Frontline Fife

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Frontline Fife is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

CEO Caryn Nicolson
Staff members Natasha,
Morag and Sarah
Frontline Fife is a mid-sized Scottish registered charity which
works to end homelessness by tackling the underlying
causes and symptoms of poverty through early intervention
and prevention. It provides a range of commissioned services
throughout Fife, including preparation to leave home safely
education for young people, 24-hour-access emergency
accommodation, visiting support, addictions recovery support,
housing advice and lay court representation. CEO Caryn
Nicolson reflects on the use of evidence-based practice and the
impact this can have on rural and marginalisedcommunities.
In 2018/19 Fife saw a ten per cent increase in reported homelessness, having
experienced a decline in the previous two years. In Scotland as a whole the increase
was three per cent. Housing shortages, changes within the housing system, welfare
reform, a depressed economic environment and individual health and social care
needs all contribute to the persistence of homelessness. Experiencing two or more
of these factors can lead to detrimental effects, often destabilising individuals,
families and communities, pushing them into poverty. Covid-19 is predicted
to bring about even greater social disparity with many people experiencing
unemployment and financial hardship for the first time.
As a consequence, the number of homeless presentations is expected to increase
in Fife, and it is unlikely that current capacity will meet this potential demand.
Last year Frontline Fife prevented 154 people, through court representation, from
losing their home, supported 210 to build their resilience and gain skills to sustain
their tenancy and provided 173 with a safer place to stay. A great deal more was
»CEO: Caryn Nicolson
»Established in 2007
»Based in Fife
»Services: Homelessness
»No. of employees: 47
Frontline Fife
Highlighting best practice
also achieved through working in
partnership with other providers and
Fife Council, with inroads being made
towards redressing inequalities under
the Scottish Government’s high-level
action plan, Ending Homelessness
Together, and the council’s Rapid
Rehousing Transition plan. However,
more of the same is not likely to
be enough if we are to reverse the
current unacceptable demand for
homelessness services and meet the
new challenges we will face as a result
of the pandemic.
Understanding the causes of
We must do things differently at
scale and that will involve taking
risks and making difficult policy
decisions. However, bold top-down
transformation alone is likely to
be a blunt tool unless we make an
investment to better understand
social complexity and diversity and to
evidence what works well, where, for
whom, and why.
Largely because of the higher profile
of urban homelessness, the needs
of people in rural and remote areas
tend to be overlooked. Moreover,
many of the policies and actions to
tackle homelessness are city-based in
their development and are difficult
to replicate in small urban and rural
communities. In Fife roughly two-
thirds of residents live in urban areas,
with the remaining third split between
rural and smaller towns. The disparate
location of these communities and
access to public services differs greatly
from area to area. The pandemic
has accelerated the use of digital
practice, bringing services into some
people’s homes. However, access to
broadband remains patchy, many
local libraries once relied upon are
now closed and the reported need for
services varies across Fife’s seven local
Research-based approach
Frontline Fife’s recently published
research into LGBT+ experiences of
homelessness in Fife has identified that
there is a dearth of systematic data
collection on housing need for LGBT+
people, and that has contributed
to their needs being overlooked or
misunderstood. Frontline workers who
participated in the study noted their
experiences of working with those in
the LGBT+ community and, for the
most part, were conscious of their
needs not always being met and of
their own requirements for dedicated
diversity training. The lived experience
of homeless LGBT+ people confirmed
frontline workers’ views, heightening
their concerns relating to isolation and
stigma in rural and small towns and to
the barriers people face when seeking
to access services. These barriers are
often entrenched in heteronormative
views and a failure to respond to the
particular needs of transgender people
or those who experience a housing
crisis as a result of “coming out”.
At present, these people are likely
recorded as “Asked to Leave”; it’s
one of the main reasons cited for
Forth Bridge, connecting
Fife and Edinburgh
Last year
Frontline Fife
prevented 154
through court
from losing
their home
homelessness and, as a general term,
it means everything and nothing. In
Scotland in 2018/19 no fewer than 25
per cent of homelessness applications
cited ‘Asked to Leave’ as the main
reason for becoming homeless. It
is without doubt that in each case
dedicated frontline staff would have
known why this was the case and
what early preventative measures
could have been put in place to reduce
the risk of homelessness in the first
place. This highlights the need for
greater specificity when determining
the problem at hand. It also directs us
to think through how we can make
better use of population and case
data for decision-making and bringing
forward change for better outcomes.
While in Scotland and Fife we have
made progress in valuing and using
lived experience and community
knowledge as part of a wider,
evidence-based approach to local
planning, the potential for frontline
workers to inform long-term,
evidence-based strategies for tackling
homelessness and be valued as an
integral part of the bigger picture
remains relatively untapped.
Directly driving change
The Scottish Government’s Winter
Resilience planning group of which
we are a part is a good example of
frontline workers being valued and
directly involved in change. Through it
they can share their experiences openly
and give their views on what should
be done to reduce the incidence of
rough sleeping in cities, small towns
and rural communities. This coming
together is a small but not insignificant
spark for change and like others across
the country should become the default
position. The opportunity to listen and
learn from others, whether they be
directors, civil servants, policy makers
or representatives of specialised
services, will surely help to bring about
changes in practice, leading to new
ideas being tested at pace.
Too many people in Scotland are
falling through the housing safety net;
its mesh size can only be reduced if
there is courage, commitment and an
informed collegiate approach – and
if we seek and record evidence from
those on either side of service delivery.
The Scottish
planning group
of which we are
a part is a good
example of
workers being
valued and
directly involved
in change.
The iconic Forth Rail

This article was sponsored by Frontline Fife. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy