Crisis’ client services teams deliver 1-1 and group support to over 8,000 homeless people a year, who we refer to as members, from our 11 ‘Skylight’ centres across Britain. Employment, Housing, Progression and health and well-being coaches and coordinators work to end the homelessness of Crisis members in accordance with the Crisis ‘model of change’, which holds that for homelessness to be sustainably ended, a person must be empowered to achieved positive social networks, good health and well-being, stable and meaningful employment and safe and secure housing.

Our vision for the development of client services over the course of the 2018-23 Crisis organisational strategy is to end the homelessness for more of the homeless people with whom we work, including those who are excluded from many mainstream services such as support from their local authority, and also those with complex needs (circumstances specific to the individual that mean that they require intensive and prolonged support, such as poor mental and physical health such as trauma, substance misuse and/or a history of offending).

What has already changed?

Since January 2019 we have introduced several changes to improve the effectiveness of our client services offer. Lead workers are now assigned to every member by their third visit to a Crisis Skylight centre: these workers will coordinate the support for the member and oversee their journey out of homelessness, increasing accountability across client services.

Our new case management system MAPS help coaches to track member progress towards key goals such as well-being, employment and housing, and specialist staff such as rapid rehousing and clinical psychology practitioners have been recruited to, respectively, provide expert care for vulnerable members and offer additional support to front-line staff.

Where are we now?

As of March 2020, Crisis is halfway through the second year of our 2018-23 strategy. Currently:

  • around one third of the people whom we work with have their homelessness prevented or ended sustainably (i.e. they are safely and sustainably housed and no longer require support from a Crisis coach to keep their tenancy)
  • several hundred more people have their homelessness relieved (they are placed in some form of temporary accommodation), but coaches are still working with them to ensure they obtain and keep their accommodation in the long term.

Why do we need to change?

Cross-organisational analysis has found that some of the ways in which our services are structured unintentionally create barriers to our members’ achieving an end to their homelessness. Current Skylight roles each entail a range of responsibilities and this is putting too much strain on some staff. Whilst the dedication and skill of Crisis coaches mean that many of our members make progress in areas of their lives, as a service we need to do even better to achieve our aim of ending homelessness for as many of the people we work with as possible.

What does our vision look like?

The new client services model for Crisis Skylight centres will be founded on adaptability, one of our core organisational values. Member journeys will be tailored depending on their needs, with a varying offer for people whose homelessness has been caused by a loss of income or eviction, and for those with complex needs such as mental or physical health concerns.

We will streamline the service model to free up coaches time to do more of what they do best and deliver excellent support for all members within their caseload. As a result, members using our services will feel reassured and energised as they feel listened to, heard, and clear about the next steps they need to take to leave homelessness behind.

The journey of a Crisis member under the new client services model will be structured in the following way:

  • First stage - Arrival: when a homeless person arrives at a Skylight they will be assessed by a duty worker, who will connect them to the help they need and meet their immediate needs if possible (such as finding them emergency accommodation if they are rough sleeping)

Depending on the needs of the member, they will then become part of one of two member cohorts:

  • Intensive case management: Members with complex needs will be offered prolonged and intensive one-to-one support from a coach, such as a rapid rehousing coach with a small caseload. Rapid rehousing coaches spend time building trust and offering highly personalised care to their member, and can continue to support them once they are housed and for as long as they need)
  • Structured coaching service: Members who do not have complex needs will be able to engage with structured coaching-based support to end their homelessness

Members may move between these cohorts. Members may also engage in learning and skills development services offered in Skylight service to complement their engagement with intensive care management/structured coaching and help them leave homelessness behind. These services include:

  • Vocational training and technical qualifications
  • Arts and well-being sessions
  • Life Skills / Smart Skills sessions

Members will not be able to engage in learning and skills development without also engaging in one-to-one support, and arts and well-being classes will be reserved for members with complex needs as a means of furthering their engagement in Crisis support services and supporting their well-being.

Membership will be closed when members are sustainably housed and their coach concludes that they no longer require support from Crisis staff to keep their home, whether this is well-being, employment or tenancy support. For members with complex needs, such as Housing First clients, support from the coach can continue for as long as the member feels it is needed.

What needs to change?

Our vision is for the new model of Crisis Skylight client services to set the industry standard for how to prevent and sustainably end homelessness for vulnerable people in Britain. We need to change the following for 2023 in order to deliver the new model of services effectively and end homelessness for more people:

  • Introduction of engagement and assessment service: at the point of arriving at a Skylight, the needs of the member will be assessed and they will be directed to the most appropriate service – whether those services are provided by Crisis or by other homelessness organisations. We will work together with our partners in the sector to share resources and provide the most effective, joined-up support possible for vulnerable people.
  • Changes to physical spaces: we must deliver services in welcoming environments, without physical or process barriers, in well-designed spaces that are comfortable and respect our members’ dignity. This may mean making alterations to some of the Skylight buildings.
  • Learning offer review: the current 4-term structure to the learning programme creates massive peaks and troughs of demand for staff time throughout the year. The programme will be altered so the term timetable does not create added pressure for staff at peak periods.
  • Investment in staff well-being: we need to ensure that staff will be happy, engaged, confident and supported and will have the independence to work creatively with members to achieve the best results under the new model. Clinical psychologists are being recruited to each Skylight to support staff with reflective practice and create psychologically informed environments for members and staff alike.
  • Investment in staff skills: we want to invest in our current staff to support them through the changes, and provide opportunities for people to transfer their core skills into new roles, where these are needed, and develop new skills. We will develop a learning and development programmes so that staff who are interested in new roles, or different roles within the new structure can develop new skills and knowledge, and make the most of their transferable skills.
  • New specialist roles: these roles are likely to include homelessness and housing law specialists/advocates, housing procurement roles, job brokerage roles and benefits specialists. These will enable our coaches to focus on their direct work with members and increase our capacity for one to one support.

What’s next?

The Crisis client services teams will be developing a plan that will help us to achieve the majority of these changes by the Spring/Summer of 2022.

If you would like more information on how Crisis client services will change over the course of the strategy, please get in touch at ella.dinsdale@crisis.org.uk. We may not have all the detailed answers, but we are interested in people’s views and opinions and genuinely keen to work with everyone so that we realise our vision of ending homelessness.