Being placed OOA created additional support needs for most of the interviewees, even for those placed a relatively short distance away. Most of the interviewees felt isolated and forgotten about and found it a daily struggle just to keep going, being in an unfamiliar environment without the support of established networks of family, friends and services. This affected their mental health negatively. Attending health appointments was hampered by the distance; for many they would not have happened without Izzy’s support.
It is however not always bad to be placed out of area. The individuals who told us they didn’t have a problem with the OOA placement, cited getting away from disruptive environments in Brighton and being closer to family in their new accommodation. This only highlights the importance of a sense of belonging in a community or a place, and when that gets disrupted, some continuity of support.
Having a trusted support worker follow vulnerable people who are placed out of area helped these individuals remain engaged with services, settle into their new accommodation, continue to attend health appointments, and ultimately move back if that was their wish. These people are all happier, healthier and less of a burden on the public purse.
The use of OOA placements has risen nationally by 344% since 2010. With the increased pressures on homelessness services, as the cost-of-living crisis is taking a hold, it is likely to continue to rise. We need support services that evolve with these changes. While the challenges each local authority faces looks different, we hope these lessons can inspire creative support solutions beyond Brighton.
You can read the evaluation report here.