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Emerging findings from our Frontline Worker Survey 2021

Emerging findings from our Frontline Worker Survey 2021

Emerging findings from our Frontline Worker Survey 2021

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Between the 10th of November and the 8th of December we heard from over 800 frontline workers across the UK, who each took the time to share their insights and experiences.

Listening to lived and frontline experience is crucial to addressing homelessness. In this blog, we outline some of the emerging findings from this recent survey to help inform homelessness policy and practice over the coming winter.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this survey. We recognise your ongoing commitment to addressing homelessness in these challenging circumstances.

Who participated in this year’s survey?

In total, we heard from 826 frontline workers[1]. This comprised staff from across the four nations, including 579 people from England, 89 from Scotland, 84 from Wales and 56 from Northern Ireland.

All survey participants supported people experiencing homelessness. They worked in the public, statutory and voluntary sector in roles such as outreach, housing, social work, and probation. For this year’s survey, we collected responses from a small number of volunteers as well as paid staff.

What did frontline workers say?

We asked frontline staff a range of questions, from how easy or difficult they find supporting people with things like accessing accommodation, health services and benefits; to their experiences of working in this sector and what can be done to support their professional development and wellbeing.

At this early stage, we are publishing some brief headlines to give a snapshot of recent trends that look forward into the coming winter. Our emerging findings are outlined below.

Changes in support needs

Frontline workers described changes they had observed in relation to the people they support over the last 12 months. Most notably, 83% of frontline workers saw an increase in the number of people they worked with who had mental health needs, 79% saw an increase in people with multiple/complex needs and 66% saw an increase in people with substance misuse issues. Additionally, 65% of frontline workers saw an increase in the number of people with a dual diagnosis and 62% saw an increase in survivors of domestic abuse.

“More and more of our referrals are individuals suffering with their mental health […] We feel very stretched as individually we have [a] case load of 25 customers each which does not allow the time needed to work with complex mental health issues effectively”.

“[I have seen an] increase from people approaching fleeing violence and applicants approaching from other areas of the UK”.

Withdrawal of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit in October

Frontline workers reflected on the impact of the recent withdrawal of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit. The overwhelming majority of staff felt this change was negative: 77% of frontline workers described the withdrawal as very negative, with a further 21% describing it as slightly negative.

“It provided an important cushion, people already struggle on the limited income, I predict more fuel poverty and more debt issues as an outcome. [I] feel that it will impact on people’s mental health, there is already a lot of anxiety”.

“People have gotten used to that money, it has helped with food, heating costs etc. and now just when all living costs are going up, the money has been taken off them”.

Concerns looking forward this winter

Frontline workers shared their concerns looking forward into this winter. In particular, 59% of frontline workers were extremely concerned about the risk of people needing to choose between housing costs and other basic necessities (e.g. food) this winter and 56% were extremely concerned about rising energy costs. The overwhelming majority of frontline workers were also concerned about build up of rent arrears, risk of eviction and risk of rough sleeping.

“[People] cannot afford monthly payments let alone upfront deposit etc; [it is] particularly difficult for the single person on minimal income with nil benefit entitlement - or same [circumstances] but lone parent”.

“We're seeing an increased volume of eviction notices and possession orders being served”.

Additionally, 79% of frontline workers were concerned about the lack of adequate, COVID-safe SWEP provision. Recent developments in the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular the risk from the Omicron variant, are likely to have heightened this concern. Overall, 32% of frontline workers reported that obtaining information about the severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) provision in their area was difficult.  

What happens next?

We invite governments across the UK, local authorities, support organisations, the DWP and landlords to consider what this data means for them and the action they can take.

We will continue our analysis of the Frontline Worker Survey 2021 results and a full report containing findings and recommendations will be launched in 2022 (see last year’s report here).

At the Frontline Network, we are committed to responding to frontline workers’ feedback and concerns. We will continue to provide funding, community and resources to support your work. For now, we wanted to highlight three particular resources which you may find useful over the winter period:

  1. Guidance on staying healthy this winterGroundswell have free resources for people experiencing homelessness, including top tips from their team with lived experience. This has been recently updated in light of Omicron and the booster programme.
  2. Winter provision and SWEP – take a look at Homeless Link’s 2021-22 Toolkit for practical guidance, tools and good practice examples. You can also find the latest government guidance here and join the Housing Justice Winter Night Shelter Network mailing list for updates.
  3. Support with paying energy bills – visit Ofgem’s website for advice for anyone struggling to afford energy bills. Their guidance includes a round up of the grants and benefits currently available.

Stay in touch

We look forward to sharing further updates in the New Year – if you aren’t already subscribed, you can sign up to our mailing list to keep in touch.   

If you have a particular interest in an area of the survey results, or would like to recommend a resource that can help frontline staff and the people they support, then please contact Rachel at frontline@stmartinscharity.org.uk to discuss this further.  

[1] Please note, not every participant completed every survey question, further information about the methodology will be published in the full report.

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