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028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Frontline Network survey shows NI frontline homelessness workers are feeling the strain

The Frontline Network, a group representing frontline workers who support people experiencing homelessness and established by the St Martin-in-the-Fields charity, has published the results of its most recent survey of frontline staff. The survey was completed by frontline staff across the UK and included over 40 responses from Northern Ireland. It identified a number of regional disparities with respondents in Northern Ireland having most concern about difficulties accessing accommodation for the people they support. 

Headline statistics

Some of the most startling figures concerned respondents' perception of difficulties finding accommodation for homeless households. 

  • 92% of respondents said it was difficult or very difficult to access specialist accommodation for clients
  • 90% found it difficult or very difficult to find private landlords willing to let properties to their clients
  • 88% thought accessing private rented housing was difficult or very difficult

Respondents also gave their thoughts on welfare benefits, including Universal Credit

  • 95% had clients who had been negatively impacted as a result of moving to Universal Credit from legacy benefits
  • 94% said they had difficulty supporting people during the wait for the first payment of UC
  • 71% found it harder than in previous years to access benefits for their clients
  • 74% found it harder than in previous years to access emergency government assistance, such as crisis grants

Other notable findings include:

  • 83% of respondents found it difficult to access mental health support for individuals in primary care (GP consultations and prescriptions)
  • 46% of respondents had supported at least one client who was homeless as a result of his/her immigration status
  • Only 37% of respondents felt they have enough time to do their job effectively
  • Frontline workers on average juggle almost 30 different clients at any one time.

The picture from Northern Ireland

Respondents from Northern Ireland indicated greater concern about areas of work than those in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland. On average, frontline workers in Northern Ireland

  • find it more difficult to find accommodation for clients
  • reported much higher incidences of increased caseloads and reduced capacity
  • were less likely to state that their local government's commitment to preventing homelessness had increased
  • were more likely to feel that resources to deal with homelessness had decreased

The full report, which includes insightful comments from frontline workers and examples of initiatives which have positively worked to address some of the issues raised in the survey is available from the Frontline Network website.

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This article was written on 18 September 2020. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.