“Lots of places are contributing to the problem but not contributing to the solution”

People often need different, inter-connected support to resolve their homelessness and meet their aspirations. This means that places need to be working with each other, rather than against each other so that people can get the support they need when they need it.

At the moment it doesn’t happen a huge amount and more needs to be done.

This month, our Conversation on Co-production was around collaborative working, what the barriers are and what can be done to overcome them. Attendees included individuals from mental health and other NHS services, homeless charities and various other third sector organisations.

Someone else’s problem

Time, consideration and communication. When we see the whole person, their needs and requirements, it helps us to avoid passing them from pillar to post. Often small changes are all that are needed to make systems and processes more efficient and achieve better outcomes.

“I had a really frustrating case where I came across someone who we knew was sleeping rough outside a shopping centre, it was wintertime, they happened to have had contact with someone else who brought them to where we are in the recovery college and I just couldn’t get any support for this person quickly, They had a terrible cough, I thought they either have pneumonia or possibly TB, I ended up phoning GP’s, I ended up trying to get hold of the council, he was known to one of the local charities that were trying to find him something. In the end we got him into A&E to at least check on his chest, but they discharged him back to the streets… I found myself wanting to kind of offer to open the doors of our health centre to let him stay there that night because it just felt so awful that I was sending him out into the cold in the rain with a cough and we couldn't get anything sorted out. And it took me two days of chasing two different charities and the council to get him into a hostel for the night. So yeah, it when it doesn't work, it really is it touches you.”


“…Somebody's been in a&e and then discharged, and then where do you go? Quite often staff aren't available to speak to, until morning."


There are examples of where collaborative working had produced good outcomes. Collaboration is often dependent on having passionate, creative individuals in post -we could all benefit from the solutions that these individuals create!

We are wrapping that holistic support around a person, which includes trying to have conversations with people at touch points which might mean a deterioration in their mental health, such as at a time when someone becomes homeless…our new integrated mental health teams mean we are not working in silos anymore...it’s about the integrated teams coming together along with third sector and local authorities and secondary and primary services to provide the support.”

Things to consider

Communication across services is paramount in breaking down barriers and relieving the frustration encountered when individuals are not able to access services in times of need. However, we often talk about ‘working in silos’ and’ organisations being protective over the information they hold.’

“It's possible to share data lawfully. But the individual who's very vulnerable needs to fully understand how that's working. And it needs to never ever be shared with people who aren't involved in that person's care. So for example, in our local multi-agency meeting…the police would be sitting in there, and rough sleepers were never told that police were there, and they were never told how that date was used… So I think data protection is not a barrier to getting genuinely good outcomes for people, but this kind of conveyor belt meeting where you've got 20 people and you're talking about the most sensitive data possible about them, without their knowledge most of the time without their informed consent. You know, it's completely unlawful. And I think actually services should, could do much better.”


"[It would be good to have] an actual kind of physical map of the services and our opening times and who's working when and where, and who goes where, when is really key to knowing who to contact in each kind of case”


“So duty to collaborate would need to be seen, you know, obviously, information sharing is going to be part of that. What we don't want is for it to go, you know, to kind of take away people's rights under the GDPR. So it's about getting those two things to be cohesive in some way.”


“It doesn't mean everyone's magically working together, it's, but it's kind of leverage for you to then kind of get organizations to work together. But if you just kind of had a law, and that was it, it wouldn't happen.”


Do you have any great examples of working collaboratively? We would love to hear them! You can email us at info@expertlink.org.uk

If you are wanting some pointers on getting started with co-production, check out Expert Links videos

To hear about and join in with future conversations, sign up to our network and get your free tickets to join us at Conversations on Co-production here!

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