Twenty-six-year-old Tina Dennis,* who has learning difficulties,
lived with her father in a council flat. When he died, her social
worker worried that Tina could not cope on her own and considered
placing her in residential care. However, she was put in touch with
the council’s housing-related support services and was supported to
remain in her home.
“It is unusual for people to succeed tenancies anyway, but it was a
real achievement for Tina to succeed her father’s tenancy,” says
Supporting People co-ordinator Helen Bedser. “She was supported in
learning independent skills and, to this day, continues to receive
support, and probably always will. She is doing well and has just
started part-time employment.”
Tina is but one success story for Hounslow Council’s Supporting
People programme, which earlier this year was awarded the maximum
three stars by the Audit Commission. It was the first London
borough to be so recognised and only the second nationally, after
Launched in 2003, Supporting People aims to offer vulnerable adults
the opportunity to improve their quality of life by providing a
stable environment that enables greater independence.
In Hounslow, the council co-ordinated programme provides
housing-related support to more than 2,000 vulnerable people. It is
delivered by 35 provider organisations through more than 100
Bedser heads a team of just four – including herself, two project
officers and a monitoring and review officer. Given that Manchester
has a team of 20, it is not surprising that the Audit Commission
expressed initial concerns that this “small but committed” team
wasn’t big enough.
Being a small team has heightened the importance of good
partnership working, which has resulted in high levels of
satisfaction among providers. For Bedser, bringing together all the
individuals and organisations to deliver the programme locally has
been central to the team’s effectiveness, particularly with social
She says: “We were fortunate in having a history of good working
partnerships between housing and social services – which hasn’t
perhaps always been the case for others. So we had a head start
there. We’re based in housing but we identified important roles
within the programme for senior social services officers.”
The team is responsible for administering the day-to-day operation
of the programme, but is guided by a “core strategy group”
comprising partners from health, social services, probation and
housing, with the council’s commissioning body having overall
However, there are also six innovative multi-agency accommodation
sub-groups (mental health, learning difficulties, older people,
physical disabilities, young people, homelessness), which have
enabled people to have a strong input in developing the Supporting
People programme. “This has helped us mainstream supporting people
and get it fully integrated throughout the council,” says
For example, the young people group, chaired by the head of youth
offending, looks at the needs of 16 to 25 year olds, including
teenage parents, young offenders and asylum seekers.
Bedser says: “The group has set up a housing and support panel that
meets monthly and acts as a gateway to Supporting People resources
for young people. This has helped us target our resources to meet
the needs of young people locally.”
When Supporting People started, the team inherited what was already
available, but Bedser spotted unmet needs. She says: “At first, we
only had resources available for one refugee family. And yet when
people are granted refugee status they are often at their most
vulnerable: they lose support from the National Asylum Support
Service and have to tangle with the bureaucracy of benefits,
housing, education, employment and so on. But now we have
commissioned a floating service that can support up to 15 families.
That development just wouldn’t have been possible before Supporting
*Not her real name
- Keep it simple for people
- Keep reminding people what it is you are trying to achieve,
selling it as a resource for others.
- Tap into existing networks, identify and address gaps.
- Make sure each partner has their own separate goals to keep
- Only provide partners with support and advice when asked.
- No experience of working in the service provider sector is
Name: Helen Bedser.
Job: Supporting people co-ordinator, Hounslow,
Qualifications: Social Studies degree.
Last job: Service manager for a supported housing
First job: Bingo caller.