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29 November 2023

Specialist homelessness social workers – new report

Unit study found evidence of the distinctive impact made by this ‘Inclusion Social Care’ role

person sleeping on a bench in a park

Specialist homelessness social workers can play important coordinating, preventative and advisory roles. They also fulfil statutory assessment functions in homelessness outreach settings. But such professionals are a rarity across England, and where they do exist, they are often isolated, and usually funded on a temporary basis.

A small study, the report from which is published today, has sought to better understand the distinctive impact, as well as some of the practicalities and challenges, of this role. The study, which was funded by the NIHR School for Social Care Research, was undertaken by Jess Harris, Research Fellow at the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce at King’s. The findings support the view that the role is an important contributor to improving outcomes for people who experience homelessness.

The report concludes (p.1) that ‘this is a role which requires greater national recognition and training for the specialist knowledge and practice approaches required, and support that acknowledges the tensions that the role inevitably inhabits. Improved multi-disciplinary service planning and ring-fenced Adult Social Care or pooled funding will be needed if this ‘Inclusion Social Care’ role is to be embedded across all localities, to address inequalities in access to services for a profoundly socially excluded population.’

An article in Community Care by its editor, Mithran Samuel, explores the study’s key findings on the value of the role and reports on the establishment of a Peer Network for social workers specialising in homelessness and rough sleeping, which the Unit has supported.

This publication

Harris, J. (2023) Evidencing the social work role within responses to multiple exclusion homelessness, London: NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health & Social Care Workforce, The Policy Institute, King’s College London.

In this story

Jess Harris

Research Fellow