Prompt action on hoarding shows success of Islington’s mental health and housing protocol
A London borough’s efforts to improve housing services for residents with mental health problems are bearing fruit – with prompt action taken to clear up properties occupied by hoarders and so help “adversely affected” neighbours.
Islington Council’s housing department teamed up with Camden and Islington Foundation Trust (CIFT) and a “spectrum” of housing organisations to deliver the Housing and Mental Health Joint Working Protocol, which was launched in June 2011. It has since been rolled out to over a dozen housing organisations in the borough.
Islington residents suffer a higher than average level of poverty, mental health distress and are more likely to be a disabled benefit claimant, according to the council.
The protocol puts into effect a variety of measures, with agencies sharing information a core component. Surveyed six months after the protocol’s launch, the council said that partner organisations were “unanimous that information sharing and processes for supporting clients with mental health issues have significantly improved”.
One example of the protocol’s success in action, highlighted by the council, has been in tackling hoarding – arranging prompt clear ups to help adversely affected neighbours and return hoarded properties to full use.
According to the council, neighbours might have experienced hoarding as an anti-social behaviour (ASB) issue and reported it accordingly. Now the ASB and tenancy management teams can share information and identification of suitable support for residents who are experiencing mental health issues.
The protocol sets out the working relationships that CIFT, the council, tenancy management organisations (TMOs), Partners for Improvement In Islington and housing providers should adhere to when dealing with clients and sharing personal information.
According to the council, this means the organisations “understand each other better and work more efficiently and effectively” to prevent delays in dealing with housing applications, service requests and complaints from and about vulnerable residents.
"As a council that is on the side of residents, it's important we are 100 per cent assured that every resident throughout Islington who experiences mental health difficulties gets the same level of service, regardless of their landlord,” said Councillor Janet Burgess, the council’s executive member for health and well-being. "I commend this joint working mental health protocol for the difference it will make to many more of the borough's vulnerable residents."
Learning how the council's partner organisations work can make a big difference to the experience residents have of the council's housing services, said the council.
Understanding where one team's responsibilities end and another's begin, updating contact lists and actively monitoring how enquiries and requests are followed up can greatly improve the consistency of service and reduce delays.
Staff now have access to a new 'who does what' directory and a protocol, describing the role of each organisation. A 'frequently asked questions' section gives a best practice model advising how to consistently deal with any particular situation. An agreed escalation process makes delays less likely and managers more accountable. Operational and frontline staff across the organisations were interviewed to gain a better understanding of how they work and who does what.
Councillor Burgess added: "It's essential that frontline housing staff are properly equipped and feel confident to provide appropriate assistance with tenancy and housing related issues to residents - whatever their backgrounds.
"The mental health protocol highlights where the involvement of or referral to social services or suitable mental health agencies can be helpful to the resident, their neighbour or one of the many housing organisations that work in Islington to help resolve problems quickly."