England & Wales, Scotland Housing and planning, Welfare and equalities

Ending homelessness with data and evidence: invitation for councils


Photo: Centre for Homelessness Impact

Dr Ligia Teixeira, CEO of the Centre for Homelessness Impact, fills us in on their newly launched What Works Community: Local Government initiative, which is recruiting local authorities to join it and focus on evidence-led methods of ending and preventing homelessness

The Centre for Homelessness Impact is the What Works Centre for ending homelessness, and focuses on achieving a sustainable end to homelessness through the use of data and evidence. We’re inviting local authorities who are interested in using these methods to improve outcomes for those living in their borough to take part in an online programme lasting six months.

Working with local authorities to help them make effective use of data is a core part of our mission. By harnessing evidence and the expertise of thought leaders in homelessness, we believe that our participants can improve their operations, make more effective interventions, and deliver positive outcomes for local people with limited resources.

Starting in 2020, the What Works Community: Local Government initiative will expand to support 30 local authorities across the UK with expert assistance learning in the fields of behavioural insights, design thinking and data-informed decision making. Participants in the intensive learning experience will benefit from guided learning, one-on-one support with the Centre’s staff and a community of peers to share with and learn from.

Participants will also have the opportunity to hear from academic experts and thought leaders on homelessness from around the world. The Centre will provide a range of digital resources including practical tools, videos and case studies to enhance the learning experience, which will be available at the participants convenience. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of the programme will be run online, allowing flexibility for participants and removing geographical barriers.

Those who commit to the full programme can benefit from a range of support types including the open community, a peer-led environment, exploring data and evidence-driven approaches through tools, templates, events and facilitated networking. There is also an opportunity to take part in our evidence accelerator programme – an intensive 6-month, expert-led learning journey aimed at building a data and evidence culture across an entire organisation by working with leaders and core teams in local authorities.

The programme aims to develop a culture of continuous innovation for local authorities from all nations in the UK, with methods and experiences that can be applied to their wider operations. Local authorities are encouraged to send team members of any level, whose role focuses on homelessness and housing and is confident leading change in their organisation.

The Community follows a successful pilot programme which took place in 2019 with founding partners at East Ayrshire, Southend-on-Sea and Pembrokeshire local authorities. The pilot teams’ programme focused on tackling local issues in the private rented sector.

Helen Merriman, Neighbourhood Manager at East Ayrshire council, told us:

Being part of the What Works Community Pilot really helped us identify the key issues and range of possible solutions while building a relationship with other local authorities. Through being supported by the Centre For Homelessness Impact and industry experts to apply evidence-led practices to our work, we’ve changed the way we work by incorporating data practices and human centred design principles to gain rich insights which will inform service delivery and new initiatives. The process was not only exciting and dynamic but reiterated the importance of not making assumptions and listening to the views of as many stakeholders as possible.

Sarah Ivinson, Social Services and Housing Project Officer at Pembrokeshire County Council said:

The process really stretched us. We learnt so much – the importance of data, collaboration, ways of changing behaviours, and, not least, to trust in the process. I think we all came away inspired and empowered, with a vision and a tool kit to do things differently. Chipping away at local problems one at a time really is possible, if you start with robust evidence and tailor solutions from there.

Nicola O’Keeffe, Project & Policy Officer at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council reflected on the experience:

Everyone should have a home that meets their needs and we intend on using every tool and technique we can to help get there. The What Works Community programme has shown us how we can better create and use evidence and data to understand homelessness in our borough. It has also shown us how we can set up trials to understand the impact of our interventions – so that if something doesn’t work, we can adapt our approach and make better use of our resources. By working with the WWC programme we’ve found new ways of working which we can use to improve outcomes for people.’’

To get involved in the programme, we’re asking local authorities to submit an expression of interest by Friday 18 September. The team will review submissions and will follow up to gather additional information. Applications will be prioritised for organisations that demonstrate a strong desire to build a culture of developing their policies based on what works.

Download the What Works Community: Local Government initiative brochure for a detailed look at the programme, and use this form to express your interest.


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