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Time for Change? Now more than ever!

A group of Time for Change peer mentors and staff stand on Rose St, Edinburgh, wearing Shelter Scotland hoodies and carrying placards
Written by Gillian Reid

Time for Change is the core methodology for the involvement of people with lived experience in the work of Shelter Scotland. We have been incredibly grateful to funding from the Social Innovation Fund which is supported by The Scottish Government and European Social Fund in 2018-19 which allowed us to roll out this programme of work in Dundee and, again, in 2019-20 which supported us to scale up the model in Aberdeen. We now have Time for Change woven into the fabric of all four of our Hubs in Scotland.

Time for Change consults and engages with people with lived experience to identify the issues they face and explore what changes could be made to make the experience for them, and others facing similar challenges, better. The model focuses on the key question ‘What does better look like?’ – for individuals, their peers, the sector and for Shelter Scotland; holding up a mirror to our own practice and priorities.

I have seen the power of Time for Change through the assisted presentation programme in Glasgow which positions peer support alongside advocacy and housing rights, the recent commitment of Dundee City Council to close hostels in the city following engagement with Time for Change peers and the involvement of peers from Time for Change Edinburgh in the recent recruitment of the new Edinburgh Hub Manager.

It was important as we rolled out the programme across our Hub cities that we invited an external evaluation of this work. The funding from the Social Innovation Fund funded the evaluation of all four sites and Heriot-Watt were selected as our academic partner, having worked with us on the Dundee Pilot the year before. Heriot-Watt conducted a literature review of peer support programmes for people with experience of homelessness.

They then conducted fieldwork visits to all Time for Change sites to provide us with these answers to the following questions:

  1. What impact does TFC have on peers and clients (as regards service engagement, employability, health, and other key outcomes)?

Self-reported improvements in psychological wellbeing, feelings of self-worth, self-esteem and confidence for peers and increased levels of hope and motivation for clients.

  • What operational lessons have been learned during project development and implementation?

We have learned that the model we have developed was a good basis from which to roll out the work across different localities but that there is further work that we can do to strengthen the model for the benefits of the individuals who are involved in the programme. It is part of the uniqueness of this methodology that we create opportunity for that Core Group to co-design a response to those priorities. The range of possible responses is wide ranging – from organising themselves as local activists to training in housing law to speaking to the media to writing letters to elected members and beyond. Whilst this flexibility is something to be celebrated in the TFC model, we have learned that it provides some challenges in setting and managing expectations with peers and providing them with a structure to work towards.

  • To what extent (if at all) does TFC contribute to Shelter Scotland’s broader agenda regarding the co-production of service delivery?

Heriot-Watt noted that Time for Change has had a substantial impact on Shelter Scotland’s campaigning and influencing activity and highlighted that the increased integration of people with lived experience of homelessness in the hubs was evident throughout their fieldwork.

  • What do peers and clients think ‘better would look like’ as regards system design and operation in their local area?

The consultation phase and core group methods that are integral to Time for Change demonstrated to the evaluators the focus on responding to the priorities in each city as defined by the peers or trainees themselves.

  • To what extent (if at all) has TFC contributed to ‘system change’ for homeless people at the local level?

Overall it is too soon to tell but we have built connections and engagements in these cities that lays the foundation for driving system change.

Professor Sarah Johnsen from the Institute of Social Policy, Housing and Equalities Research (I-SPHERE) at Heriot-Watt University led the study and said that: “The Time for Change evaluation adds to the evidence base on the effectiveness of programmes involving people with lived experience of homelessness in service design and delivery in valuable ways.  In particular, it has highlighted positive outcomes for peers – including improved self-esteem and confidence, enhanced employability, and strengthened social support networks. The evaluation has also drawn attention to a number of challenges and risks associated with the co-production of responses to homelessness.”

We are now developing a plan to implement the 17 recommendations made by the evaluators to improve and strengthen this work.

Deputy Director of Shelter Scotland, Alison Watson, said of the importance of lived experience in our work, It is only Shelter Scotland that can build a movement with lived experience at its heart. I’m asking all of you to move the role of encouraging people to share their lived experience much closer to the centre of what we see as our core purpose. This is key to what we are now setting out to do together, which is nothing less than to transform our housing system, to ensure that social housing becomes the anchor of social justice.”

The Time for Change projects in Dundee and Aberdeen is funded by The Social Innovation Fund which is supported by the European Social Fund (ESF) and Scottish Government.