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November 22, 2023

£15m programme to elevate evidence of what works to end rough sleeping and reduce homelessness

Evaluations aim for better designed services to deliver improved outcomes

A series of trials and rigorous evaluations will test innovative ways to end rough sleeping and reduce homelessness in the first programme of its kind in the world.

Scientific methods will be used to study the impact of new or experimental interventions and of existing good practice which has not previously been subject to independent evaluation. 

The methodology in robust trials of this type is relatively new to homelessness in the UK. It involves recruiting participants with lived experience of homelessness, randomising them into intervention and control groups, evaluating the impact of an intervention and reporting the results dispassionately, whether the data show these are good or bad. 

These will be delivered alongside an evaluation of the homelessness and rough sleeping system, which will incorporate a range of methods to validate existing evidence and look at inputs and outcomes across the whole system to identify opportunities for ambitious systems-wide change.

 The £15 million programme, commissioned by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, is the first of its kind internationally in investing in multiple trials and evaluations of interventions to respond to or prevent rough sleeping and other forms of homelessness. It will be run by the Centre for Homelessness Impact, the UK’s What Works Centre for homelessness, after a competitive tender. 

The approaches to be tested include personal budgets for people with a history of rough sleeping, bespoke support for individuals with experience of homelessness and rough sleping to find and hold down a job, offering support and companionship through volunteers and short-term housing for non-UK nationals who would otherwise sleep on the streets. 

Each project will require the recruitment of large numbers of local authorities and in some cases other organisations as participants.

Register your interest as a local authority participant.

Felicity Buchan MP, Minister for Housing and Homelessness, said:

“Improving our evidence and data is vital to achieving our aim of ending rough sleeping for good. This programme will bring a world-leading approach to support local and central government with the best possible evidence available, enabling us to track progress and deliver on our objectives.”

Ligia Teixeira, chief executive of the Centre for Homelessness Impact, said:

“We very much welcome this opportunity to identify evidence-based, cost-effective strategies that can be implemented at scale and, by doing so, improve outcomes for individuals affected by or at risk of homelessness and make limited resources go further.
“The programme also offers a chance to build the capacity for further and more extensive trials and to nurture a culture of evidence-mindedness in the homelessness sector and beyond that will be vital to end homelessness for good.”

The programme was first proposed in the cross-government strategy Ending Rough Sleeping For Good published by DLUHC in September 2022. The system-wide evaluation will be the first evaluation of its type that will explore how the different elements of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping (HRS) system work together. The ultimate purpose of the system-wide evaluation will be to assess the overall impact of the HRS system, and to advise government on how the system could be better designed to deliver stronger outcomes for vulnerable people at risk of homelessness and rough sleeping. It will also support local areas to commission and deliver better local homelessness pathways.

It will run for three years, until January 2027. The testing strand will evaluate eight interventions in order to improve our evidence base of what works to relieve and prevent rough sleeping and other forms of homelessness. This programme will include funding both for the services that need to be set up, as well as for the evaluations. 

The choice of interventions to be evaluated was shaped by leaders of local authority homelessness and housing teams, through responses for a call for practice, a survey and a series of workshops for practitioners and policy-makers. Most of the evaluations of innovative approaches will be undertaken with randomised controlled trials, although a minority will assess the impact of existing practice using bolt-on evaluations.

The eight interventions are:

1) Individual Placement and Support (IPS):

A specialist employment service for people with experience of homelessness and rough sleeping who have high support needs, which focuses on helping people to access paid employment immediately, alongside the offer of ongoing in-work support. 

2) Outreach with a health specialism:

evaluating the impact of including a health specialist as part of a rough sleeping outreach team to test the benefit to people sleeping rough with more acute health needs and whether this has a positive impact on other individuals sleeping out. 

3)’The Citadel’ Community integration and relationships:

community volunteers who support people who have experienced homelessness with practical support and companionship including activities like furnishing their home, connecting with their community, seeking work, accessing services or developing a hobby.

4) Personalised budgets for people with experience of rough sleeping:

the aim is to provide financial support for people with a history of rough sleeping tied to a purpose that would allow them to exit homelessness. This may include things like  buying work tools, getting a driver's licence or securing a deposit.

5) Time-limited accommodation and immigration advice for people with restricted eligibility due to their immigration status:

This intervention provides legal advice and time-limited accommodation within the legal framework for people sleeping rough with restricted eligibility due to their immigration status.

6) Accommodate or connect for individuals sleeping rough without a local connection:

People sleeping rough who have no local connection to the area will be offered temporary accommodation in the borough or supported to make a voluntary reconnection elsewhere. 

7) Young people leaving care:

An evaluation of the Department for Education’s funding for intensive, individual support for young people leaving care and joint working arrangements with local authority housing and other key services. 

8) Better use of council data to prevent homelessness:

Using a data science platform to combine data from across the local authority to identify households at greater risk of homelessness due to financial stress and offer support in a human-centred way, such as a payment plan that would mean avoiding court, bailiffs, and additional costs. 

The System Wide Evaluation will involve a complexity-sensitive analysis of the homelessness and rough sleeping system and evaluations of the government’s key national homelessness programmes, and is intended to improves our understanding of what works at a system-level, taking into account the multiple interdependent components and interactions that influence homelessness and rough sleeping, and thinks ambitiously about system-wide change. 

The Centre for Homelessness Impact (CHI) will lead a consortium to deliver the programme. Its members are RSM UK Consulting LLP, Cordis Bright, Cardiff University, King’s College London, Ipsos and IFF Research. Each evaluation will be designed and run by independent organisations from among a panel of 25 evaluators convened by CHI including university research teams and research consultancies. The total value of the contract is £15 million.

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