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December 1, 2020

Eric Reese

What Works Community: Wrapping up the pilot year

The end of a year provides a time for reflection. As 2020 comes to a close (and 2020 has been quite a year), the team at the Centre took time to reflect on our pilot What Works Community journey alongside our local authority partners from East Ayrshire, Pembrokeshire, and Southend-on-Sea. Like all great journeys, we celebrated successes and overcame many challenges together, adapting to changing situations to meet our goals and those of the communities we serve.

Through our pilot year, we have gone through an intensive, expert-led learning programme aimed at building a data and evidence culture across an entire organisation by working with leaders and project  teams in local areas. We held training sessions to explore design methods, understand and use data, and focus on evaluation and sharing with peers, and work alongside each local authority to come up with an intervention that could be applied on the ground in their local community. Combining all these disciplines, our journey culminated with presentations by each of our local authority partners pitching those new interventions to local leadership to be implemented starting in 2021. We were delighted to see all three ideas receive positive feedback for moving forward in 2021.

While each local authority faced different challenges and outlined varying solutions, each acted on the basis of data and evidence to propose innovative solutions in our focus area: preventing homeless through the private rental sector.

East Ayrshire focused on supporting landlord-tenant relations. While the Council already has a lot of information and support for landlords and tenants on its website and through community partners, research with stakeholders uncovered that the information is too difficult to find. To better meet the needs of private landlords and tenants, the team proposed a dedicated web-based portal that collates this information into one place, making it easier to access and more searchable. This new web portal will include information for private landlords, tenants and practitioners on a range of tenancy information and advice, connection to community support services, tenancy training, and a mediation service for tenants and landlords.

Pembrokeshire focused on increasing the number of private landlords willing to rent to tenants with vulnerabilities. Research uncovered that that some landlords in the area use guarantors to mitigate against the ‘unknowns’ of taking on a new tenant, especially for high-demand rentals. To mitigate these issues, Pembrokshire proposed a 'single point of contact’ for tenants and landlords to access support, and to mediate any issues between tenant and landlord should they arise. Complementary to this is a rent guarantee component for the first 6 months of the tenancy.

Southend-on-Sea focused on raising awareness of the support available to tenants and landlords. Through a survey and interviews, the project team discovered that a vast majority of landlords and tenants were not aware of tenancy supports or how to access them. To raise awareness, Southend proposed a joint communications campaign with local area service partners to convey helpful advice and provide signposting to services that are already available in the area. This campaign will be based on principles of behavioural science; considering factors like language, placement and timing of the campaign to maximise its reach and effectiveness.

Moving into 2021, our local authority partners are incorporating feedback from their senior leadership and the Centre team to refine, implement, and test their prototypes throughout the year. The Centre is excited to continue to work with each of the local authorities to track progress, understand the impact of their work, and continue to improve their ability to use evidence to design and deliver services designed to help end homelessness. We’ll continue to update on the progress of each of partners in this space, as well as publishing detailed breakdowns of each prototype so that the sector can learn from the What Works Community experience.

As we launch our next cohort of local authorities in the What Works Community we’ll be working on additional prototypes and resources for the benefit of the entire homelessness sector. Stay tuned to hear about our plans for our 2021 What Works Community as we work with an exciting and growing group of local authorities and continue to provide new opportunities for those across the sector to engage!

Interested in participating in the What Works Community or have ideas for us? Send us a message at wwcommunity@homelessnessimpact.org to express your interest and a member of our team will follow up.

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