Working across boundaries to improve health outcomes: a case study of a housing support and outreach service for homeless people living with HIV

Ailsa Cameron, Liz Lloyd, William Turner, Geraldine Macdonald
Health & Social Care in the Community 2009, 17 (4): 388-95
This paper reports the findings of an evaluation of the 'Housing Support, Outreach and Referral' service developed to support people living with HIV who were homeless or at risk of homelessness. The service was set up as part of the Supporting People Health Pilot programme established to demonstrate the policy links between housing support services and health and social care services by encouraging the development of integrated services. The paper considers the role of housing support in improving people's health, and considers the challenges of working across housing, health and social care boundaries. The evaluation of the health pilot employed two main sources of data collection: quarterly project evaluation reports, which collected process data as well as reporting progress against aims and objectives, and semi-structured interviews with professionals from all key stakeholder groups and agencies, and with people who used services. Over the course of 15 months, 56 referrals were received of which 27 were accepted. Fifteen people received tenancy support of whom 12 were helped to access temporary accommodation. At the end of the 15 months, all of the tenancies had been maintained. In addition, 18 people registered with a general practitioner and 13 registered with an HIV clinic. Interviews with professionals emphasised the importance of the local joint working context, the involvement of the voluntary sector and the role of the support workers as factors that accounted for these outcomes. Those using services placed most emphasis on the flexibility of the support worker role. Importantly, interviews with professionals and those using services suggest that the role of support worker incorporates two dimensions--those of networker/navigator as well as advocate--and that both dimensions are important in determining the effectiveness of the service.

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