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New nurse-led mental health service for rough sleepers in Suffolk

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A new nurse-led pilot has been launched to provide rough sleepers in the Ipswich and Suffolk Coastal areas with mental health assessment and short-term interventions.

It will see senior mental health practitioner Jonathan Dickson engage with rough sleepers in the area, with the hope of getting them help to address underlying mental health conditions.

“It has the potential to make a real difference to people’s health and wellbeing”

Jonathan Dickson

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust began the year-long initiative at the start of July, with the overall aim to reduce the numbers of rough sleepers and decrease their flow to the streets.

For individuals to be referred to the new service, they must meet “risk of rough sleeping criteria” and not already be under mental health services.

Criteria includes homeless single individuals or couples with drug alcohol dependence or mental health issues, those who lost their accommodations or had been rough sleepers within the last two years, and those without accommodation after temporary housing ended.

Mr Dickson said: “I have always been very keen on working with the most disadvantaged, marginalised and hardest to engage people in our community, which is why I applied for this job.”

“I have always been very keen on working with the most disadvantaged, marginalised and hardest to engage people”

Jonathan Dickson

Having moved from the trust’s Access and Assessment Team, Mr Dickson now works with the area’s Rough Sleeping Project to engage with those who have no access to mainstream mental health services.

The first priority will be to work alongside partner organisations to identify the level of need individuals require and pinpoint the barriers preventing them from their services, he said.

Thorough assessments and short-term interventions will be offered to people already sleeping rough or at a high risk of doing so, with the aim of giving them access to mainstream mental health services.

These assessments include building trust with the individual and offering them ongoing support during the referral process.

Mr Dickson said: “Many rough sleepers tend to bounce around between different services. They can be very complex, chaotic and spend a lot of time in crisis.”

“This means they could be seen by a variety of different teams without really engaging with any service on an ongoing basis,” said Mr Dickson, who is currently doing a PGDip in Advanced Healthcare Practice and has just completed the non-medical prescribing module.

“It could reduce the numbers sleeping rough by helping them into stable, permanent homes”

Jonathan Dickson

He added: “Although the role will be challenging, it also has the potential to make a real difference to people’s health and wellbeing, which in turn could reduce the numbers sleeping rough by helping them into stable, permanent homes or by preventing them from rough sleeping in the first place.”

The pilot forms part of the Rough Sleeping Project run by Ipswich Borough Council and Suffolk Coastal District Council.

They secured funding for the project from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in late 2016 to prevent and relieve rough sleeping.

Referrals into the service will come through the Rough Sleeping Project local group members, the trust, IHAG, ACT, Notting Hill Genesis, IBC Housing Options and Suffolk Coastal Housing Needs teams.

Councils in West Suffolk agreed to launch a similar program within the next few months, once recruitment begins.

The initiative comes a year after the Homeless Reduction Act, where the government invested £1.2bn in various programmes, including protection of core funding of £315m to local authorities for their work on homelessness.

An additional £617m was given to Flexible Homelessness Support Grant funding to work more strategically to tackle local homelessness pressures.

The act came into force from 3 April 2018 and is part of the government’s ongoing work to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminate it by 2027.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

Jonathan Dickson

Jonathan Dickson

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