Putting principles into practice: designing and delivering Housing First in England

Monday, 3 December 2018 - 5:16pm

All Housing First services in England follow seven key principles. Our new report, Understanding the Implementation of Housing First in England, identifies key differences in how these principles are implemented, in each service, in practice.

Housing First is an internationally evidenced-based housing and support intervention, which aims to end homelessness and encourage recovery among people with high and complex support and treatment needs. While Housing First is a relatively new addition to England’s response to homelessness, there is evidence of a growing momentum, with the government recently committing £28 million for three large pilots in Greater Manchester, Liverpool and the West Midlands.

All Housing First services should be designed and delivered in line with the principles for Housing First in England, with stable independent housing provided as a right without any conditions, alongside flexible intensive support for as long as needed. However, these principles are not a blueprint for how every service specifically operates and a range of different delivery models have developed in response to local contexts and to meet needs of specific groups of people.

Housing First England's Understanding the Implementation of Housing First in England report draws on survey, case study and interview findings to explore the various ways services are designed and delivered across certain key components of service delivery, including: housing, support, funding and partnership building. The report will be particularly useful for those looking to develop a new or existing Housing First service.


In England, housing for Housing First is sourced from both the social and private sector via several different arrangements, and it is not uncommon for services to use multiple sources. As explored in the report, in some cases, an individual housing provider or private landlord might agree to support the project while at other times, housing may be accessed via an area-wide approach to modify local allocation policies.

Regardless of the method adopted, services will need to be creative, flexible and determined in finding ways to source housing, for example, by leasing properties directly from the private landlords or Housing Associations, or by calling on local registered social landlords to make properties available. There are advantages and limitations associated with each approach, and some services reported that using a mix of tenures may enhance resident choice.


The research shows that in England, Housing First services typically organise their support in one of three ways. In the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) approach, support is provided via multi-disciplinary teams of specialists. Due to the availability of public services and cost implications, this approach is relatively rare here, although the report includes one case study where this approach is used.

More common is the Intensive Case Management (ICM) approach, where support workers operate as navigators in addition to providing intensive holistic support themselves, supporting people to access and engage with existing mainstream services. ICM with enhanced support is identified in the report as the third model of support operating in England. In this approach, support staff operate within established networks of organisations coordinating together to tackle multiple disadvantage e.g., in MEAM and Fulfilling Lives areas.

Partnership Working

Building relationships with other organisations sits at the heart of the Housing First model, and the report explores different ways through which Housing First services in England establish partnerships with other services.

Some services form clear, specific partnerships with local services, usually involving a small number of services working together within various commissioning arrangements. In other cases, Housing First is embedded in a wider network of services that support people experiencing multiple disadvantage, where services will work together to meet the needs of excluded individuals. In some approaches partnerships will be led by the Housing First support worker, and his/her knowledge of the local area and ability to build relationships with external organisations will be particularly key.

Regardless of how partnerships are formed and support is organised, the Housing First services we spoke to emphasised that relationship building is key to negotiating access to wider services. It is therefore important that project resources – in terms of staff time - are allocated accordingly and that steps are taken to build partnerships at a strategic and operational level.


Services are funded via various sources such as local authority budgets, trusts and foundations, and MHCLG’s Rough Sleeping SIB, and services pursue a range of different approaches to obtaining funding. Commissioners and developers emphasised the need for creativity and flexibility when setting up a Housing First service. Homeless Link’s recent report on the current and future funding of Housing First, explores the current funding landscape and how it can be diversified and strengthened in the future.

Read the full report here, and keep an eye on our website for continued policy, research and practice updates.