Pre-tenancy support for teenage parents in the Rochdale Borough

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Child Poverty
  • General resources
  • Local area early intervention strategies

Priorities this local practice example relates to:

  • Development and delivery of effective area-wide child poverty strategies

Basic details

Organisation submitting example

Action for Children

Local authority/local area:

Rochdale MBC


The context and rationale

In 2005, Action for Children approached the Supporting People team, together with the then Sure Start Plus co-ordinator, for funding to develop a pre-tenancy programme for teenage parents.
 
Evidence from our experience with our floating and residential service for young parents, together with information from the Sure Start Plus programme, indicated a need for young parents to be more informed about having a tenancy and living independently.
There was plenty of anecdotal evidence about high numbers of tenancy failure amongst young people in general, but this had not been quantified locally. Local practice indicated that many young people and teenage parents had high hopes of living independently in their own tenancies, but were sometimes ill-prepared, both practically and emotionally. Many had little idea of the reality and limited resources. There was little preventative work being done in the area, though a couple of initiatives did exist in London, e.g. Broadway’s ‘It’s Your Move’ programme.

Aims of the service:
The aim of the service is to enable teenage parents to develop the skills needed to live independently.
In planning toward this aim, we were able to draw on our knowledge and experience from our other Action for Children services in Rochdale, and recognise that the service would need to have a holistic approach to meeting outcomes for young people.
We were aware that many of our service users would have more immediate needs such as:
• applications for benefits
• maintaining current accommodation, whether that be in the family home or with relatives or friends
• linking into health services.

In achieving this aim, our expected outcomes were:
• an increase in the number of sustainable tenancies
• young parents making informed choices about plans to live independently and housing options
• increased understanding and skill in practical aspects of independence - budgeting, shopping, self-care
• young parents’ income maximised
• an increase in the number of young parents engaged in Education Employment or Training (EET).

We recognised that we also had a role in encouraging young people to be more realistic - when expectations were very high - about tenancy readiness, housing options and availability, and household budget.

The practice

We secured three years’ funding in 2006 for one post (a frontline worker) which was attached to our existing housing support services. We set up the service as a pilot – an opportunity to develop a pre-tenancy programme, deliver it using group and individual work and then review and report our findings.

We worked closely with Sure Start Plus, Connexions and a Supporting People Officer with a background in housing and an interest in teenage parents.

Using our experience from our other services, we were able to set up the administration of the service very quickly and started taking referrals within two months of the worker being in post. We started with one to one work, using the experience gained from this to determine the basis of a pre-tenancy training course. We ran the first group work course within five months.

We already had a long waiting list for this service, so people were selected from this list based on information given by the referrer on their level of identified need.

The programme included:
Housing:
• How and where to apply for housing
• What is a tenancy agreement - rights and responsibilities
• Accessing help - role of housing officers
• How to report repairs and dealing with difficulties
• How to claim housing benefit and where to get help with difficulties

Finances:
• Where does income come from
• Claiming benefits
• Budgeting and attitudes toward money

Setting up a home:
• How much do things cost – setting up a home and weekly living costs
• What are utilities and how to get connected 
• Furnishing a home
• Health and safety

Personal responsibility:
• Experience of taking care of self – cooking, cleaning
• Relationships - neighbours, asking for help, visitors, neighbour nuisance and anti-social behaviour
• Living alone – how does it feel

From the beginning, we had several systems in place to review and evaluate work undertaken. All of this information was brought together in the report produced after 30 months and published in September 2009.

Our services were already reporting on outcomes using the Rochdale Dial, which was developed locally using Triangle Consultancy, staff from which had worked closely on the St Mungo’s Star.

The outcomes model is used for group work and one to one sessions. For those attending the group, we also developed a self-assessment tool for use at the beginning and end of the course to it measure skill development/knowledge/confidence.

At the end of each group, service users did a more general evaluation of content and delivery. All of this information was brought together after each group for a small evaluation, through which we identified changes needed to the group work programme. Service users have influenced development enormously.

Evidence and evaluation - making a difference to children, young people and families

Between 2006 and2008, 46 users were supported through this service and of these:
• 19 had moved into a tenancy and had maintained it when we contacted them in March 2009.
• 2 service users were in a tenancy but had moved to a different one
• 3 service users had failed tenancies 
• 7 service users were not contactable
• 12 of the 46 service users were still at home or in the home they were in when they were receiving our service
• 3 of the 46 service users were referred successfully to our supported housing service, Gabriel Court, two of whom have been successful in their tenancy for more than 12 months.

Our work also tied into the ECM outcomes.

Be healthy
Work undertaken to meet these outcomes included:
• Signposting and liaison with health services
• Signposting and support to access sexual health services
• Contraceptive information and support to access services
• Promoting confidence and self esteem
• Group work and individual work promoting healthy eating options

Be safe
Work undertaken to meet these outcomes included:
• Access to appropriate housing
• Setting up a home
• Health and safety in the home
• Rights and responsibilities of a tenant
• Dealing with repairs
• Signposting to specialist services –Safer Homes, RMBC Enforcement Team
• Safeguarding with regard to children and vulnerable adults
• Risk assessments within the context of the safeguarding agenda

Enjoy and Achieve
Work undertaken to meet these outcomes included:
• Pre-Tenancy Group work programme
• Peer support
• Signposting and support to use community-based facilities
• Signposting to Connexions
• Promotion of training opportunities
• Healthy relationships
• Mediation

Achieve economic wellbeing
Work undertaken to meet these outcomes included:
• Income maximisation – benefits and grant claims, supporting appeals
• Budgeting
• Debt management
• Energy efficiency and household bills
• Developing an understanding of the value of money

Making a positive contribution
Work undertaken to meet these outcomes included:
• Confidence building
• Communication - getting your message across, dealing with agencies
• Managing behaviour
• Managing relationships

At the time of this submission, we have been working with our local housing provider, Rochdale Borough-wide Housing (RBH), to develop a pre-tenancy course for all young people in Rochdale and we are currently piloting this extended programme along with other services working with young people in Rochdale.

The Rochdale Dial also gives evidence of outcomes. We report quarterly and are able to use the information to show individual service user progress and collective outcomes for the service.

Young parents who use our service and attend the course have their housing applications passported and are identified as being tenancy-ready.

We have had a small number of young parents who have decided they were not ready to take on a tenancy and decided to stay in their family homes. This was as a result of attending the course.

All parents who use our service have been supported with the move and, as necessary, linked into ongoing support with our tenancy support service. They can receive this service for up to two years.

Some parents were identified as being at risk and vulnerable to such an extent that they needed more support and were referred to our teenage parents supported housing project.

The service has been important in maintaining a support network around teenage parents and we work closely with the teenage parent midwife, young parent workers, Connexions, the HYPE-counselling service, Crisis Intervention and housing providers.

The service was consulted on the development of the Money Matters Handbook for young people, which was developed by RBH.

We are currently working to have the course accredited so young parents will receive formal recognition of learning

Pre-tenancy training is being rolled out by RBH to all young people accessing housing in Rochdale. Attendance is voluntary.

We will continue to:
• encourage partnership working and maintain ‘a team around the needs of young parents’
• learn from, and develop the pre-tenancy programme according to, the feedback we receive from those who use our service, as well as by responding to external change
• work with local housing providers to promote the pre-tenancy courses
• promote early intervention and preventative approaches
• seek accreditation for young people for the learning on the course
• share practice with other agencies, an important role which has enabled some of the initiatives mentioned above
• put teenage parents at the centre of what we do.


This programme could be rolled out easily. A report completed in September includes information about how to set up a pre-tenancy group work programme.

Helping others to replicate your practice

The first phase of the pilot was evaluated in September 2009 and included case studies and feedback on the impact of the service from those who had used it.


Case study one:
K, aged 17, had a child aged six months and became pregnant again. She was in a violent relationship and was quite isolated. She was devastated to be pregnant and felt unable to cope with two children. She was a brilliant mum to her first baby and felt very worried that her first child’s future would be put at risk with a second baby. The Action for Children frontline worker, J, was the first person she told. K was distressed and looking for someone to give her the options. K’s decision was to terminate the pregnancy. J referred to sexual health and supported K during the interview and post-treatment. K went on to maintain a tenancy and engage in training with a view to seeking employment. 

Ideas we have for development within this outcome: 
A specific self-esteem course, as many of the young people who have accessed our service have low confidence. The group work programme offers some support with this but it could be improved by specific self-esteem and assertiveness training. We have delivered such courses with similar service user groups at our link project, Gabriel Court, and achieved positive outcomes.

Case study two:
Jo, aged 17, attended the pre-tenancy group work session. The purpose of the group is to prepare young parents for the reality of being a tenant and living alone. At the end of the group, and at closure interview, Jo decided that she wasn’t ready to take on a tenancy. She felt that preparing to be a mum was enough for her to deal with and felt she wouldn’t manage in a tenancy.
‘I have more knowledge about the rights and responsibilities of being a tenant’ (Quote from service user attending group).

Ideas we have for development within this outcome: 
A Peer Mentoring programme which would build on the element of peer learning which most service users who have attended the pre-tenancy group have valued.

Case study three:
“Finding out how to budget my money and pay the bills on time by talking about it” 
S, aged 18, had a previous failed tenancy at the point of referral to this service. She was blocked from RBH and Housing Association lists due to anti-social behaviour. She also had rent arrears from the previous tenancy of several hundred pounds. The frontline worker J’s first task was to go through the arrears statement. In doing this, she identified that Sophie should have had housing benefit awarded for some of the period of the failed tenancy. She made a successful appeal and the arrears were almost halved. J then began work on establishing a realistic budget that would enable S to clear the remaining arrears secure another tenancy. A payment plan was made which Sophie kept to. 

Having sorted out the financial issues relating to the failed tenancy, J and S focussed their sessions on the other reasons why the tenancy failed: neighbour nuisance, criminal activity, and S’s inability to control the behaviour of her visitors and lack of acceptance of her responsibility as a tenant to ensure that visitors did not cause disturbance. This work was prolonged as S initially was unable to accept her responsibilities. However, she did begin to move from denial to engaging in scenario situations and to understanding how the behaviour in this tenancy affected the neighbours.

During this time, J worked quite closely with the housing providers keeping them informed about S’s progress. S was interviewed by two housing providers at the end of this period of work and, as a result, was accepted onto their list. 

Ideas we have for development within this outcome: 
Co-working group work programme with specialists from key services, such as housing officers and Connexions.

The Pre-Tenancy Service has recently been evaluated by a team from Salford University alongside our link services - Gabriel Court and Tenancy Support. The report is being finalised at the moment and will be available soon.

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