Weeknote w/c 20 January: late night learning and sharing experience with colleagues

Learning about support for rough sleepers in Hackney

I took the opportunity last week to join colleagues from Benefits & Housing Needs and a range of other services and partners to take part in the overnight rough sleeper count which took place on Thursday night / Friday morning. It felt a bit odd cycling back to Hackney at 10.30pm, but it was a very valuable learning experience.

All councils do an annual count each November to check how many people are sleeping rough in their area. Hackney is now doing this every two months so that we can provide updates to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government as part of the requirement for additional funding we receive to help reduce rough sleeping.

We broke into separate teams and set out from The Greenhouse (a day centre near to Mare St which provides joined up healthcare, housing and welfare support for homeless people in the borough). We left at 1am and returned at c 3.30am having visited a number of different areas to check for people who were sleeping rough and talking to them to see if there are ways that the Outreach service can help support them. I was struck by the patient and caring approach that the Outreach team took with each of the people we met. In each case their stories and needs were complex and the team took time to consider what support might be helpful and whether there were any other reasons for additional concern.

Overall, we counted 12 people sleeping rough, a reduction from the previous count which is positive news. But this is only part of the problem of homelessness that our colleagues work hard to address on a day-to-day basis. There is growing demand for temporary accommodation in Hackney and other London boroughs, with people often staying in hostels and other temporary housing for many years, and many other people who ‘sofa surf’ because they don’t have a stable home. I’m joining one of the Benefits & Housing Needs service’s ‘meet the service’ days on Wednesday to learn more about this complex and important area of the Council’s work.

Sharing with peers

At the start of the week, Cate, Matthew and I met up with colleagues from Leicester to talk through the journey that we’ve been taking in the HackIT team and to share details of some specific aspects of our work that they had asked us about. This included how we are using the Digital Marketplace and our work to move away from reliance on traditional local government applications. I enjoy meeting new people from elsewhere in the local government digital community, and it was especially good to hear about peers’ experience outside of London. The slides we used to structure the discussion are here: http://bit.ly/HackIT-overview.

We wrapped up their visit by inviting them to join the show & tell delivered by the SpaceOps team at the end of the morning, who brought us up to date with the work they’re doing to make it easy for residents and community groups to find meeting space in Hackney. It was great to see that the team is making good progress and to show our colleagues how we have replaced traditional project meetings with more interactive, informative and valuable ways of delivering projects.

I also…

  • Caught up with Cate and colleagues in HR to discuss our thinking about mobile phone provision in further detail. I think we’re seeing a way forward emerge from the thinking we’ve been doing.
  • Had a good session with Henry and Paul to look through some of the key things we’ll be looking at as part of joining our team together with the Hackney Learning Trust ICT team and the finance systems team.
  • Joined the first meeting of the Council’s new recruitment strategy group. As this was the first meeting it focused on setting out the scope for the group’s work and we’re meeting up again in a couple of weeks’ time to follow up on that and start to dig into the detailed thinking.
  • Enjoyed Cate’s strategy show & tell on Thursday, which recapped on the achievements of our initial cohort of apprentices and talked through the planning that we’re doing for the second cohort which will start in the autumn. I’m so incredibly proud of what our apprentices have achieved and the contribution that they’re making to our team’s work. I’m also really pleased by the way that their managers have helped support the success of the programme and Hackney’s involvement in the work through LOTI which will more than double the number of digital apprentices in the 15 member councils (currently at 98 in post or committed, within a hair’s breadth of our target of 100 by this September)!

Something I’m learning

An important lesson that I learned from the rough sleeper count was how different the background stories of the people we met were. It quickly became clear that my preconceptions were very narrow and the team explained how much more complex each individual’s needs are. This means that a significant part of the team’s focus is establishing trust with the people they support, so that they can get a good understanding of their needs and help them find the support services that will be of most help.

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