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Researching Homelessness Commissioning Trends: Riverside Project

by Sarah Alden

What we did and why

The impact of welfare reform on UK local authority homelessness service provision across the last decade is fairly well established. What is less explored is the perceived intensity of these changes and how potential solutions have been approached based on unique local contexts. The Riverside Housing Group commissioned us to apply the MSC technique to learn more about which changes have had the greatest perceived (positive or negative) impact on local commissioning decisions.


17 commissioners across the country told us their stories, providing examples of how their local authority has responded to key policy shifts across the last decade. 19 stories were selected and discussed across three panel sessions. The panels were attended by stakeholders who commission and deliver services, as well as people with lived experience of homelessness, who were asked to think about which stories most resonated with them.


What the outcomes/results were

Hearing first-hand accounts provided a unique insight into the ways in which local authorities have responded and adapted during a period of accelerated policy reform. Together, the stories highlighted the strengths of the sector, demonstrating where resilience and innovation was applied to come up with solutions to funding cuts and increased pressure on services.


The panel discussions enabled a wider conversation about which policy shifts have had the most impact on the sector. As well as cautionary tales, the stories generated ideas around how to shape the future homelessness commissioning landscape.


What was learnt about Most Significant Change that others could benefit from

Most Significant Change offers an effective method of unpicking complex policy change to get to the ‘nub’ of how these are implemented in reality, whilst also raising awareness of the most significant perceived impacts through opening up the discussion with diverse stakeholders across the sector. Riverside intend to use the insights of this research to inform future strategic planning as well as to stimulate further conversations across the sector. The original report can be found here.

Riverside Housing Group commissioned Imogen Blood & Associates and University of York to carry out a review of trends in homelessness commissioning in UK homelessness services across the last decade, the research was carried out between April 2019 and March 2020.

Key learning points

  • Collecting stories across a range of local authorities illuminated how context is key to unpicking local level impact and responses to national policy changes.

  • MSC allowed us to gain in-depth understanding of the specific policies that have had the most impact at both operational and strategic levels.

  • Allowing participants to tell their own story, and giving diverse stakeholders the opportunity to identify what they viewed as significant meant that the recommendations were led by the expertise of those who use and provide relevant services.

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