New funding for rough sleepers living with mental illness and substance misuse

Adults who are sleeping rough and living with mental illness and substance misuse will benefit from £1.9 million funding to improve their access to vital healthcare.



The Health and Social Care Secretary has announced that £1.9 million will be given to councils by Public Health England to help improve the health of rough sleepers.

Rough Sleeper

The funding will be awarded to projects that improve access to health services and continuity of care for people with mental ill-health and substance misuse problems who are sleeping rough or at risk of returning to rough sleeping.

This could include:

  • ‘in-reach’ care models where specialist substance misuse or mental health workers run sessions in hostels or day centres
  • ‘outreach’ models where specialist workers support rough sleepers at street level
  • targeted interventions such as peer health advocacy that supports individuals to access and attend health appointments

To apply for a share of the funding, applicants should read the guidance and application pack before submitting their completed expression of interest and budget template to roughsleepinggrant@phe.gov.uk. The deadline is 5pm on Friday 5 July 2019. Successful projects will be announced in the summer.

Many people who are sleeping rough experience mental and physical illness and have substance misuse needs.

Rough sleepers face more barriers accessing health services, particularly those living with mental illness or substance misuse.

This can contribute to a ‘revolving door’, leaving individuals repeatedly in and out of stable accommodation.

Of the people seen sleeping rough in London in 2017 and 2018:

  • 50% had mental health needs
  • 43% had alcohol misuse problems
  • 40% drug misuse problems

The government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy was announced last August and aims to halve rough sleeping by 2022.

The NHS Long Term Plan also committed to spending up to £30 million extra over 5 years to meet the health needs of rough sleepers to ensure better access to specialist homelessness NHS mental health support.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said:

Most of us can only imagine what it is like to sleep rough and it is devastating that so many aren’t getting the right access to healthcare. Living with a mental health condition or substance misuse while homeless can lead to a vicious cycle of crisis where people can’t get their lives back on track and their health issues remain unsupported.

Today’s announcement, along with our NHS Long Term Plan, will provide a crucial lifeline to those at risk of being left with nowhere to go and is an important step towards achieving this government’s goal of ending rough sleeping for good.

Inequalities Minister, Jackie Doyle-Price, said:

Everyone should have a roof over their head and access to the right health services, no matter who they are. We are determined to stamp out this injustice once and for all.

Understanding the factors that can lead to homelessness and the triggers that can trap people in a pattern of addiction and sleeping rough, coupled with a lack of support for their mental health, is crucial. This funding will help better equip local authorities to protect society’s most vulnerable and ensure no one slips through the net.”



Writing with mental health in mind

Mark Avery writing for the Education and Skills Funding Agency:

The internet can be an intimidating place for people with mental health issues. I should know. For as I can remember I’ve been going into battle daily with the beast known as depression.

The simplest tasks can become difficult when the ‘black dog’ has its grip on you because you can’t focus and, at best, you feel physically and mentally sluggish. My symptoms are very mild in comparison to some other people, but I’m not alone.

Today in the UK, approximately 1 in 4 people have a mental health condition and around 10% of people will experience depression in their lifetime. This thought stays with me during my day-to-day work as the apprenticeship service’s lead content designer. I feel that having this kind of condition can help me to empathise with others in a similar position.

Notes

If you have mental health issues and cannot easily access the information you need, it is likely you will have increased feelings of anxiety. One of the things I wanted to do when I took on my role was to use my experiences to ensure our services are accessible for people with mental health conditions.

Making services accessible to all

I believe this is where great content can help. It has the power to create order out of unholy confusion. And, meeting user needs is the simplest way to make the potentially stressful experience of managing apprenticeships into an easy one.

We have done this by making sure:

  • people can understand our content – we have always used the simplest language possible
  • people can find information quickly – the content gets to the point straight away
  • users can do what they need to do easily – user journeys are intuitive and involve the minimum number of steps necessary
  • we make sure our pages don’t contain any unnecessary distractions and that all the information on there meets identifiable user needs
  • we use personalised adaptive content once users have logged in to their accounts so they only see information relevant to them
  • we don’t make assumptions about our users – we always explain terms and concepts that users might not be familiar with
  • our content works visually, including links and buttons – the content is easy to see and read, and is scalable on different devices
  • we have done rigorous research and testing of the accessibility of our content to ensure it meets accessibility standards

Trying to understand the problems people face

However, I’ve found there are still significant gaps in our knowledge and understanding of how mental health impacts the online user experience. And, this needs to change, especially considering the huge number of people who suffer from mental health conditions.

Let’s consider the kind of issues people with cognitive impairment might face:

  • short term memory loss
  • lack of concentration and attention
  • difficulties processing lots of information
  • poor hand-eye coordination
  • slow thinking
  • trouble making decisions
  • lack of motivation
  • impatience
  • constant need for validation

And, these problems often increase when sufferers are stressed.

Getting involved

Beyond the common sense basics of good content, what else we can do to improve our services for people with cognitive impairment issues? Honestly, I don’t know.

So, consider this an appeal to anyone out there who suffers from a mental health condition to get involved with user testing. Tell us your frustrations, what we’re doing right, and what we need to do to make things better.

You can get in touch with me, in confidence, at mark.avery@sfa.bis.gov.uk. I’d love to hear from you!