Amidst a national housing crisis, coupled with the impact of welfare reforms and austerity, there has been a growth in the numbers of people living in houses of multiple occupation (HMOs). Described by some as being ‘housing of last resort’, HMOs are home to a disproportionate number of vulnerable tenants with personal challenges such as substance abuse, mental health issues, prison leavers and the former homeless.
Often concentrated in low income neighbourhoods, HMOs have increasingly become associated with social problems and barriers to regeneration. In response, policy initiatives have focused on stricter planning regulations and housing standards enforcement. However, this research begins to examine how this may need to be complemented with greater recognition of the needs of vulnerable tenants and ways in which these needs might be managed and mitigated.
Approximately 16,800 individuals are estimated to be facing multiple and complex needs across the West Midlands region. Working with the West Midlands Combined Authority and West Midlands Fire Service, Dr Rachel Massie and Prof Laura Caulfield from the ICRD have analysed unstructured interviews with 25 individuals with lived experience of multiple and complex needs to add a local-level, qualitative understanding of their story and issues they face. The report can be found below and summarises participants’ adverse experiences and both the positive and negative interactions with support services.
Sounding Out is a project for ex-prisoners designed to support them post-release, through a combination of music production, live performances, and paid training placements. Sounding Out focused on creating new music as a band, showcasing their performers centre-stage at high profile gigs. Sounding Out is run by the Irene Taylor Trust who want to enrich the lives of prisoners at every stage of their journey through the criminal justice system and back into the community.
In a bid to examine the impact Sounding Out has had on its participants, the Institute for Community Research and Development evaluated the programme throughout 2018. The full report can be found embedded below.
At a time when the evidence of effectiveness of social prescribing schemes are of national and political interest, the ICRD were commissioned by the Wolverhampton Clinical Commissioning Group to conduct an independent mixed methods evaluation of Wolverhampton’s Social Prescribing Service. The social prescribing service, ran by Wolverhampton Voluntary Sector Council, provides a link between primary care services and the voluntary and community sector, and aims to help people with non-clinical needs access a wide variety of services and activities in Wolverhampton to support their health and wellbeing. Dr Rachel Massie and Dr Nahid Ahmad led the evaluation and the report, available below, highlights that the positive impact on service users’ wellbeing and loneliness, potential cost savings for primary care services and overwhelmingly positive feedback from a range of stakeholders.
One Walsall, the umbrella body for voluntary action in Walsall, launched a ‘State of the Sector’ survey in a bid to uncover the impacts, strengths and weaknesses of the area’s charitable sector. The survey called upon any and all not-for-profit group operating in the region to participate, from small community groups providing informal support to nationally established charities delivering commissioned services.
In collaboration with the ICRD, a report highlighting the findings from the survey can be found below, with the aim of helping voluntary-sector organizations in Walsall demonstrate their impact, while also assisting potential partners or funders in understanding what kind of support these groups require.
Communities Uncovered was published earlier this year by the Heart of England Community Foundation in collaboration with the ICRD’s Dr. Steve Iafrati. The report aimed to identify the most pressing social, economic and health related issues currently affecting people living in Birmingham and the Black Country. The Heart of England Community Foundation followed up with the launch of the Communities Uncovered Fund, designed to support the recommendations highlighted in the report, in an effort to make significant positive changes in Birmingham and the Black Country.
For the full Communities Uncovered report, please see below.
Making for Change Fashion Training and Manufacturing Workshop is a partnership between HM Prison Service and London College of Fashion. Making for Change takes an innovative approach in prison, linked to improving the engagement of women in prison industries by providing training in fashion production skills and accrediting participants with industry-recognised qualifications.
The evaluation was led by Professor Laura Caulfield, with Kerry Curtis and Ella Simpson at Bath Spa University. Data was collected to assess both if and how the project had an impact, and also to identify any barriers to success. The research team gathered observational, focus group, and interview data with Making for Change participants, staff, and stakeholders at HMP Downview.