New services launched to prevent homelessness across Oxfordshire

Published: Thursday, 31st May 2018

Oxfordshire’s city and district councils have launched two new services aimed at improving homelessness prevention across the county.

The new services are part of the five councils’ £890,000 Oxfordshire Trailblazer project. This works with health, criminal justice, social care and other services to identify and help people at risk of homelessness before they reach crisis point.

The Trailblazer project has commissioned Aspire Oxford and Connection Support to deliver the new services on its behalf.

Research shows that homeless and vulnerably housed people frequently lack the self-esteem or confidence to access services that could help end or prevent their homelessness.

Aspire’s new team is made up of six community navigators and support workers, who will proactively seek out and offer support to people at the very earliest signs of homelessness.

Aspire will support and empower their clients to engage with a wide range of existing community-based organisations that can help prevent homelessness and sustain tenancies. Community navigators will support people with other issues like benefits, finding work and social isolation, and also provide access to Aspire’s wider trainee programme.

Connection Support is providing a team of six embedded housing workers to support staff in hospitals, prisons, probation and children’s social care services. The embedded workers will build homelessness prevention expertise in these services by providing staff with advice on housing and prevention options.

Examples where the embedded workers will provide added value to services include cases of delayed transfer of care from hospitals, prisoners being released with no fixed address, or children not attending school due to housing problems.   

The Oxfordshire Trailblazer project is funded until September 2019 by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). It is part of a £40 million MHCLG programme which aims to reduce homelessness by giving councils extra resources to test new approaches to homeless prevention work.

The Oxfordshire Trailblazer project also includes the development of a homelessness champions’ network in statutory and other services. This will increase capacity to prevent and end homelessness through better communication, case management and planning across agencies. 

Councillor Linda Smith, Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council and Board Member for Leisure and Housing, said: “The Trailblazer project reflects how seriously all councils take the issue of rising homelessness in Oxfordshire, and we’re really pleased to have Aspire and Connection Support delivering these new services.

“Trailblazer funding gives us the ability to try new ways of working and represents a step change in how Oxfordshire tackles homelessness and rough sleeping. By identifying people at high risk of homelessness as early as possible, we will be able to support and deliver specialist interventions that will improve the likelihood of successful homelessness prevention.”

Councillor Steve Good, West Oxfordshire District Council Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “It’s vital we do all we can to help those at risk of losing their homes. Government funding is giving us the opportunity to work together across Oxfordshire to provide early advice and help our most vulnerable people.”

Paul Roberts, CEO of Aspire Oxford, said: “The community navigator service is designed to help people across Oxfordshire to build their resilience and prevent their homelessness. By engaging with people at risk of homelessness before crisis point is reached, there is far more potential to work with individuals and use their energy, ideas and resilience to create better outcomes together.”

Mark Thompson, Chief Executive of Connection Support, said: “Our embedded housing workers will improve the ability of people working in health, criminal justice and social care to prevent homelessness for their patients and clients. We will also be able to use our learning from the project to give feedback to the Trailblazer team and help build better prevention services for everyone at risk of homelessness.”

People at risk of homelessness or agencies who want to make a referral to Aspire Oxford’s community navigator service should contact 01865 204450 or email trailblazer@aspireoxford.co.uk.