Case StudySt Basils: Positive Accommodation and Support Pathways
St Basils promotes best practice in leaving care and offers a range of services to help care leavers with accommodation, skills training, housing crisis management and personal-and-social development.
St Basils is the largest agency in the West Midlands working with young people aged 16-25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. It is a housing association and a charity that works with local authorities and other partners in Birmingham, Coventry, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Wyre Forest. It assists nearly 5000 young people each year. At any one time, there are over 450 young people living in its supported accommodation schemes and each year 1500 young people are housed in 33 supported accommodation schemes.
St Basils delivers a range of prevention, accommodation and support services including extensive engagement and employability programmes to help young people regain the stability they need to rebuild their lives, gain skills, training and employment, and to move on successfully. It facilitates National Youth Voice, comprising the National Youth Reference Group and National Youth Homeless Parliament, providing the opportunity for young people to influence policy, service development and delivery. St Basils has developed a suite of national Positive Accommodation and Support Pathways to prevent youth homelessness, and to promote planning and informed choices for young people, including care leavers and those in the criminal justice system.
Partnership with Barnado’s
It is well established that care leavers are over-represented in the incidences of homelessness, unemployment, the criminal justice system and a range of vulnerabilities such as substance misuse and mental ill health. In response to this, St Basils and Barnardo’s have jointly developed the Care Leavers Accommodation and Support Framework which informs and develops best practice in the planning process for young people leaving care. St Basils’ service offer to care leavers enables them to leave care successfully and fully supports the Care Leaver Covenant.
There are five stages to the framework which reflect the journey of young people as they leave care:
Preparing for the reality of housing options
Information about the housing market, and independent living and money management skills.
Planning young people’s accommodation and support options with them
Good advanced notice of the move out of care and support in choosing the best option available.
Reducing housing crisis
Short-term alternatives when a crisis happens and support in resolving the causes of the crisis.
Accessing housing and support as needed
Planning young people’s accommodation and support options with them – good advanced notice of the move out of care and support in choosing the best option available.
Accessing and successfully managing longer-term move-on and support options
Support in accessing longer-term housing and knowing where support can be found in the future.
St Basils offer under the Care Leaver Covenant reflects its wide range of work with care leavers:
Prevention and early intervention
‘We want young people to feel cared about, to have trusted support, somewhere safe, suitable and affordable to live that enables them to secure their futures and realise their potential.’
St Basils Offer for Care Leavers
Prevention and Early Intervention
St Basils works closely with partner local authorities across the West Midlands to develop their leaving-care strategies and to support them in their legal and statutory obligation to prepare young people to leave care. This ensures there are no cliff edges where care leavers are propelled out of the care system before they are ready thereby increasing the risk of homelessness. It works collaboratively with local authorities to encourage them to identify individual young people who are due to leave care so effective multi-agency planning can be put in place. The optimum time for this is often around the young person’s 17th birthday. This is often the age when this process starts but can start earlier if necessary or appropriate.
If the social workers and the young person identify St Basils as a provider that would best meet the young person’s accommodation and support needs, then the young person is engaged with at the earliest opportunity. This way St Basils can be involved in the planning process to ensure a smooth transition. St Basils focuses on the young people’s talents and ambitions and are keen to provide a housing and support offer which underpins their engagement in education and employment.
St Basils offers skills training for young people to prepare them for the next stage of this accommodation pathway, often into its supported accommodation. The accredited Life Skills Programme can be delivered in a range of settings including group work and one-to-one delivery. This ensures that young people understand how to leave care successfully, what is involved in sustaining their accommodation, the skills they will need to develop and the support that is available. This period of familiarisation and expectation-setting increases the chances of a successful placement. It supports the Care Leaver Covenant outcome of ‘support for independent living’.
For care leavers experiencing housing crisis and often needing accommodation on the day, St Basils’ single points of access, Youth Hubs, provide an immediate supportive response including: detailed holistic assessment of risk and needs, including their care history; establishment of their status and whether any statutory duty is owed; reconnecting them with the statutory agency; and advocating on their behalf to ensure they access any entitlements. The Youth Hubs have priority access to a range of supported accommodation options including St Basils’ own, and that of other providers, to ensure the young person is prevented from rough sleeping.
As a registered provider of specialist supported accommodation for young people, St Basils is committed to ensuring the provision of high-quality housing services. Its accommodation is fit for purpose, complies with all relevant statutory requirements and standards, is in good decorative and furnished order, and is kept properly maintained, in a good state of repair, and in a clean and safe condition. St Basils’ accommodation complies with standards for safe-and-suitable accommodation for care leavers in accordance with the Children Act 1989. It prioritises the safety and security of residents ensuring essential systems are in place. Services provided include cleaning, gardening, ICT and WiFi.
St Basils’ portfolio includes a range of accommodation types to enable choice and to match needs. This includes self-contained flats and bedsits, accommodation with limited sharing, and shared housing. It provides communal spaces and training rooms so that young people have safe spaces to meet, socialise, learn and have fun. It is important for young people to play a role in the day-to-day management of the homes they are living in.
St Basils offer a sophisticated accommodation pathway which is flexible in response to the young persons’ requirements. This includes Immediate Access, Step Down and Foyers, Supported Lodgings, Live and Work services and a Cooperative. The staff presence varies within these services from 24-hour cover, day/evening cover or visiting peripatetic staff with out-of-hours on call.
Young people are matched to the accommodation that best meets their needs and can move to a different service as and when their needs change. St Basils also tries to ensure the young person is matched to the accommodation that is affordable, given their financial circumstances.
The aim of St Basils’ support service is to prepare young people to move on successfully, develop their employability skills and tackle any vulnerabilities which act as a barrier to progress. This support is ‘tenure neutral’ and delivered within the supported accommodation and on a floating-support basis. St Basils’ support offer is holistic and tailored to the individual’s needs and their aspirations.
St Basils recognises that this cohort of young people often has complex needs and require intensive interventions to enable them to make progress in life. It is a Psychologically Informed Service and it uses a coaching approach to engage with young people. The young persons’ strengths, ambitions, assets and needs are jointly assessed and each young person is appointed a Progression Coach who will be their keyworker.
Each young person has an action plan and, together with the Progression Coach, they monitor progress in attaining the identified goals. St Basils works collaboratively with statutory agencies and engages them in the action plan, ensuring issues identified in the pathway plan are picked up, creating a team around the young person to enable them to sustain their progress.
Additional support needs are identified and an agreement reached about the bespoke type of support required by each young person. This support can be of a general nature or specialist depending on the requirements of the young person. The aim of the support will be: to enable the young person to take advantage of the opportunities on offer; to develop their confidence and life skills; to enter and sustain education/training and ultimately employment; and, when ready, to move on in a confident and sustainable way. The young people will have access to the full range of support services from St Basils including mental skills for life, youth voice, employability and life-skills training.
Challenges and learning points
Firstly, young people have told the St Basils’ team that they feel stigmatised if they have been in care. They feel they are often categorised and pre-judged to be ‘chaotic people who are always angry’. This can then result in them not getting the support they need to move on as service providers or potential employers and landlords do not offer them the same opportunities they would for those who had not been in care, as they perceive them to be a ‘safer’ option1. Therefore, it is important to challenge that culture and bias. We need to understand young people’s strengths and talents and ensure they have the underpinning support and resources to enable them to achieve their ambitions.
Secondly, planning for move-on for care leavers is often last minute and therefore limits the choices they have and pushes them in to the homelessness system. It is vital to work with local authorities to develop a planned pathway which optimises choice for the young person and is linked to their future ambitions. Having a housing member of staff based in Children’s Services helps that pathway planning.
Thirdly, corporate parents do not always understand the housing sector and may rely on framework agreements with spot-purchase arrangements. This is the most expensive type of approach and can prevent the development of well-planned, psychologically informed environments which are sustainable and do not perpetuate an institutional environment. Joint commissioning with housing-related support services provides better options, better quality, is more sustainable and can achieve better outcomes.
The experience of St Basils is that it is preferable to have mixed communities rather than schemes specifically for care leavers. Supported lodgings can be a great offer if properly managed, funded and supported. This uses community assets to provide a home for young people.
St Basils Do’s and Don’ts
DO consult with young people and see what they would prefer and what works best for their preferred future.
DO involve corporate parents upstream and help them develop the pathway framework and planned moves with choice.
DO ensure that your housing offer underpins and supports engagement with education, training or employment.
DO encourage corporate parents not to rely on the most expensive solitary spot purchase options just because they may cover all risks.
DO try to integrate young people into strengths-based, positive options and, if necessary, have access to intensified support to enable them to take up these opportunities.
DO recognise that care leavers are all individuals and try to avoid perpetuating negative stereotypes and institutional approaches.
DO provide life-skills programmes as part of any support package.