Project Partner Meeting, Bergen, Norway.

The second project partner meeting was held in Bergen, Norway on the 9th – 10th February 2014. The meeting was a great success with plenty of animated discussion and debate. Issues arising from partners’ initial literature reviews and interviews with women stakeholders displayed many commonalities including recognition that domestic violence and abuse, mental health problems (particularly depression) and a lack of safe and affordable housing are common factors.

The UK partners Gail Walters (Midland Heart) and Joy Doal (Anawim) identified that two overarching issues were beginning to emerge:

1.     Recognition that safe and secure housing is an essential component (using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to frame this argument);
2.     There is a lack of coordination and cooperation between service providers.

Gail argued that the starting point for services should be the individual and that services should take an holistic view of the needs of each individual making decisions about which aspect of the individual is most important and addressing this. Gail stressed that services should begin at the point the individual is at when they access the service and develop as a person progresses; e.g. there is little point addressing an individuals’ education or employment needs if they have nowhere to live. Gail made the point that women with complex and multiple needs often move on a continuum and that the partnership between the two organisations catered for women at the centre of such a continuum. Gail noted that the partner work to date had established that meeting housing need is essential, as is investment. She also noted that there appears to be an unmet need relating to women with disabilities as well as issues around cultural differences, ethnic groups and thresholds of what is acceptable. She noted that the questioning of cultural practices was beginning to happen and was evidenced by the growth in Asian Women’s Centres in the UK.

The work undertaken to date illustrated that there are issues surrounding mental health, particularly personality disorder (which is not recognized as mental illness in the UK). One of the fundamental issues is how to keep individuals suffering with personality disorder safe. Joy noted that there is currently a personality disorder initiative in the UK, which involves the establishment of Enabling Environments (EE) and Psychologically Informed Planned Environments (PIPES). This led to a discussion of the possibility of tapping in to health funding streams given that the cost benefit analysis indicates that savings can be made from health care budgets. It was noted that the central argument that the work to date demonstrates is that the safety and future of children has cost implications.  The provision of safe and secure housing, and subsequent family reunification, both benefits children and saves money: the cost benefit analysis (developed as part of the UK evaluation) will demonstrate this.

Gail noted that there now appears to be a much greater awareness and understanding among partners about the availability of social housing in their respective countries. She wondered if service providers in the partner countries had the same level of awareness and, if not, if this was causing problems for them. In particular, it is apparent that there is a problem with housing solutions for the marginalized and in some countries (e.g. the UK and Norway) bigger structural problems. A further problem identified is the lack of checks and controls that apply to private landlords.

Ultimately, however, the work undertaken to date indicates that there needs to be a focus on the needs of women with chaotic lifestyles and multiple needs.
Midland Heart and Anawim Evaluation

The date has been set for the UK partner dissemination event that will focus on the evaluation of Midland Heart and Anawim informal partnership. The key finding from the evaluation is that: the informal partnership between Anawim and Midland Heart is both highly successful and cost effective. The following quotes, one from a women housed by Midland Heart and supported by Anawim and the second from a worker at Anawim demonstrate this success.

The final report of the evaluation will be available on the website after the dissemination event.

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