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Social Impact Bond success: ACTion Glos & ACTion Lincs

16 April 2021

P3’s Social Impact Bond (SIB) projects, ACTion Glos and ACTion Lincs came to an end this March after three and a half years. The two projects provided access to accommodation and wrap-around support to sustain it, for people facing extremely complex challenges and experience of long/recurrent homelessness.

Different to other commissioned services, these Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) were completed in partnership with local authorities and other services in Lincolnshire and Gloucestershire, providing a real community response. They were 100% payment by results, with payments being made when positive outcomes were achieved, such as sustaining accommodation or accessing drug/alcohol treatment.

Service Managers Ella Hawkins (ACTion Glos) and Rachel Hampton (ACTion Lincs) tell us more about what made these projects successful and their long-term impact…

How much did the Housing First-style approach of these projects appeal to people who had found it difficult to engage for years or didn’t want to go through the temporary housing route?

Rachel: It was something very different than anybody had ever approached people with before. It was - that’s your home and hopefully at the end of this project it will continue being your home because we will hand over to the council and you’ll go onto their tenancy agreements so you have that security. That was the big difference, we weren’t time-limited. We would say ‘I’m your link worker and I’m going to be with you for the duration of this project’. So they weren’t thinking, ‘You’re leaving in six weeks so what’s the point of telling you anything’.

Ella: One of the things at the beginning when we were re-doing the paperwork, we talked about what should go on there that hadn’t before and I said we need to include the million dollar question – ‘what’s going to make this time different to anything else?’ And ‘what does ‘good’ look like for you?’

For some people, that’s really simple. For example, we had Martin in Cheltenham, and he said I just want a flat with my dog. And I need to be away from all these people. The path was rocky, he relapsed a couple of times, but he’s still in that flat.

Someone else asked for a caravan as he didn’t want to leave a particular site. A lot of services, their immediate reaction is ‘no’. We can’t buy someone a tent, or a pot-belly stove. In this, it was ‘let’s look at what we can do, rather than what we can’t’.

What have you been most proud of?

Ella: I was involved in ACTion Glos right from the beginning, right from the bid and we all talked about the outcomes. But it’s the stuff that you don’t get paid for that’s the stuff that makes the difference. So for example it’s things like letting people choose their own bedding, or they might suddenly have contact with their family again or one of the guys we worked with was really into photography and we listened to that - it’s that sort of stuff that makes the hairs on my neck stand up, it’s that stuff that fundamentally, to the person, makes the difference.

Rachel: I can remember a chap who I first met along with his Link Worker when he was sleeping outside in Skegness, and we were sitting chatting with him in McDonalds and he kept rubbing his eyes and I asked him what was the matter. He said ‘well, you want me to sign something but I can’t read it. I’ve been living on the streets, I’ve had all my things robbed. All I need are the low-strength glasses but I’ve got no money.’

So I ran off to the local chemists, got him some glasses. I went to say bye to him the other week as the project was ending, and he said I’ll never forget when you just wandered off and got me some glasses. No one’s ever just done something so basic, and you sorted it for me, no questions asked.

What were the toughest challenges?

Rachel: Probably the biggest challenge was sitting there trying to do the Warwick-Edinburgh [assessment], you’re asking somebody ‘have you felt loved?’ and this person has been on the streets. We did feed that back that it was quite an inappropriate tool to use.

One of the hardest things was seeing other people take advantage of the people we were working alongside and their vulnerabilities. I’ve been into some of the properties that have been cuckooed. And there are people going yeah we can just let ourselves in, or we’ve got the key off them, or we’ve got their money …

Ella: Someone asked if I’d do it again and I said, I’ve had some of the most sleepless nights and the hardest days, but it’s so rewarding when you see the figures and people who are still in accommodation who you thought would never have managed it. So the answer is yes!

What made these projects successful in the end?

E: The biggest reason why the project was successful was that you had the flexibility. If you work for example in hostel service, people are in there for a limited amount of time, you can’t take them off site because you’ve got to be there, it’s a 24-hour service, you can’t flex how you support that person.

We did assessments while people were walking a dog. Or taking them for coffee, or talking to them about their family … doing things that would engage them.

I think the reason the SIBs work is because you’ve got a lot more autonomy. We could say ‘let’s do what’s right for the person’. The risk is ours, ultimately.

A lot of the time what happens in a traditional service is that the accommodation and the support go hand in hand – someone gets evicted, the support goes and they have to start all over again.

Whereas with ACTion Glos, because the majority of our accommodation was provided separately by a housing association, it didn’t matter if someone got evicted because we were still there. The road was bumpy but we were there. It’s consistency. For a lot of people, they’d never had anyone in their lives to believe in them, or listen to what they wanted.

R: One of the other things that was really beneficial was having seconded workers, that helped the team immensely to have that interaction between mental health, drug/alcohol services - it’s a wrap-around, one service for that one person.

We also got some additional funding for a police liaison officer, Mick; I think we needed just the right person for that role and he ticked that box completely. We thought it might backfire, because people we work with were going to think ‘you’re an ex-copper, I’m not talking to you’. But Mick had such a way about him and he knew Lincolnshire and he knew faces. If he went into a property, someone would say ‘oh PC Mick!’ and there was already that whole rapport [in place]. A lot of the people we worked alongside would ask to speak to Mick, and he put in so much intel, the police and crime commissioner was really impressed. That was so useful for keeping an eye on our community.

E: We had Chris who was our drug/alcohol worker, seconded from ARA (Addiction Recovery Agency) and he was just brilliant. It meant that the people we were working with would bypass the first bit of the process, and that made life so much easier. We got so many people on scripts who had fallen off, or not had the right medication because he knew what was right.

Can you talk about some of the surprises along the way?

R: Looking at the people who are still in their accommodation, it’s those moments when you think ‘I did not think you would still be in your accommodation’.

Certainly when we moved people in, there was a lot of adjusting to ‘I’ve now got neighbours’ and we’re fighting their corner, saying ‘they’ve not lived in their own property for so long they’ve got to work out what it’s like to live in a community’, and gradually the ASBs started coming down…

There was talk of eviction and I was like no, what’s the point, you’re putting someone back out there … the link workers worked very hard to keep everyone in their homes. I’m not saying we were pushovers, because it was like, this is what you need to do, but I think we worked very differently with ‘what’s going on, what’s caused this, how can we help’ rather than going ‘you made a noise’, you get a warning notice.

You go in now, you have a cup of tea and you think ‘a couple of years ago, you were sleeping on the streets’ and even they didn’t think they would manage a home, because it was so daunting to them. You’ll say, you’ve been here two years now, there’s your proof and they’ll be like ‘already?!’ It’s really heartwarming that, for them, that’s now their home.

P3 worked in partnership with:

City of Lincoln Council
East Lindsey District Council
South Holland District Council
South Kesteven District Council
Boston Borough Council
North Kesteven District Council
West Lindsey District Council
Lincolnshire County Council
Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
Lincolnshire Integrated Offender Management Project (ARC)

CCP (Caring for Communities & People)
ARA (Addiction Recovery Agency)