Homelessness Prevention Alliance Journey so far…

22 Sep 2015 Andrea Egan    Last updated: 22 Sep 2015

CollaborationNI supported the development of the Homelessness Prevention Forum (the ‘Forum’).  Its mission is to raise awareness of the floating support services that are available to help prevent homelessness and develop a system to allow easy access to the appropriate services.  The Forum provides a strong, collective voice for providers on issues that are related to preventing homelessness.

The Forum is made up of 17 voluntary and community organisations working in the homelessness field.[1]

Recently CollaborationNI met with Declan Morris to reflect on the journey that he and the Forum have travelled and how CollaborationNI has supported them throughout.

CollaborationNI initially provided the Simon Community staff with an in house training session on collaborative working.  Following from this session Declan contacted CollaborationNI to discuss options and support on behalf of the initial members of the forum.  We then first met with Declan on 2 September 2013 to discuss the homelessness prevention programme. 

The key providers believed that by formally coming together they could provide a better service to beneficiaries.  This would be through both sharing good practice but also key was setting up an agreed common enquiry system so individuals at risk of homelessness would only have to tell their story once, which is often a difficult one, and this info could be formally passed when appropriate to other providers.

CollaborationNI facilitated meetings to develop the Forum.  The first decision that was made was that the people around the table involved in the Forum’s steering group had to have the authority to make decisions.  Otherwise you end up going to a talking shop and no one gets anywhere!

During each meeting key individuals quickly realised the importance of involving the people and they wanted to learn more about each other and their organisation so they decided that each meeting would be hosted in a different office and the host would speak for ten minutes at the start of each meeting to look at the host organisation, what they do and their role in the sector.  This was important for the Forum as Declan advised that

“It’s not just organisations that are collaborating but also the personalities…it’s about building trust with each other around the table and maintaining the people around the table is incredibly important as it’s about building trust with the person.”

By October the Forum had gained momentum and issues needed to be discussed in more detail such as the logistics of how the collaboration was to work and putting together a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to formalise the arrangement.  The main purpose that everyone had underpinning the Forum was to share information and prevent the duplication that exists so that people can get the right service and thereby creating a seamless referral system and improve access to that service.

As the process involves a sharing of information then data protection and its implications were raised and CollaborationNI held a session to look into the issues surrounding data protection.  We discussed the policies and procedures that should be in place, analysis of the risks involved, possibility of a data sharing agreement and training for staff etc.

As formalisation of the Forum was a key step we created a MoU based on all the information to underpin the collaboration.  It was finalised in June 2014.   The purpose of their MoU is to outline key components between the members of the Forum, in order for them to collectively raise awareness of floating support services, that help prevent homelessness, and help people to access the service most suited to their specific support needs, thereby ensuring that the voice of service users are listened and heard and responded to appropriately.

Throughout their collaborative journey the Forum received bespoke independent support from CollaborationNI from legal advice, expert facilitation to assistance and guidance on data protection issues.  Furthermore this collaborative journey was also assisted by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive Supporting People team which also helped to guide and support the Forum’s agreed actions.

Speaking to Declan at a follow up session to discuss the collaboration to date and discuss any further support we can offer he had some pearls of wisdom from his experience:

 “If you are looking to collaborate then you would be foolish not to use CollaborationNI.  The support frees you up and empowers you to accept your own faults and inadequacies but does so in a supportive environment.

The timing of it all was perfect and it was free.  To know that if we needed anything it was available.”

Declan Morris describes the support the groups received from CollaborationNI:

“The support and help offered by CollaborationNI was instrumental in the work we sought to achieve. In particular, the opportunity to have a neutral facilitator direct our initial work, it’s safe to say we may not have achieved what we have thus far. Furthermore, Andrea’s support and guidance with our MoU was massively important throughout our collaborative process.

Thank you.”

 

[1] Action on Disability (USDT), Autism Initiatives, Barnardo’s, Belfast Central Mission, DePaul, East Belfast Mission, EXTERN, LIFE, MACs, NIACRO, Simon Community NI, Threshold, Triangle, Women’s Aid, Cedar, Welcome and Homecare.