Focus Ireland provides case management support across a number of services. But what is case management, and how successful is it in supporting households to avoid or exit homelessness? In this blog post, Kaska Kopczynska from Focus Ireland’s TSS service answers these questions.
Case management is a collaborative process which involves assessment, support planning, assistance and advocacy. Focus Ireland provides case management support to families and individuals across Ireland who are at risk of homelessness or who are currently in homeless accommodation and transitioning to stable tenancies.
Our Tenancy Sustainment Support (TSS) services work with families and individuals at risk of homelessness. Risks to a tenancy might include rent arrears, social welfare issues, health or addiction concerns, or tenants receiving a Notice of Termination. Support to Live Independently (SLI) staff work with families and individuals leaving homeless accommodation by supporting them to settle into their new home and sustain their tenancy. Tenants may be moving to local authority or approved housing body housing or into the private rented sector. Our Advice & Information services also provide case management support to tenants at risk of homelessness or those struggling to find accommodation.
The type of support which customers accessing case management services need differs greatly; this responsiveness and flexibility is key to the service model. We will examine the TSS model to get an insight into how case management services work on the ground.
How it works
TSS services engage with tenants and their families on a voluntary and individual basis, working to ensure the continuity and security of their tenancies. Following a referral from the local authority, a designated key worker will meet the tenant and assess their needs. This initial assessment provides the opportunity to discuss areas such as accommodation needs, health needs, any substance dependencies, children and relationships, finance and income, as well as employment and training interests. Together with the tenant, the key worker will draft a support plan. This will set out goals which the tenant will work towards with the aim of ensuring their tenancy is secure. The key worker will typically meet with the tenant each week to support them in meeting these goals.
The type and intensity of the support required by the tenant will vary from case to case. It might involve practical work around the home, such as setting up or changing utilities. As tenancies progress, engagement might reduce or the work may focus more on social, educational, employment or therapeutic needs. No two support plans are the same as they are developed as a collaboration between the tenant and the key worker.
Focus Ireland case management services work closely with other statutory and voluntary organisations in the community, such as Tusla, MABS, social welfare, local schools, counselling and psychotherapy services and mental health services. Staff may also refer tenants to other Focus Ireland services such as our Child Support Workers or our PETE training service.
The length of engagement with the service will also vary from case to case. On average, tenants accessing TSS are supported for 12-18 months. Tenants accessing SLI are supported for 6-9 months. However, there is flexibility inherent in case management services and cases are only closed when particular indicators of tenancy stability and security are reached. Disengagement from the service is also planned and paced to ensure the needs of the tenant are taken into account. There are a number of ‘settlement indicators’ which key workers are looking for. These include: tenants’ understanding of their obligations and also their rights, tenants’ knowledge of support services in the community and how they might access them, development of good tenancy management habits such as budgeting and landlord engagement.
We recently conducted research to try to develop a better understanding of how well our case management services work to support individuals at risk. Our research team contacted customers six months after they disengaged with Focus Ireland services. 95% of respondents had remained in secure housing after those six months. 79% felt that Focus Ireland helped with their housing situation. The full report can be found here.
95% of respondents had remained in secure housing after those six months.
Case management and tenancy support play a vital role in enabling sustained exits from homelessness. We must ensure that these services continue to be funded as we fight to end the homelessness crisis in Ireland.
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