Abri partnership preventing homelessness for people in mental ill health recovery

Homes for Cathy member Abri – a 35,000 home housing association operating in the south of England – has partnered with Southern Health Foundation Trust (SHFT) and homelessness charity The Society of St James (SSJ) to provide the ‘Step Out Pathway’, housing and support for people discharged from acute mental health services.

With one in four people in the UK experiencing mental health problems each year, mental health services are becoming increasingly stretched. Part of this is a lack of move-on accommodation support for people in mental ill health recovery, which is becoming a growing crisis for the NHS. Across Hampshire, this is resulting in substantial housing need as well as cost pressures for the NHS.

SHFT reported that limited spaces were being blocked by people who could return to the community if there was supply of appropriate accommodation. Around 60 people (many from Southampton) were, as a result, being housed in temporary accommodation in cities such as Manchester, Bradford and Liverpool at an average cost of £600 per day.

In partnership with SHFT, Abri provides access to a portfolio of 15 properties to help alleviate the issue. Situated on the outskirts of central Southampton, the Mansbridge location encourages independence and helps people in recovery to be close to community facilities, while distancing from other negative influences. These properties are granted through a lease agreement to The Society of St James (SSJ), a Southampton-based homelessness charity, who take on full housing management and landlord responsibilities. Abri has a good working relationship with SSJ, established over many years of working together on other initiatives.

The Keep Well Collaborative was instrumental in the conceptualisation, design and development of this ‘Step out’ pathway, facilitating the approach as part of their wider commission by the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Integrated Care System to address health inequalities through a focus on the home.

Abri now has eight leases in place and the partnership is looking to explore more opportunities. It has been a challenging process, with people moving from acute inpatient units with long-term mental health issues, but the partnership is proud there have been no hospital re-admissions and there are signs of the residents establishing themselves within the local community.

The longer-term leases (seven years) also provide time and space for people to think differently. Removing the timeline for people moving out of the properties reduces pressure and enables them to focus on making the changes they need to make in their lives.

Avril Ansell, Abri’s Partnership Living Manager, said, “It’s been such a positive piece of partnership working and is such a clear fulfilment of our strategic aim around community, as we’re building on our relationships with both the NHS and also a specialist housing management provider to help people to move on with their lives in a really clear way. I know that my team has really valued seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they’ve seen the properties that they are about to move into, knowing that they are hopefully turning another significant corner to improved health and wellbeing.

“Having a place to call home, establishing roots and finding opportunities for personal development can make a significant difference to people’s lives. We’re excited to continue working in partnership to provide these homes for years to come.”

Jon Pritchard, Associate Director of Housing & Community Inclusion at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust added, “This collaboration between Abri, Society of Saint James, and Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust provides an excellent discharge solution for people who, traditionally, haven’t had many/any accommodation options at the point of discharge.  With the support of our partners, Abri and SSJ, we are discharging people from our inpatient care much sooner than we would be able to do otherwise. 

“Using a consistent person-centred approach across all of our organisations we can ensure that the property is right for the individual (close to support/family networks/transport links, and meets their accessibility requirements etc).

“The individuals receive intensive, time-limited support from the Southern Health Community Rehabilitation Team when they move in to their new home, which transfers to the Community Mental Health Team over time.  This structured support really helps to make the discharge sustainable.

“Our partnership brings the constituent strengths of each organisation together, delivering the greatest impact for our service users.  We very much look forward to continuing to grow this innovative approach.”

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