Seeing opportunity not risk: Frontline workers lead the way in making amazing things happen

We are very proud to launch this independently commissioned report – ‘Views from the Frontline’– highlighting the activities, impact and key learning points of the 2017/18 Winter Initiative. It draws on the experience and insights of frontline staff working across Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Power to act

The report clearly shows that when we give our frontline staff the power to act, amazing things can happen for the people we support. Multiple case studies in the report show the profound (and sustained) impacts of actions taken by staff to support people to find a life off the streets. Many of those reached, engaged and enabled off the streets during this period had long histories of experiencing rough sleeping, extremely poor health and a consistent struggle with engaging with support and treatment.

How can we reduce and end rough sleeping?

The rapid action and resource allocation commenced in December 2017 following the formation of the Scottish Government ‘Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) in November 2017. The first questions this group were tasked with, was to respond to the question: What can be done to reduce rough sleeping this winter (2017/18)?

Changing and saving lives

The positive impact over the winter – particularly with the harsh weather conditions and our ‘Beast from the East’ experience – cannot be overestimated. Literally hundreds of people did not spend the night sleeping on the streets of our three main cities. Many received much needed health inputs and found sustainable resolution as a direct result. As highlighted by our CEO, Lorraine McGrath, “Lives have been changed through their actions and, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say, lives have been saved.”

Doing more of what we already do

No wheels were reinvented. We simply amplified and extended existing effective models of practice, strengthened collaborations, focused our attentions and actions on the most vulnerable and, most vitally, gave the power to act and direct resources to those that know best and have the greatest opportunity; the staff that know, meet and work to engage people sleeping rough every day. Much of what we did over the winter was already in practice, but in much smaller ways, this initiative gave approaches greater life and formality and in some cases increased capacity to act. It also provided a way to properly evidence the value and impact of both existing and new ways of working.

Shared national commitment. Enhanced local actions

The report highlights that the momentum and national ambition to end rough sleeping is shared and owned at a local level. Actions from the Winter Initiative have directly supported frontline staff to better connect and engage with people who sleep rough – and led to more people being supported off this street this winter.

This report captures the enhanced activities of Simon Community Scotland, Streetwork and Aberdeen Cyrenians frontline services and the many partners they work with across the three cities. The enhanced activities included:

  • the introduction of ‘Personalised Budgets’ – a trailblazing innovation empowering frontline staff to make timely, on-the-spot decisions to end rough sleeping
  • stronger inter-agency working, including through Inter-Agency Street Networks
  • increased capacity and co-location of partner services within night/care shelters and outreach hubs.

Seeing opportunity not risk and barriers

We are immensely proud of everyone – especially our own Street Teams and Outreach Workers – who pushed their organisational and professional boundaries, moved beyond their comfort zone, saw more opportunity than risk and barriers, and worked tirelessly (as always) just to make things happen for those we are most concerned about. Together we have doubtless saved and changed lives through these actions.

Thanks also to Dougie Paterson, who conducted all the interviews and drew this report together.

Click the link to see the ‘Views from the Frontline: The 2017/18 Winter Initiative’ report.