A lack of evidence of what works is problematic in all areas of housing providers’ activities. But it becomes a particular constraint when we are looking to work with health-related sectors, where people are used to making decisions informed by robust evidence.
In my last blog post I talked about the constraints on housing providers if we do not know what really works: we will not have the information available to focus our efforts on those things that deliver the most impact. Whilst this is problematic in all areas of housing providers’ activities, it becomes a particular constraint on business improvement and development when the growth opportunity is in a sector that places higher emphasis on evidence in its decision-making.
Of all the domains of policy and practice, few can compete with health for the quantity and quality of evidence available, and the extent to which that evidence base informs decisions as a matter of course. As housing providers seek to meet the needs and improve the lives of their tenants and the communities they live in, and/or move to expand their businesses in the care and support sector they will find that a lack of evidence is a major impediment to working with organisations for which a good evidence base is a pre-requisite to investment in particular solutions.
In working to develop a set of standards for evidence we are, therefore, particularly aware of the needs and motivations of the health sector. We have been extremely fortunate to gain the input of a number of key health bodies as part of the project, including Public Health England, which is part funding the project.
Improving the evidence base for housing-related activity will be of huge value for all of the sectors concerned. It is not just external commissioners, whether in health, social care, or other related sectors, that will be able to use the evidence to ensure that they are able to allocate funding to things that housing providers are doing that make a difference to the outcomes they are targeting. Improved evidence will also enable housing providers themselves to direct their own resources towards the things that achieve the most impact and offer the best value for money.
Whether the ‘commissioner’ is an external organisation formally identified as such, a decision-making process within the organisation, or a service user with a budget to spend, having services that have been formally shown to improve outcomes will allow them to commission with confidence. The need to maximise impact and value for money will only become more important as resources get squeezed. The increasing constraints are creating an environment in which people are looking for the potential to improve efficiency through integration across sectors; only by grasping the opportunity can we hope to avoid resource constraints translating directly into significantly worsened outcomes. And if we want to work more closely with sectors like health – indeed, if we need to work more closely with sectors like health – then we will have to provide the sort of evidence they need to see that our activities have an impact.
Jim Vine is HACT’s Director of Evidence, Data and Insight
About the project
HACT has been funded by Public Health England (PHE) and a group of leading housing associations to develop standards for producing and using evidence in the housing sector. Motivated by a shared commitment to building the evidence base of the sector, we are committed to developing this body of work to improve our ability to understand the real impacts of our activities. The project outputs will be applicable across all areas of housing providers’ activity, and will be especially relevant in relation to housing with care, support and health, due to the particularly high evidence needs in these sectors.
To be kept informed as we develop the standards, or to discuss any other ideas about developing the evidence base of the housing sector, please email Tom Allen (Thomas.Allen@hact.org.uk).
- Look Ahead Housing and Care
- Sanctuary Group
- Trafford Housing Trust
- Public Health England