Charity Awards 2024


Reducing health inequality for homeless people

Homelessness is a significant factor in health inequality with people experiencing homelessness facing an average age of death of just 47. Research shows that 80% have an unmet mental health need and 70% a physical health issue.

Groundswell#HealthNow is a UK-wide project, working towards an inclusive health system, developed by Groundswell in partnership with Crisis and Shelter. It has lived experience at its core.

Difficulties accessing healthcare for homeless people mean higher rates of A&E use and unplanned hospital admission compared to the general population, while health systems present many barriers, including stigma and being wrongly refused the right to register with a GP due to a lack of fixed address. Although the government’s 2018 Rough Sleeping Strategy indicated that there is a clear link between homelessness and poor health and wellbeing, this was not always being made at the local level.

Groundswell’s Homeless Health Peer Advocacy (HHPA) service in London had been proven to improve the health of people affected by homelessness while saving the NHS money since 2010. Its success led to exploration of a franchising model, which evolved into a wider focus on tackling homeless health inequalities through local and national alliances, and campaigns and research. The plan for #HealthNow came about through consultation and co-design alongside people with lived experience at each stage.

#HealthNow has supported 635 people experiencing homelessness in Greater Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle through 4,130 engagements, including accompanying people to appointments. Over 90% of participants reported improvements to their health, and over 80% reported feeling more confident having conversations about health.

The project has also trained 19 people with experience of homelessness as peer researchers, supporting production of research on access to mental health support and the impact of Covid-19 on people experiencing homelessness.

Charity Awards judge Katie Ghose, chief executive at KIDS, praised the “deep and broad collaboration”, and described the work as “extremely impressive”.

Sharika Sharma, head of business development at CCLA, added that Groundswell had “successfully embedded lived experience in the programme and is taking the model to other regions and networks”.

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