Major reports on homelessness launched by Crook Public Service Fellows

Two major reports tackling the issue of homelessness, produced by future leaders in policy with academics at the University of Sheffield, have been launched today (21 September 2017).

Faye Greaves, Professor Tony Crook, Lord Best and Sam Thomas.The Crook Public Service Fellowships at the University of Sheffield provide the opportunity for emerging leaders in public and not-for-profit sectors to take short periods away from their day job and immerse themselves in a collaborative project with academic colleagues on a pressing policy issue or challenge.

This year’s theme was The Housing Challenge, with reports by Faye Greaves, a policy and practice officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), and Sam Thomas, policy manager for the Making Every Adult Matter coalition, both in collaboration with University of Sheffield academics.

Their reports were launched at a high profile event in London, chaired Lord Best, who received an honorary doctorate from the University of Sheffield in 2003, today.

At the event, it was announced that leading figures from the civil service, social work and youth work sectors will be among this year’s cohort of Crook Public Service Fellows who will address the highly pressing theme of ‘Children’s Chances’ alongside University of Sheffield Social Sciences academics.

Each Fellow will visit Sheffield for short periods over the next 12 months to work in collaboration with academic colleagues on a diverse range issues affecting young people.

These areas include the effectiveness of early intervention, family breakdowns, the role of voluntary organisations in supporting and monitoring young carers and the services provided for young people leaving care at age 16-18.

Professor Gill Valentine, Acting Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sheffield, said: "At the heart of our University's mission is a desire to help people understand the world and make it a better place. The Crook Public Service Fellowships are an innovative way of helping us achieve that goal, giving future leaders in policy the opportunity to combine their practical experience with academia to identify solutions to some of society's biggest challenges.

"We're extremely grateful to Professor Crook for his generosity and support of this scheme, which reflects his deep commitment to public service."

Professor Craig Watkins, Vice President and Head of the Faculty of Social Sciences, added: “It’s a pleasure to welcome this year’s cohort of Crook Public Service Fellows to the University.

“The Fellowships have proved to be a successful way of bringing together the policy world, public sector and academia in its first two years. We look forward to seeing how this year’s cohort will work with staff within the Faculty to bring together practical experience with the latest academic thinking to approach this crucial policy area.”

The Crook Public Service Fellowship scheme, named in honour of the donor, Emeritus Professor Tony Crook, CBE FAcSS FRTPI, from the Faculty’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning and former Pro Vice Chancellor, aims to encourage original thinking and influence public policy.

Professor Crook said: ‘I have been pleased to help instigate and fund the Fellowships. They reflect what has been important to me both in my own research and in my non-executive roles in the policy and practice communities and that is to ensure that policy research is both theoretically rigorous and policy relevant. Without the rigour, there can be no impact. I also wanted to build more bridges between academic practice and the policy communities.

“I am absolutely delighted with the success of the Fellowship programme to date and with the way the first two cohorts of Fellows have produced reports with real impact on their chosen theme. I am also delighted with way they have developed what I hope will be long lasting relationships with the academic colleagues here who supported their fellowship projects.

“The Children’s Chances Fellows will be looking at what works in helping disadvantaged children build resilience and realise their full potential. It is hard to think of an issue which is more salient for the future of these children. I wish our new Fellows well.”

Each year, the Fellowships focus on a different theme. This year’s fellows will engage with academic staff across the Faculty, including the Departments of Sociological Studies, Education, Geography and Politics.

Tackling homelessness together: The importance of local authorities and housing associations working in partnership

Faye Greaves’ report found that the vast majority of councils and housing associations believe government welfare policy is hitting their efforts to tackle homelessness.

The research by the CIH and the University of Sheffield reveals 84 per cent of the 106 councils and 70 per cent of the 50 housing associations (which run 39 per cent of the total housing association stock in England) surveyed think welfare policies like the lower benefit cap are impacting negatively on their work together to tackle homelessness.

Nearly half of the housing associations surveyed during the research said households being unable to pay their rent due to limited welfare assistance was one of the main reasons they had to refuse a nomination.

Terrie Alafat, the chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, added: “This research shows that welfare policy is seriously undermining the work that councils and housing associations can do to reduce homelessness.

“The government has stated its commitment to tackle homelessness and the Homelessness Reduction Act, which comes into effect next year, represents significant progress. But it is also clear that welfare policy is directly undermining that effort.”

She said: “We know from experience that tackling homelessness is possible but it requires a commitment from all government departments. If the government is serious about tackling our homelessness crisis it must urgently consider how it can create a policy framework which supports, and not undermines, what councils and housing associations can achieve together to tackle this huge problem.”

Click here to read the report (PDF 1.01MB)

Going further back: Earlier action on multiple needs to prevent homelessness

Sam Thomas, policy manager for the Making Every Adult Matter coalition (Clinks, Homeless Link and Mind), led research that found there are opportunities to act earlier to support people with the multiple needs that accompany homelessness.

The report was produced with a team of academics and peer researchers from West Yorkshire Finding Independence, who have personal experience of the issues. It argues that services should be designed to respond sensitively to trauma; commissioning should reflect the importance of trusting relationships; and that government and local areas should invest in co-ordinated preventative support.

Professor John Flint, Professor of Town and Regional Planning at the University of Sheffield, who was involved in the report, said: "While it is well established that there is a need for earlier, and joined up, interventions to support individuals with multiple needs and prevent homelessness, this research has tried to explore the barriers to such holistic and earlier interventions and how these may be overcome.

“Working with Sam Thomas and a range of other practitioners at the Making Every Adult Matter coalition, Homeless Link and West Yorkshire Finding Independence has definitely strengthened the research and, hopefully, its findings will provide the direct benefit to policy and practice that the Crook Public Service Fellowships were established to achieve."

Click here to read the report (PDF 740KB)

Additional information

The Crook Public Service Fellowships

The Crook Public Service Fellowships, at the University of Sheffield, provide the opportunity for future leaders, in public and not-for-profit sectors, to take short periods away from their day job and immerse themselves in a collaborative project with academic colleagues, in the faculty of Social Sciences, on a pressing policy issue or challenge.

Professor Tony Crook is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Sheffield and donor for the Fellowship scheme. He served as Pro-Vice Chancellor for a decade until 2008 and was awarded a CBE in 2014 for his service to housing. Professor Crook has been Chair of Shelter and Sheffield Homes and has also held senior roles with Orbit Housing Group and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust. He serves on the RTPI Board and on the national council of the Academy of Social Sciences. The scheme has been established and named in recognition of Professor Crook’s commitment to public service and to reflect his support for the Fellowships.

The new cohort of Crook Fellows are:

Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for England (Children & Families), Department for Education
Sara Gowen, Managing Director, Sheffield Young Carers
Sumi Rabindrakumar, Research Officer, Gingerbread
Alice Field, Residential Manager, Young Futures

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