MHCLG’s Housing First pilot – A (non) evaluation charade of 3 (non) Housing First pilots

This week saw published a 68-page evaluation (sic) report into the three large-scale Housing First model pilots in England. Sixty-eight pages of pathetic scrutiny and little if any robust analysis of the three pilots making this official report largely purposeless.

Evaluation? (My Arse!)

The report has the title of second evaluation report yet nothing in this report that was completed in March 2021 yet only released 4 months later at the end of July 2021 is evaluated. The cost of delivering Housing First is not attempted for example despite the extrapolation of its support element being £184 per hour as I detailed here that renders these pilots as impossibly not sustainable. Neither for that matter is there an evaluation of whether the Housing First pilots are actually Housing First model services, which they are not!

In short this is a sham of a report about a set of three sham pilot programmes that will at some not so distant point give Government all the cause they need to conclude that reducing never mind eliminating rough sleeping is impossible. Government have thrown oodles of funding at the panacea that the homeless ‘experts’ said would work when it cannot possibly do so and soon to be followed by withdrawing all funding for the intractable and ‘unsolvable’ rough sleeping services and no doubt blaming the poor bastards who are roofless.

The Housing First model, as its name implies, is entirely 100% dependent upon the availability of the housing element, the elusive one-bedded property, being available and on an immediate basis yet all this official MHCLG commissioned report said on the matter was that it took between 1 week and 12 months for the critical one-bedded HF property to be found. No further evaluation is attempted in this sham MHCLG report of THE most critical aspect of the Housing First model!!

The Housing First model and theory has a non-contentious definition below and taken from an April 2020 report into 20 years of the Housing First model in the USA where the model originated which says that (a) permanent housing is (b) provided immediately and (c) on an unconditional basis, irrespective of the sobriety or other complex support need that the homeless applicant has or had.

It can take a year to find a suitable permanent one-bedded HF property which makes the ‘Housing FIRST’ nomenclature and label a charade and impossibility in England.

Now go back to the one week to 12 months off-hand language in the excerpt above and look at this language emphasised in another aspect that some of the purportedly Housing First clients had been accommodated in temporary accommodation first!

This means the three purported Housing First pilots are a staged resettlement model akin to a hostel first stage and then a second ‘move-on’ stage. As such they are not Housing First models at all and by any definition of the Housing First model.

The English large-scale “Housing First” pilot programmes in the Metro Mayor areas of Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region and West Midlands Combined Authority are de facto NOT the “Housing First” model at all but resettlement models that do not (a) provide the housing firstly, and (b) do not feature unconditionality and (c) are not provided immediately and (d) only achieve permanent housing on a staged basis.

Irrespective of the well-known acute shortage of one-bedded permanent properties in England owned and managed by the social rented sector – the only provider of permanent housing as the private rented sector does not – the pilots are a lie and deceit when they claim to be the Housing First model. Its associated zealous claims that the Housing First model is a panacea to end rooflessness (rough sleeping) and the scant data that this official MHCLG commissioned report does include, has data revealing just 72 of 199 of the HF pilot clients housed were sleeping rough immediately prior to acceptance onto these three pilot schemes.

Figure 8 of this report in which the authors CHOSE to only delineate 199 HF service users and not the 534 total that were housed is as suspicious as it gets. There is no narrative as to why these details were released based on just 199 HF clients and not on the 534 total HF clients housed.

It reveals that 36% or just 72 of these carefully selected 199 HF clients were roofless – the correct term for rough sleeping – in the one month period prior to acceptance on these three faux Housing First pilots. All of the other categories of person had a roof in the month before their (conditional) acceptance onto these faux Housing First pilot schemes whether emergency provision, hostels, sofa surfing, prison etc.

The Housing First zealous advocates and promoters have done the Westminster Government up like a kipper. We have this wonderful model they say, which is a ‘success’ elsewhere – a point never substantiated with any data or evidence by the way, that will eliminate rough sleeping yet by choosing almost 2 in every 3 Housing First clients as NOT being rough sleepers to reduce the rough sleeper count they have lied to Government. That assumes the 36% of all 534 acceptees onto these faux Housing First schemes or 192 of them were similarly roofless in the month before. However, this evaluation report does not give the full number of roofless persons accepted onto these schemes and instead CHOOSES to mention it for just 199 acceptees!

It could be way more than 36% or it could be way lower and again shows how purposeless and deficient this claimed evaluation report is!

We have this wonderful model they assert as mantra that is incredibly cost-effective in reducing rough sleeping these zealous advocates asserted, yet the cost of providing one hour of visiting support to those that have been housed works out at £184 for each hour of support per person … and just another issue the MHCLG commissioned light touch report failed to look at!

The English Housing First advocates however go way beyond zealous to be revealed in this report as a doctrinaire cult by recruiting only those support workers who have ‘bought into’ the brainwashing English version of the Housing First (sic) cult.

The priority in recruiting staff for the pilots is how easily they could be indoctrinated with the illusory theory of the Housing First model, which these pilots clearly do NOT operate, rather than for their experience and expertise in supporting vulnerable homeless persons with their many support needs.

Is it any wonder that these pilots who were supposed to accommodate and support 1000 former rough sleepers have failed and merely housed barely half at 534 of which we must assume some two-thirds were NOT sleeping rough immediately prior to moving onto these faux Housing First pilots?

The extremely light touch report reveals many shocking things yet fails to comment upon them.

The £28 million of funding for the 3 pilots was in May 2018 yet the GM pilot housed its first client in March 2019 and 10 months later, the LCR pilot housed its first client in July 2019 and 14 months later, and the WMCA pilot its first in January 2019 some 8 months later, and from a pre-existing HF low scale service. These facts raise the logical and bloody obvious questions of: –

  1. What was the funding spent on in the 8 – 14 months it took to house the first client?
  2. Why the hell did it take this long to house the first clients?

These highly pertinent and obvious questions and points of enquiry are not discussed or revealed in this purposeless light touch report.

In order to keep this to a readable length I will bullet point some other aspects.

  • Why do the authors of this report mistakenly call housing associations ‘registered provider?’ – The term means public sector council landlords only and housing associations are correctly termed Private Registered Providers to reflect their non-public sector status.
  • How can the reports narrative be one of surprise that inter-agency cooperation with single homeless persons is fraught as it has been for at least the last 30 years?
  • Similar ‘surprise’ is found in the narrative that (admittedly underfunded and overworked) mental health services refuse to assess homeless persons and frequently cite drug-induced psychoses and not underlying mental health problems all without undertaking an assessment?
  • Further surprise is found in the narrative that other statutory providers, eg Probation, withhold full risk assessments on potential HF clients in order to practise social dumping?

All the above bullet points suggest and strongly that the MHCLG appointed consultants who undertook this evaluation knew nothing of the standard and unacceptable practises that have been the norm in the rehousing of all single homeless persons for many decades – which the surprised narrative tone reveals.

Further, this reveals that the HF pilot lead organisations were incredibly ill-prepared and gave scant consideration if any at all to these obvious and well-known operational constraints that have been the norm for decades in the rehousing of single homeless persons.

That latter point appears to be have been belatedly addressed by partnering with expert homeless organisations to make up for the mistake of the primacy of indoctrinating inexperienced staff in naive recruitment practices over experienced homeless support workers who have known of these constraints and outrageous practices of denying mental health assessments and of social dumping practices for decades when the HF lead organisations like the author expresses surprise at these norms.

Finally, as I have implied in this shortish piece, rebuttal and informed response to this 68-page official (non) evaluation report could easily by 168 pages long such is the purposeless of this ‘report’ with its chronic lack of any never mind robust enquiry.

Single homeless persons deserve far, far better than this non-entity of scrutiny report is into these errantly labelled ‘Housing First’ pilots.

2 thoughts on “MHCLG’s Housing First pilot – A (non) evaluation charade of 3 (non) Housing First pilots”

  1. its a payment by results investor SIB scheam and after the frontline workers on just £23k have been deducted the investors want there bonus paying, its just another outscorcing funding mechanism for the private sector to milk profits from, like PFI hospitals that actualy turn out to be ruinously expensive to the taxpayer but gushingly praised by the investment fund managers. thats where your money after worker costs is going, and nobody scrutinises the mark your own homework bonus triggers or even what the bonus payment triggers are based on or whose signing them off and why….all shrouded in mystery. i can assure you the support workers are not being paid £184ph, so you need to ask the investors how much there getting but as there excluded from freedom of information and commissioning contracts are ”comercialy sensative”, you cant, how convenient.

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  2. Its a Total carve-up, a gimmick the Govt will try to portray as doing something about Homelessness. !

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