What it’s Like to Work in Supported Housing

When I first applied for my role as a supported housing officer, I had little experience in this field. Despite this, Tyne Housing saw my passion for a career that aims to support and improve the lives of vulnerable people, and took a chance on employing me.

Two years on, I am responsible for 32 supported housing residents. My role is to provide housing management and practical support services to my residents, ensuring that their daily needs are met and that they have the best possible outcomes available to them in terms of accommodation, education, employment and well-being.

The level of support each person requires is bespoke. Residents may have a learning difficulty or disability, an offending history, struggle with addiction or have severe mental health issues. I regularly come across a range of safeguarding concerns that may present as financial abuse, self-neglect or violent behaviour.

Often, the level of support a resident needs is heavily influenced by their mental health, and a significant aspect of my job is helping residents manage these ebbs and flows. I regularly work with health centres, food banks, the police and probation services, so that I am able to connect residents to the right support.

At times, a resident’s mental health can deteriorate to the point of crisis. In the past year, a resident of mine had become suicidal and was standing on a local bridge with the intent to jump. Following crisis intervention, I worked closely with the resident on a daily basis to build structure, routine and a sense of purpose, which included supporting him to get a pet. This level of responsibility brought new meaning to his life and gave him the confidence to rebuild his relationship with his children.

Having the opportunity to support people in this way is the reason I do this job. I have worked alongside so many incredible supported housing workers, some of whom have been shaped by similar past experiences, and all of whom are passionate about improving people’s everyday quality of life. We know first-hand what a difference tailored support can make to people. It is transformative, and these positive outcomes also have wider benefits for society, taking pressure off the NHS and social care.

Sadly, supported housing is under increasing financial pressure from inflation, rising costs and uncertainty. This, on top of existing funding shortages, means more and more vulnerable people are missing out on the support they desperately need.

To put it into context, most supported housing contracts have not been given an inflationary increase since 2010. In the face of a worsening economic climate, we urgently need the government to commit to further investment in supported housing.

These funding shortages also affect recruitment and the extent to which local authorities and support providers can meet needs. In a competitive employment market, higher wages will be needed across the sector to attract more housing officers, who can make a profound difference to vulnerable people’s lives.

It is a harsh reality that my time can be spent on compliance, admin and meeting with contractors, which can take time away from my direct work with residents. Our residents need us more than ever now to help manage this cost-of-living crisis and to build the resilience they require during this difficult time.

Working as a supported housing officer is hugely rewarding. I can confidently say I go home every day having created positive change, and that is precisely why I am in this job. However, I also see the impacts of funding pressures on the sector. With the right investment from the government to plug the widening gaps, we can provide this essential support to everyone who needs it.

Emma Tuckwood, supported housing officer, Tyne Housing