In Co-production week 2020, Lisa, our Senior Development worker in Dundee talks about how a group came together to push for changes to the city’s hostels and achieved something amazing. #CoProWeek
Consultation is key to the Time for Change (TfC) approach. In our Dundee consultation in 2017/18 it emerged that the main issue in the city was with hostels and the level of support that that people received during their experience.
As is central to our TfC approach, we asked the group to think about “what does better look like?” Our Core Group is made up of people who have experienced housing and homelessness issues and who want to make a change to the system they have experienced. The group felt that the only way Dundee could improve was to either close hostels or at least revamp them to meet the needs of people with multiple needs. This was huge – and felt like a massive aspiration but the group were determined to make it a reality. They worked hard in the community to add voices to their case. In December 2018 two of the Peer Mentors stood in front of Dundee City Council’s Housing Senior Management team and shared theirs and others personal experiences, which was very powerful but obviously the start of a long and slow process.
When the second phase of TfC started in 2019, we revisited the issues with a new consultation to see if anything had changed. The answer was still that the biggest issue in Dundee was caused by hostels. This was the reason for street homeless and sofa surfing levels too, due to the available temporary accommodation not being suitable. (The vast majority of single people are offered hostels where multiple needs are not taken into consideration). Half of people still felt they needed more support – this included people not being ready for their own tenancy.
The view from the consultation was that hostels had in fact got worse.
The group wanted to pick up and continue the fight to make change for the better and tell the hostels they have to change. The group agreed that revamping the hostels to making them more needs focused was essential. This would mean that people could access better and more specific support and allow staff in hostels to focus on one need rather than multiple. Dundee also has the highest drug death rate in Scotland and the group felt that this could be addressed with one hostel being focused solely on drug addiction and rehabilitation.
Once hostels were revamped, more efforts could be made to meet the needs of the people within them. Hostels would become a pathway of support into housing where once people are off drugs, they can work on their mental health and then move on to another appropriate hostel giving them a sense of “getting better”. The group was welcomed into hostels in the city both by people in the hostels and by hostel staff – it was really clear that in order to make change, everybody had to work together.
The Local Authority (LA) had stayed updated regularly on TfC in Dundee so that the group can work with them to make change. The LA’s management team were onboard and agreed to come along to the group meeting to chat with everyone and discuss what changes we had seen since our 2018-19 consultation – and what the next steps would be from this year’s consultation.
In the meeting, Dundee City Council confirmed that they intended to embed the group recommendations into Dundee Council’s 5-year plan. Amazing news! They would recommend:
- Hostels to close in the next 5 years and more supported accommodation to be implemented.
- That Local Rapid Rehousing initiatives are focused around the group’s input – and also in that rapid rehousing will not be for everyone as not everyone is ready for their own home.
- An increase in staffing, including two support workers focused in the new supported accommodation, monitored by the Care Commission. These support workers would be in addition to a further increase in staff to ensure support plans are in place in the first few days someone become homeless.
Dundee City Council has assured the group that they will keep them updated and have agreed to continue collaborating to make change for the better in the city. This is a massive achievement for the group. The victory in Dundee highlights the huge importance and value of co-production in making real change. After many years of fighting for change in the homeless services in Dundee, this shift will help so many people in the city who need to stay in a hostel.
What was most powerful in this case and across all co-production is that data or statistics never have as much impact as people’s experience when trying to make change. No arguments can be made against those who own their own truth and there is nothing more powerful than hearing from those people who have lived through an experience.