In our latest blog, Becky Rice, WHP Coordinator, reflects on the work of the Practitioner Leads group and their ‘street count by name list’ initiative.

The Practitioner Leads group of the WHP consists of the senior member of staff with overall responsibility for service delivery in Westminster at several of the WHP organisations, its currently attended by Connection at St Martin’s, St Mungo’s, The Passage and Turning Point. They are a great group to work with – always keen to explore ideas for working together more effectively, recognising and ‘working with’ the complex landscape of services in the area. One of the things the group reflected on was how to make sure that street counts make a difference to our work together, and go beyond data gathering.

Street counts are a regular feature of the work of outreach teams and local authorities with high levels of rough sleeping. They provide a particular measure of ‘visible rough sleeping’ – a snapshot at a single point in time.  It is agreed that they show a partial picture of the overall levels of rooflessness and street homelessness. In Westminster fairly regular ‘intelligence’ counts are undertaken by the commissioned St Mungo’s Street Outreach Service, in addition to the annual official ‘street counts and estimates’ prescribed by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC). Information from street counts is used alongside a wide range of other information, for example CHAIN reports, to inform commissioning and service delivery priorities.

As street counts are overseen by St Mungo’s with the council’s involvement other agencies didn’t always get involved very much; the outreach team had them covered. They do, however, take up a lot of time, and they are relevant to all the agencies in represented in the Practitioner Leads group who share the goal of ending rough sleeping in Westminster. So, it felt like there was more potential. The Practitioner Leads from St Mungo’s, The Passage and CSTM decided that they would convene a meeting after the March 2021 street count to go through each client ‘by name’ and ensure that across the agencies gathered as much as possible was being done to support the person.

The initial meeting was a success and it has been decided to continue. Some of the learning so far is:

  • The approach is time consuming and tiring with meetings taking several hours, but is found to be worthwhile by those attending and helps ensure a targeted response to individuals.
  • There are often times when more than one agency is working with someone and by linking this work up services can be more effective, for example where a client of a day centre would be able to access accommodation through the outreach team but this is not known
  • Having Turning Point, who provide the Drug Treatment services in Westminster, attend the meetings has proven very useful – engaging substance misuse services as a key part of the picture for some people experiencing rough sleeping is critical.
  • It works best to have a senior member of staff present from each organisation and more than one staff member to ensure that the meeting is a space where there is accountability and authority to decide on actions
  • The meeting is a safe space for discussing accountability and exploring where things have not worked and a different approach could be taken to support someone; trust between those present at an individual and service level is really important.

Some of the things to consider as the project develops are:

  • Monitoring the impact of the group and gathering information that can be aggregated to provide a ‘birds eye view’ of the work of the group
  • How best to facilitate the group; so far St Mungo’s have undertaken this but also being of the lead service delivery agencies makes this a huge task so the next sessions will be chaired by the WHP Coordinator.
  • How best to use this very targeted by name approach to identifying and escalate barriers to assisting people discussed to leaders in homelessness, adult social care, substance misuse, health and other services.

This multi-agency group scrutinising and reflecting on street count information is providing a focal point for partnership work in service delivery and increasing the impact of street counts. It was an idea that emerged from a group of leaders working together and identifying a practical way to move forward. Our responsibility to work together goes beyond people who are seen on street counts and applies to those who are at risk of or experiencing rough sleeping overall. The spirit of action, accountability, rigour and shared purpose within the Practitioner Leads group, is something that will impact our service delivery far beyond this initiative.


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