Access to and the experience of health and social care services for rough sleepers in West BerkshireDownload (PDF 2.35MB)
Summary of report content
Healthwatch West Berkshire investigated the experiences that homeless people have when accessing health and social care services in West Berkshire. Interviews with 14 rough sleepers were conducted using a questionnaire developed in conjunction with homeless supporting organisations and the police.
The homeless people who participated in this project reported that they have had negative experiences with statutory local services, which have resulted in them feeling disheartened and disconnected with the help they received. It was also highlighted that homeless people experience a number of challenges including negative stereotyping which pushes them further away from society. Additionally, the feedback indicated that day-to-day basic needs are often a priority ahead of the larger underlying mental and physical issues. The interviewees often felt that service providers lacked insight and understanding of the connection between alcohol and substance dependency with homelessness. It was reported that obtaining medication is challenging, especially as there are difficulties accessing free prescriptions.
Healthwatch West Berkshire made a number of recommendations including that health and wellbeing bodies need to recognise the links between mental health and homelessness and improve crisis provision. Introduce an outreach service to address the lack of access to treatment and also introduce annual medical and dental checks to identify life-threatening conditions. It was recommended that there should be an increase in choice for homeless people to be involved in decisions relating to care and support with statutory and voluntary agencies. It was suggested that the WBC and local stakeholders form a working group to examine the feasibility of a trial of schemes such as the Rough Sleeping Social Impact Bond, Housing First and innovative proposals, including the Universal Basic Income.