay guys (from whom I have experienced some of the worst bi-erasure in my life), and I was bullied for being unapologetically bi in an all girls’ school.

    To get into my early adult years and be able to work somewhere so accepting, with a network of people like me – words don’t do the feelings justice.

    So when it comes to LGBT+ History Month… The reason it’s so important to me, like everything else meaningful in life, is multi-layered. For a start, I have a degree in history, have always loved it, and always believed that we have to know the past in order to be best prepared for the future. We do, as a species, tend to repeat patterns of behaviour, and being able to recognise these patterns can stop us from repeatedly making the same mistakes. There’s the corny reason out of the way.

    Another reason – probably the most significant – it’s so important to me is because it is humbling and uniting to look back at who fought and sacrificed so that I could enjoy the freedoms I have. And yes, the fight is not over, we still haven’t achieved the aim of complete acceptance, but we are in a much better position than we were even five years ago.

    I look back at what others achieved, despite the mountainous obstacles they had to overcome, and it makes me feel better about the biphobia and bigotry I have to face, and I know that things will get better. Knowing what all these amazing people did for us inspires me to be better, do better, do more for my community. It makes me want to fight, raise awareness, be a safe space, and hopefully inspire others to do the same.

    LGBT History Month gives us the opportunity to highlight these people, what they gave in our past for a future they didn’t know of, and I hope they inspire others like they inspired me; to be unapologetically yourself.

    Rainbow

    You marvel at the beauty
    Of a rainbow that paints the sky
    Wondering how such brightness
    Can be birthed from a storm
    And yet question our colours
    And our tempestuous struggles
    When you, ancient perpetrator
    Are the rains and winds
    The lightning and the thunder
    Trying in vain to dim us
    And then claim it does not exist

    But we weep not for we are protected
    By each other under the umbrella
    A shelter which has expanded over years
    Shielding many from the hail storm
    Of insults and phobia, words and actions
    Seeking to break our blossoming community
    But we are family, connected by shared experience
    Ready to fight and defend all
    Who don’t stick to monochrome

    Across the fields of years gone by, I see
    An army of multi-coloured flags
    Sauntering forward with self-determined righteousness
    Hearts and souls covered in blood and tears
    But hands free from the stain
    Never looking back, but never forsaking the rear view
    And I march with them

    We remember and honour all
    Who could not be here today
    But whose courageous actions
    Paved the path we have walked thus far
    And now we, blessed by their inception
    Must continue through the dense jungle
    Until all the world is painted
    In the brightest colours of joy

    And the Old World
    Bigoted, prejudiced and cruel
    Is trampled underfoot
    A festival or light and colour
    Acceptance of every shade
    Waiting to greet us
    In the dawning of the New Age

    Find out more about Diversity and Inclusion at St Mungo’s.

    Knocked Back: A tragic loss of human potential

    Our Knocked Back report revealed that at least 12,000 people who are homeless are missing out on potentially life-saving drug and alcohol treatment. Oliver Standing, Director of Collective Voice, reflects on the report’s findings.

    Collective Voice is the national alliance of drug and alcohol treatment charities, whose members collectively support 200,000 people every year. A substantial proportion of these people will not only be dealing with a substance misuse problem but with other areas of severe and multiple disadvantage, including homelessness.

    For this reason, we welcome the publication of St Mungo’s latest report, Knocked Back, highlighting the growing prevalence of drug and alcohol use by people sleeping rough, and its increasingly tragic consequences.

    It will be sadly unsurprising to many in our sector to read that drugs and alcohol caused the deaths of 380 people sleeping rough in 2018 (over half the total number of people who died). But we must remain shocked and appalled at this growing public health crisis, and stay resolute in our ambition to reach the huge numbers sleeping rough who desperately need treatment but at present are not getting it – 12,000 people according to the St Mungo’s report.

    Every year people in the substance misuse treatment sector anticipate with sickening dread the latest drug death statistics. And with every year in recent times bringing more bad news, the dread only increases. In 2018, we know that hundreds of people sleeping rough died as a result of drugs or alcohol. The total number of drug related deaths are even higher, at 4,359. That’s the largest amount since we started counting in 1993 and a 16% leap from 2017’s figures. Those statistics alone make for disturbing reading.

    But what’s really disturbing are the human stories behind the statistics. Our communities have lost fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, who will no longer fulfil the promise their parents saw in their bright eyes as children, will no longer laugh or love. These are not just numbers, but a tragic loss of human potential.

    It can sometimes seem hard to determine the real-world impact of public policy making. But surely the seemingly unstoppable increase of this particular type of death marks a clear and significant failure of the public policy and political leadership necessary to protect a very vulnerable group of people.

    When it comes to people who use drugs and sleep rough we can’t ignore stigma as a factor. When people are dying on our streets from conditions we know how to treat we must ask ourselves the question — what is different about this group of people that allows this to happen well into 21st century Britain?

    The most frustrating aspect of this? That the evidence on what works is so very clear. We have a world class compendium of evidence in our “Orange Book” and multiple NICE guidelines. We have a substance use workforce not short of ambition, compassion and expertise.

    It’s welcome to see St Mungo’s Knocked Back report make clear the link between homelessness and drug related deaths. It demonstrates how some substance use outreach services, so vital in reaching people sleeping rough, have been lost in the blizzard of local authority cuts.

    While in 2013, local government was handed the responsibility for commissioning life-saving substance misuse treatment services, but it was asked to do so with one hand tied behind its back. In the eight years to 2020 local government has lost 60 pence in every pound it received from national government.

    It’s welcome to see the report stress the importance of close partnership work across the domains of severe and multiple disadvantage. People’s challenges simply do not resolve into the neat concepts such as ‘substance use’ or ‘mental ill health’ we use to think about the delivery of public services.

    On the frontline, practitioners have of course always known that partnership working across those boundaries is essential. The same can be said for service-managers, commissioners and Chief Executives. National programmes such as Fulfilling Lives and MEAM are making robust coordinated attempts to bring together these services at the local level. These are all to be welcomed.

    In the sector, we have the compassion, ambition and expertise to meet the needs of a great proportion of the people we support — we just lack the resource.

    The government’s new addictions strategy and monitoring unit should both be unveiled this year and will provide important opportunities to drive much needed change.

    I implore the government to set out an ambitious plan for preventing further deaths through the delivery of adequately funded evidence-based services — and I know that effective partnership between the substance use and homeless sectors will be essential in supporting the delivery of such a plan.

    Read our Knocked Back research.

    Find out more about Collective Voice.

    Calling on the Government for Housing First, not housing only

    Photo of St Mungo's staff during appointment with client

    The centrepiece of the new Conservative Government’s commitment to end rough sleeping is an expansion of the Housing First scheme. Dave Wilson, Impact & Evaluation Officer, shares some new research about St Mungo’s own Housing First services and discusses how they offer a potential solution to our rough sleeping crisis.

    It was easy to miss it, but the major parties made big commitments on homelessness in this election. The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all gave manifesto pledges to eliminate rough sleeping – the most extreme and dangerous form of homelessness – from our streets altogether.

    As the dust settles on the result, one of the things we at St Mungo’s have been thinking about is how the new Conservative government will deliver on their pledge to end rough sleeping by 2024.

    The Conservative manifesto makes it clear that the government sees an expansion of Housing First – an internationally proven approach to tackling rough sleeping – as a big part of the answer.

    And so, now seems like a good time to share the work we have been doing recently about some of our own Housing First services, in Brighton and Hove, and Westminster.

    An in-depth look at how Housing First operates in the UK

    Housing First services look quite different to conventional homelessness services. In Housing First, individuals who are sleeping rough are given direct access to independent accommodation without going through a homeless hostel or shelter. From there they are offered intensive, holistic support from support workers.

    Study after study has shown Housing First to be a very effective solution to homelessness. But much of this research comes from the US and the housing system and homelessness services work very differently there. We wanted to explore in more detail what Housing First looks like in practice in a UK setting.

    Our new research, published this week in partnership with the University of Salford, looks at two St Mungo’s Housing First services in Brighton and Hove, and Westminster. Both areas face very similar challenges: an overheated housing market, a severe shortage of social housing and some of the highest levels of rough sleeping in the country.

    An effective solution, but practical constraints

    For us, there are three main lessons from the research:

    1. Housing First can be an effective solution to rough sleeping in the UK.
      Both projects work with clients who have chaotic housing histories. In many cases, these individuals had been through and struggled with the system of conventional homelessness services on multiple occasions. But the research found that the Housing First teams were very effective at supporting these clients to sustain independent tenancies. Crucially, even when clients struggled to maintain the tenancy or were evicted, they continued to receive support from their Housing First support worker. This was often an important platform to help them get things back on track.
    2. Some of the Housing First principles are compromised by lack of housing options.
      We learned that there are serious challenges to operating a Housing First service in the form originally intended in these areas. One of the principles underlying Housing First is that clients should have choice and control over where they live and security of tenure. Both of those are hard to achieve in cities where private housing is shockingly expensive and social housing waiting lists stretch thousands long.
    3. Partnership working is key to success in Housing First.
      Clients in Housing First services often have a range of complex, interrelated needs. Support is most effective when it is provided by a skilled, multidisciplinary team covering specialisms like drug and alcohol treatment, mental health and employment skills. The model is at its best when it is Housing First, not housing only. It is also vital for services to cultivate good relationships with private sector and social landlords. The research highlighted this in Westminster in particular, where all Housing First clients were able to access secure social accommodation via a single housing association, Sanctuary.

    Housing First should be part of a wider strategy to tackle rough sleeping

    Last year, the government announced £28 million of new funding for three Housing First pilots, in the West Midlands, Liverpool and Greater Manchester.

    Our research strengthens the case that Housing First is an effective solution to rough sleeping, and we welcome these schemes.

    But we also know that Housing First works best if the wider environment is right. £1 billion has been cut from vital homelessness services in the past decade. There is a lot of ground to make up to ensure everyone sleeping rough has the right, tailored package of support for them.

    That is why we are calling on the government in our Home for Good campaign to take the bold action needed to end rough sleeping for good.

    • Firstly, it must ensure an adequate supply of social housing.
    • Secondly, it must make the private rented sector more secure and more affordable.
    • And thirdly, it needs to provide long-term guaranteed funding for homelessness services. This includes Housing First, but it should not be limited to it.

    More Housing First is a good idea, but without these wider changes, the Government will not be able to follow through on its pledge and end rough sleeping for good.

    Read the full report and our summary.

    What must be done to prevent homeless deaths

    Photo of origami flowers made to commemorate those who died while sleeping rough

    Following the news of an increase in deaths among people who are sleeping rough or in emergency accommodation, Rory Weal, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer for St Mungo’s, discusses what must be done to combat this rising trend.

    Today we heard the news that 726 people died while sleeping rough or in emergency accommodation last year. This is a 22% increase compared to 2017, the highest year to year increase since the Office for National Statistics (ONS) started publishing these figures six years ago.

    These figures should shock and shame all of us. The figure of 726 means that someone dies while homeless every 12 hours – that’s the equivalent of two people a day.

    Moreover, these deaths are overwhelmingly premature and entirely preventable – the mean age of death was 45 for men, and 43 for women. To have so many people die in this way, in such discomfort and distress, failed by so many is nothing short of a national tragedy.

    But this is not the sort of tragedy where we simply pause, pay our respects, then move on, bemoaning the wretched luck of a particularly unfortunate group of people. It is the product of collective choices and decisions, and should be regarded as a national emergency, one which needs urgent action.

    The context to these figures is that rough sleeping has risen by 165% since 2010, the result of years of funding cuts which have devastated crucial services and the unavailability of genuinely affordable housing. More people are sleeping rough, which exposes them to a greater range of harms – a premature death being the greatest.

    To stop people dying on the streets we have to stop them living on the streets. We need to build homes, to make the welfare system truly work for the most vulnerable and to fund homelessness services to help people find a way off the streets, and out of danger, for good.

    And we must also tackle the direct causes of death – the figures show the majority of deaths are so-called ‘deaths of despair’, the result of drugs, alcohol or suicide. Drug related deaths in particular have soared in recent years, and account almost entirely for the increase we’ve seen last year.

    Just as housing and homelessness services have become harder to access, so too have drug and alcohol services, leaving many people languishing with serious drug and alcohol problems and going without the support they desperately need. We still have a situation where most of these deaths will never result in a Safeguarding Adults Review, the legal review process for deaths which have occurred due to  abuse or neglect. As a result vital lessons are going unlearned. We now need a new national system to review each and every death.

    As we consider what we need to do to tackle this emergency, we must remember each and every life that has been prematurely lost in recent years.

    At St Mungo’s, to commemorate those people who died while homeless, our clients, alongside staff and supporters, have together hand made hundreds of origami flowers, in tribute to lives needlessly lost.

    The most fitting tribute of all, however, would be meaningful government action to prevent future tragedies.

     

    “I will remember it forever”

    Image: Naz during training walk for Ben Nevis

    Tomorrow a group of St Mungo’s staff, supporters, volunteers and clients are hiking up Ben Nevis. We spoke to Naz, who has been living in St Mungo’s accommodation for four years. He tells us why he wanted to climb Ben Nevis.

    What made you want to climb Ben Nevis?

    My support worker asked if I wanted to climb Ben Nevis, he said it was brilliant so I agreed to do it.

    I think the idea behind it is amazing. It is a big achievement, climbing a mountain.

    Hiking is something that people do as a kid and a lot of people here have missed experiencing in their younger lives due to different circumstances. It is what people need for their morale.

    I will remember it forever as I have never climbed a mountain before.

    Do you think it will help your recovery?

    It already has, even during the training walks I feel better.

    Why did you want to do it?

    For one, it is a change of environment. Secondly, it makes you feel like you are actually doing something for St Mungo’s instead of just using it as a housing association. It is rebuilding your life, and now I have recovered I want to take every step to rebuild my life.

    I also want to network as I like the team at St Mungo’s. I want to get into the sector. I have helped myself but I don’t really feel like I have achieved much until I help other people.

    What are you looking forward to at Ben Nevis?

    The sense of achievement and the need for encouragement of other people. I want to help people during the climb, even if it’s just by talking to them.

    I also look forward to the effect of it after; being able to say that I have climbed a mountain with St Mungo’s.

    I haven’t really been conscious about things St Mungo’s do. I have been distracted by my lifestyle. When you change your life, you want to meet new people. St Mungo’s slogan is rebuilding lives, and I am one of those people who have.

    In September to mark our 50th year 50 clients, staff members and volunteers join staff from our sponsor Tokio Marine to take on the highest peak in Britain. Find out more about our Ben Nevis hiking challenge. 

    “Hiking brings out the best in people”

    Image: Ben Nevis

    In September, a group of St Mungo’s staff, supporters, volunteers and clients are hiking up Ben Nevis. We spoke to two staff members from Haringey Assessment Centre, Geran and Leo, about the hiking challenge and why it can help clients in their road to recovery.

    How did you hear about Ben Nevis?

    Geran: I was asked by Leo, to head up a training walk for our service before we head to Ben Nevis. We have two residents from our service with us on the training walk who have overcome significant hurdles to be here. Both clients are on alcohol detox programmes. This is the first training walk they have attended and they will come on the Ben Nevis walk if they are able to reduce their drinking.

    We are the highest support service in the borough, so we tend to be the first place clients come after moving away from the street. As a service we see the hike as a good opportunity for them to have something to aspire to, something to overcome and a reason to reduce drinking.

    We have a few other clients who are interested and might attend future training walks. Any clients from our service who want to do it have the opportunity to do so. It is often the ones you don’t expect that have the most interest so it’s a good mix of people.

    Why are these hikes important?

    Leo: I have been on a lot trips like this and have seen the beneficial effect it has on everyone. It brings people together in such a way that it brings the best out of people. It is a really uplifting experience. It helps the clients we work with get more motivated to achieve good things in their lives, which is ultimately the purpose.

    Geran: It takes some of the barriers away from the different levels of management. Clients are able to see the human aspects of the staff who often call the shots in a lot of aspects of their lives. I think it’s a humanising experience that shows we are not that different.

    Why do you think it is important for clients to take part in this challenge?

    Leo: There is so much to gain for clients. They can find out more about St Mungo’s from other perspectives. It can also change relationships between service workers and clients as it takes away the power dynamic.

    Geran: I think it’s inspiring for clients to have something to push themselves to do. Some clients have been struggling on this training walk and it is a good motivator to focus on making improvements. In the case of our two clients it’s an opportunity to reduce something that is having a detrimental effect on their life.

    Did either of you climb Scafell Pike last year?  How was it?

    Leo: I did. It was an amazing experience seeing so many people get uplifted. I love hiking so to get to do that as part of a wider vision is a really special opportunity.

    After Scafell Pike, a few clients got onto training courses and some have moved on from St Mungo’s accommodation and got their own places. I know at least two clients who did it last year and are going to climb Ben Nevis this year because they got so much out of the trip last time.

    Why are you personally looking forward to Ben Nevis?

    Leo: From a selfish point of view I really love hiking and I know how good it is and how satisfying it is to get to the top of something.

    To be part of St Mungo’s doing it in their 50th year is special. I am looking forward to the reactions of my colleagues and clients from my service. I am optimistic that it will be pretty amazing and mind blowing, because it always is.

    Geran: I come from the countryside, I love walking and being out in nature. I want to inspire that passion in other people.

    In September to mark our 50th year 50 clients, staff members and volunteers join staff from our sponsor Tokio Marine to take on the highest peak in Britain. Find out more about our Ben Nevis hiking challenge. 

    The new NHS plan for mental health services has a clear offer for people sleeping rough

    For organisations who have campaigned for many years on homeless health, the NHS Mental Health Implementation Plan is a cause for celebration. Beatrice Orchard, St Mungo’s Head of Policy, Campaigns and Research, explains why the plan must deliver on its ambition to make sure everyone sleeping rough can access the mental health support they need.

    When the Government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy was published exactly one year ago by MHCLG, there were some positive signs that other government departments would also be doing their bit to reverse the dramatic rise in the number of people sleeping rough in England.

    One of the most solid commitments was in relation to improving mental health support for people who are sleeping on the streets. Last month, the details of this commitment became clearer when the NHS Mental Health Implementation Plan was published.

    The plan is clear that by 2023-24, 20 areas with high levels of rough sleeping will have established new specialist mental health provision for people sleeping rough, which will be made possible with £30m of central NHS funding invested for this specific purpose.

    This is a fantastic result for St Mungo’s Stop the Scandal campaign and our continued efforts to press the Government for investment in specialist mental health services to ensure people sleeping rough can access the support they need.

    Sleeping rough and mental health – the links

    It is fairly easy to understand that sleeping rough has a negative impact on a person’s mental health and wellbeing, as well as their physical health.

    Evidence shows people sleeping rough are 17 times more likely to be victims of violence compared to the general population. News reports describe horrifying attacks and abuse on people sleeping rough and our clients tell us about their experiences of feeling lonely, frightened and even suicidal.

    Furthermore, we mustn’t overlook the fact that some people sleeping rough have already been through many traumatic experiences in their lives, including violence and abuse from a young age.

    All of these experiences can cause mental health problems to develop or worsen, but also impact on the type of mental health support people need and how easy they find services to access.

    New avenues into support

    The new, NHS-funded, specialist services will make sure that people sleeping rough can access to clinical mental health support by integrating with existing homeless outreach, accommodation and physical healthcare services.

    They will be required to adopt a trauma-informed approach, known to help improve the psychological and emotional wellbeing of people with complex needs. We also expect the new services to help people who have drug and alcohol problems and are currently excluded from some mainstream mental health services as a result.

    This specialist support breaks down all of the barriers people sleeping rough often face when trying to get help to improve their mental health. Really effective specialist teams can also influence mainstream health services in their local area, encouraging them to become more knowledgeable and understanding of the needs of people who are sleeping rough.

    So far, so good. But what about people sleeping rough in other areas not in receipt of this new funding?

    A welcome step forward

    Research shows 4 in 10 people sleeping rough in England have an identified mental health problem. The latest data from the CHAIN reports on rough sleeping in London shows 50% of people sleeping rough in the capital in 2018-19 had a mental health support need.

    It is welcome, therefore, that the new plan for mental health requires all areas of the country to complete a mental health needs assessment for people sleeping rough and take action to increase access to mental health services for this group.

    This new approach to mental health for people sleeping rough is a real step forward.

    Specialist mental health services have been tried in the past. We know they can make a dramatic difference to individuals’ lives, and help to reduce rough sleeping by supporting people to move on from homelessness for good.

    Better still, it doesn’t stop with specialist services this time. Instead all NHS services will need to think about how people sleeping rough can access the healthcare they need in order to rebuild their lives.

    St Mungo’s will be watching closely and encouraging all areas to ensure the plan delivers.

    Tokio Marine sponsor Ben Nevis

    Image: Team Mungo's climb Scafell Pike

    After conquering Scafell Pike last year, Team Mungo’s are back for another challenge. This year, staff, clients, volunteers, supporters and our sponsor Tokio Marine take on Ben Nevis. We caught up with Alice from Tokio Marine to tell us why they decided to join this year’s hike.

    Image: Alice Palmer, Tokio Marine

    Hello, Alice. Tell us a bit about yourself

    I’ve been working for Tokio Marine HCC (TMHCC) since March 2017 where I joined as an Underwriting Assistant. I live in Kent with my family and two cocker spaniels, Sonny and Ralph.

    Whilst at school I was actively involved in fundraising and charity work, working closely with local charity MCCH and as member of Rotary.

     


    Why did TMHCC decide to partner up with St Mungo’s?

    We have a long-standing partnership with St Mungo’s and we wanted to maintain this relationship because our employees believe homelessness is a worthwhile cause. Homelessness is sadly something we all see commuting into London and it is particularly unavoidable in the city.

    St Mungo’s not only educates our staff about the ways in which we can help prevent and support homelessness, but also assists us with planning exciting fundraising initiatives to maximise our company’s support.

    Why did you decide to sponsor our Ben Nevis challenge this year?

    We saw the challenge as a great opportunity to allow employees to hear about the work of St Mungo’s first hand from their clients. It’s also a great way of boosting physical and mental health by escaping from the busy corporate world.

    It is important for TMHCC that staff engage with our partner charities and we think this challenge is the perfect opportunity for some of our employees to really understand the impact that St Mungo’s can have on those in need.

    Why did you personally decide to join the challenge?

    I wanted to take part in the challenge to meet people who have experienced homeless and hear about how St Mungo’s has influenced their lives. There is also the added bonus of the beautiful backdrop of Ben Nevis!

    Have you done much training?

    Zilch! I’m hoping that miles of dog walking will hold me in good stead, although I have begun planning some routes in and around Kent. I’m going to attempt to do a 10 mile walk every fortnight to push myself physically and mentally, while also breaking in my new walking boots. We’re also doing some team training walks in August and can’t wait to see everyone come together.

    What are you hoping to get out of the trip?

    I’m really looking forward to meeting some of the St Mungo’s clients and hearing their personal stories, while finding out more about the impact St Mungo’s has had on their lives.


    Find out more about our Ben Nevis challenge and how you can support it.

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