Recording and Measuring Impact of Prevention Activities
133. The homelessness statistics system - HL1 - should be used to record homeless presentations and those threatened with homelessness if there is reason to believe that the applicant is homeless. Local authorities should not wait until the beginning of a formal assessment before starting an HL1 recording if there is an earlier informal assessment which indicates that the applicant is homeless.
134. Outcomes from activities, which aim to prevent homelessness or sustain housing will include:
- Households, which might otherwise have presented as homeless achieving a positive outcome and therefore not presenting;
- Households presenting as threatened with homelessness whose cases are resolved before they actually become homeless; and
- Homeless households sustaining their tenancies following the outcome of their homeless presentations.
135. The HL1 can provide indirect evidence on the first of these outcomes and direct evidence on the second and third, but cannot tell the full story. To get a good understanding of the impact of your local prevention strategy it will also be important to identify and measure locally those aspects of the strategy, which you anticipate will be "key" to its success and which will not be picked up in the homelessness statistics.
136. The HL1 gathers information on the composition of households presenting as homeless, the circumstances of the applicant, the assessment, the support needs and the outcome. The revised HL1, introduced from April 2007, gathers detailed information on the previous living circumstances and main reasons for homelessness. Taken together, these can identify specific groups for which you will have targeted prevention activities.
137. The diagram at Appendix 1 uses the example of homelessness prevention for people awaiting discharge from hospital to illustrate what the HL1 can and can't tell you about the effectiveness of prevention activity for this group. Key points from the diagram about recording and interpreting the HL1 data and about useful information to gather locally are:
- A positive prevention outcome - from activity recorded on the HL1 includes those who were threatened with homelessness and for whom your local authority discharged its duty before they became homeless;
- Negative prevention outcomes - which would be expected to reduce as the targeted strategy becomes more effective - including the number who become homeless on discharge and those for whom the local authority did not discharge its duty before they became homeless. (In assessing negative outcomes, further analysis of final outcome of the application or time taken to complete the application should, nevertheless, be able to demonstrate the effectiveness of early intervention.);
- To get a good understanding of the overall impact of the prevention activity it would be important to record those who achieve a positive resolution without being recorded as either homeless or threatened with homelessness at any stage.
138. A key feature of this approach is the need to draw a clear distinction between those who are homeless and those who are threatened with homelessness. Analysis of current statistics suggests that a number of those recorded currently as homeless might be more appropriately recorded as 'threatened with homelessness'. For example in 2007/08, of the 1,484 who were homeless or threatened with homelessness from prison, only 33 were recorded as threatened with homelessness. This suggests that either there is very little early intervention for this group, or that no clear distinction is being made between the two categories.
139. In addition to using the HL1 to record information, the following recommendations set out additional information that could be captured to help monitor the efficacy of prevention activities:
- A new Accounts Commission performance indicator - Indicator 19b - introduced from 2008/09 will record, for those placed in council stock as a result of a homelessness application, the proportion who maintain their tenancy for at least 12 months. The Scottish Housing Regulator has now decided to gather equivalent information for those placed in housing association stock through the Annual Performance Statistical Returns ( APSR). Additionally, it is recommended that it would be helpful to collect data on tenancy sustainment for all groups to use as comparison. This would help to build a local picture of what works well and what doesn't;
- Where prevention activity is targeted at ensuring sustainable outcomes for particular groups following a homelessness application, an analysis of homelessness repeats for the group of interest will give a measure of negative prevention outcomes, which you would aim to reduce through your prevention strategy. Also, where an applicant does make a repeat application, the prior circumstances and reasons for homelessness for the latest application should give a useful insight into why the prevention activity failed in this latest case;
- Local authorities should consider monitoring the numbers of households referred for help to specific homelessness prevention services and the proportion of such cases resulting in "success" where such "success" is clearly agreed and defined;
- Local authorities using the private sector would find it helpful to negotiate with those landlords accepting, e.g. RDG scheme referrals, to notify them when tenancies are under threat, ( i.e. before the landlord has any duty under section 11 regulations) and if tenancies are terminated. This will allow local authorities to intervene and negotiate if possible to prevent the tenancy from being lost or failing that to help arrange another tenancy for the household.;
- There are different definitions of success which may need to be taken into account when monitoring the efficacy of different types of prevention activities. For example, if someone is at risk of becoming homeless, measuring whether or not they have become homeless may seem like an obvious measure of success and is certainly useful to ascertain to see if they have avoided the crisis of becoming homeless. However it will not say anything about whether the underlying cause of their vulnerability to homelessness has been addressed; for example a young person who is assessed as being at risk of becoming homeless due to family problems may continue to stay in the family home - but this arrangement may be at risk of breaking down with little notice if the underlying causes of friction are not addressed.
- When Housing Options services are more fully developed it would be helpful to monitor the number of people assisted into sustainable accommodation as an outcome.
- Additional helpful guidance on outcomes monitoring can be found in the attached document, Managing outcomes a guide for homelessness organisations 20