Working with Complexity: Social Care and Housing
By Tom Pollard, Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust
As a newly qualified Social Worker supporting adults with mental health problems, I see how often the issues that people are experiencing, often thought of as primarily about their health, are almost invariably tied up in their social situations. Many people with mental health problems also have issues with money, housing, relationships and employment, as well as challenges such as drug and alcohol misuse, and contact with the criminal justice system. These issues can be both a cause and a consequence of their mental health problems.
Having a safe and secure place to live is a basic human necessity, but it can be really hard as a Social Worker to navigate the relevant systems and processes to help someone with these kinds of experiences get access to housing. This is especially true when you’re newly qualified and new to a team and an area. I was therefore excited to attend some recent training put on by Research in Practice for Adults about ‘complexity and housing’.
At this training, we heard from Expert Citizens C.I.C. and VOICES about the great work they are doing to ensure that people with complex needs get the support they need around issues like housing. It was clear that they had become effective at navigating local systems and processes, and passionately advocating for their service users, and that this had led to changes in how things were done locally. It also seemed that their work was strongly shaped by the views and needs of the people they support.
After this session and the rest of the day’s training, I came away more confident about how to try to both support individuals facing these challenges, but also to push for changes to the whole system so that it is more responsive to the needs of people with complex circumstances. The one idea that really stuck with me was to find ways to encourage others in the system, making decisions about issues like access to housing, to really see the person behind the ‘complex needs’, rather than just focusing on the challenges they may present.