Exclusive performance of ‘Cathy’
No First Night Out (NFNO) is excited to announce a unique collaboration with Cardboard Citizens open to all partners, stakeholders and project users. On August 30, the UK’s leading forum theatre company will be exploring some of the issues which No First Night Out is attempting to tackle through a specially arranged interactive performance of Cathy.
First broadcast in 1966 on the BBC, Cathy Come Home, the inspiration for Cathy, depicts a young family’s slide into homelessness. The first screening of the film led to public outrage at the state of housing in Britain and became a defining cultural landmark, demonstrating the power of art to effect social and political change.
Award-winning playwright Ali Taylor’s engaging, sharp-witted hit imagines a Cathy for the modern age. Candid, poignant and intimate, Cathy is a timely reflection on the impact of spiralling housing costs, gentrification and the challenges of forced relocation, told through the prism of one family’s compelling story.
Speaking about the 2016 production by Cardboard Citizens, Ken Loach said: “There are more people made desperate by having no home now than when Cathy Come Home was first made. Then, we still had council housing… Now, we only have the market. And the market has failed. It gives us luxury apartments in tower blocks for investors while families live in over-crowded single rooms. The lesson from Cathy is that we need to plan – for council housing, for secure jobs alongside the houses and for a proper infrastructure for schools and healthcare. All the rest is propaganda.”
Cardboard Citizens is an award-winning theatre company and one of the world’s leading practitioners of forum theatre. It has toured across hostels, day centres and prisons for the past 25 years, bringing theatre to the most marginalised sections of society. Through bold and immersive productions, the company breaks down conventional divisions between audiences and performers.
Cardboard Citizens’ contribution to the project is typical of the kind of broad and open minded attitude to partnership that No First Night Out seeks to foster. Having one of the UK’s most unique and highly regarded theatre companies in our community seemed like an opportunity not to be missed and it was evident from the start that Cardboard Citizens bring a unique offer to the partnership. Their innovative use of forum theatre facilitates the exploration of many key themes and topics currently circulating within our sector, possibly even helping to uncover new solutions. This reprised performance of Cathy also gives partners, stakeholders and clients an opportunity to enjoy theatre at its best and most socially relevant.
July provided an opportunity for the project to demonstrate its model at the third annual NPSS Conference at University of Warwick. Four hundred delegates enjoyed keynote presentations from the Welsh Government, DCLG, Chartered Institute of Housing and Greater Manchester Combined Authority, amongst others. Naturally there was a heavy emphasis on homelessness prevention and, in particular, how local authorities can adapt to the imminent introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act in 2018. This ensured that the two workshops facilitated by Will Norman, Davina Lilley and Adrian Bedford were well attended and full of lively discussion.
Steering group member Sabrina Pathan considers the relationship between resilience and the NFNO approach
The NFNO initiative is often used as an example of great practice in prevention work. As the focus of national policy in homelessness shifts to prevention and relief, its work can inform projects set up as similar models across England. Members of the steering group are often asked to present to events and conferences to share knowledge, best practice and lessons learned.
Most recently, steering group members went along to the NPSS conference and the Homeless Link ‘Under One Roof’ conference. Kath Dane of Tower Hamlets and I were also in attendance.
At these events, it’s often very easy to stick to a tight structure, deliver up a narrative and take a few questions. However, we were keen to allow space for delegates to ask the questions they wanted answered. We gave our thoughts on what had worked, what needed developing and our hopes for the future, but what was really interesting were the ideas that came from the floor.
One of the themes of the NFNO project is the idea of capitalising on someone’s innate sense of resilience, protecting it by ensuring they don’t ever sleep rough and utilising it to make sure that accommodation offers are sustainable.
What emerged was a discussion around what resilience actually is and what it might look like to an NFNO worker or a Housing Options Officer charged with identifying someone on the cusp of rough sleeping. What also emerged was a clear understanding of the importance of NFNO’s partnership approach in capturing people at a wide range of contact points, many of which will be nowhere near a Housing Options office.
The NFNO typology goes some way to defining the cohorts, which were – at the time of the research – most at risk of rough sleeping in the three boroughs. These were identified by interviewing people who had slept rough for the first time and were referred to one of the No Second Night Out Hubs. A key variable in those cohort definitions were the levels of resilience people had.
But what is a ‘good’ level of resilience and how do we measure it? What makes one person able to carry on after a major life event such as bereavement and another less able to do so? So much preventative work is based around pre-empting an individual’s response to life-changing events and often this is reliant on a person’s sense of strength and hardiness.
There are some tangible indicators for rough sleeping, of course. A history of poor mental health increases the risk, as does misuse of alcohol or other substances. A healthy support network of friends and family not only provides options for a place to stay but also helps people to know they are not alone.
NFNO’s partnership-driven approach draws in organisations as diverse as Jobcentre Plus, libraries and health centres, ensuring that people who might be vulnerable to homelessness and rough sleeping are identified in the places they might visit at a time of transition and are given support before they reach a point of crisis. People do not automatically approach the Local Authority for help in the weeks before they sleep on the streets for the first time but may well visit the jobcentre to sign on, a health centre to discuss a physical issue, a library or community centre, just for somewhere to ‘be’. It is these contacts, that may seem peripheral to a housing issue, which can often carry the crucial clues that identify those vulnerable to rough sleeping that the NFNO project seeks to utilise.
There are always more organisations we can work with. One of the ongoing priorities for the NFNO project is to foster links with a broad and effective body of partner agencies, to ensure that people always have access to the necessary care and support and ultimately prevent them from experiencing that ‘first night’ out on the streets.
Pilot year evaluation report
A full, independent report on the first year of the project will be available soon. Particular strengths identified by the independent evaluation were:
- Simple, flexible referral processes and tools that create minimal burden on referring agencies and feedback on referrals
- The link with Jobcentre Plus and other advice services (Citizens Advice and Shelter) creating an enhanced awareness and response to potential rough sleeping within these services and creating a more joined-up approach
- Very positive feedback from casework clients about the working approach of NFNO, including the longer and more detailed assessment interview and helping people understand their options
- The partnership with Crisis that has not only enabled access to PRS accommodation for 17 people but has also offered NFNO clients many training opportunities and positive ways to spend time when living in emergency bed and breakfast accommodation
- The tri-borough approach has enhanced learning from the project by testing approaches in different contexts. The project has developed a high profile through the work of the partnership, including hosting of national and local functions and attending and speaking at events to inform the future of prevention work. This relationship has secured substantial in-kind contributions from the boroughs, such as senior staff time for management and governance, costs of emergency bed and breakfast accommodation and hosting of events, and from the partnership, for example researcher time from St Mungo’s
The evaluation also makes a number of recommendations for new homelessness prevention projects seeking to learn from the NFNO model:
- Using evidence to help target prevention efforts, for example through local research into the profile of new rough sleepers
- Ensuring simple and quick referral processes and a rapid response to referrals
- Ensuring ongoing communication and feedback on referrals
- A tailored approach to partnership working, including identifying a small number of key organisations locally to invest in intensively within the context of a wider umbrella collectively feeding into the project. NFNO partnerships include Housing Options, Jobcentre Plus and Citizens Advice
- Establishing and clarifying accommodation pathways in advance of taking clients onto caseloads as far as possible
- Linking in with opportunities for clients to increase employability and learn new skills. For example, NFNO’s partnership with Crisis
- Providing a service that engages clients in a partnership to resolve their situation, including regular contact and encouragement from caseworkers where appropriate
Details of where to find the report will be emailed out to partners as soon as it’s published.
Development work on the No First Night Out website is well underway and we’re hoping to have a live site ready for you to access in August. The site has been expanded to include a news section, as well as a link to resources specifically aimed at landlords. Watch this space!
Revised Screen & Refer tool
We’ve been listening to your feedback and reflecting on the pilot year evaluation report. This means a new version of the Screen & Refer tool that you all use is currently in draft. Our caseworkers, Brian and Tracey, will be consulting with many of you on changes and talking everyone through the new form in the coming weeks. The new tool is designed to make it easier to qualify clients and improve the ratio of accepted referrals.
Dates for your diary!
When – Wednesday, August 30 at 4.30pm
Where – Cardboard Citizens, 77A Greenfield Rd, E1 1EJ
Next Partnership Meeting
When – Friday, September 29 at 11am
Where – Guildhall West Wing, Committee Room 4, London, EC2V 7HH