St Mungo's - Establishing A Campaigning Taskforce

Strategy

 Official figures show that around a third of people who sleep rough have diagnoses of severe and enduring mental health problems, but these official statistics, although shocking, do not show the full picture. A survey of St Mungo’s clients showed that as many as 76% are living with some form of mental health problem and many with other complicating problems such as a dependency on alcohol. At the same time the types of services needed by homeless people are scarce and they face barriers in accessing those services which do exist. No one understands this better than homeless people themselves and the campaign therefore sought to understand and share the individual stories of St Mungo’s clients and to show how past experiences, current circumstances, and individual resilience  combine to affect a person’s situation. To achieve this we put St Mungo’s clients at the centre of the campaign.

One of the major challenges in providing the right support for homeless people is the provision of services for people with multiple and complex needs. Getting this right involves specialist knowledge, appropriate funding and needs to be a priority for Government, commissioners and providers. St Mungo’s needed to not only highlight the problem but detail the solutions and build the case for urgent action. Our strategy took this into account by:-  

1.    Highlighting the problem

Previous studies had shown the devastating link between mental health and street homelessness and the scale of the problem.  To move the debate forward we needed to reinforce this analysis but also personalise the issue and demonstrate how failure to deal with the problem impacts on individuals.

2.    Providing solutions

The next step was to build on this picture of homeless people’s access, or lack of access, to help their mental health problems, and to build a consensus around a set of recommendations derived from policy experts, service providers and what homeless people themselves said they would find helpful.

3.    Delivering action

Finally, we needed to ensure that the recommendations were implemented by working with politicians and civil servants to translate the work we had done into policy change and improved services.

Implementation

‘Happiness Matters’ report

There was awareness that previous campaigns had failed to bring to life the crippling effect of poor services for homeless people. Our solution was to produce a unique and powerful piece of peer led research undertaken by a group of 12 St Mungo’s residents who guided our approach, designed the questions and carried out interviews with over 200 homeless people.

The resulting report made for powerful reading clearly articulating that despite improvements in mental health service provision over the decades, homeless people were still not able to access the treatment and support they needed and this was inhibiting their chances of recovery and a life permanently off the streets.

Clients as Parliamentary advocates

‘Happiness Matters’ was launched by St Mungo’s clients to a packed reception in the House of Commons attended by Housing Minister, Ian Austin MP, Shadow Housing Minister, Grant Shapps MP and Liberal Democrat Housing spokesperson Sarah Teather MP. We supported clients to produce speeches which formed a powerful centrepiece to the event. Clients also briefed some of the 40 Parliamentarians who attended.

Call for Evidence

In summer 2009 St Mungo’s launched a major national Call for Evidence on Mental Health and Homelessness to raise the profile of the issue, draw together the views of key stakeholders, and inform a set of recommendations for Government. Service users once again were central with ‘Outside In’, St Mungo’s client group, involved from the start.  We undertook oral hearings in July – the St Mungo’s Parliamentary Committee, chaired by Sandra Gidley MP and Doug Naysmith MP.  Whitehall was well-represented with contributions from the CLG, the Cabinet Office, DWP and the Department of Health and the Mayor of London.

Outcome

Following the publication of the Call for Evidence Report we joined forces with Anne Milton MP, Health Minister, to form an implementation taskforce to ensure recommendations were taken forward.

“Working with Insight we have been able to enhance our profile and engage public policy decision-makers. We regard them as an extension of our internal team.”

Tanya English, Executive Director Fundraising & Communications, St Mungo’s

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