Thirty people move from mental health residencies to their own tenancies in the west

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Thirty individuals, ranging in age from 28 to 74 years, have been supported by a Sláintecare Integration Funded partnership project, to move from mental health residences to their own tenancies with Galway and Roscommon County Councils.

These included the direct transition of 17 individuals who had lived from 4 to 40 years in mental health residences to their own tenancies with the council or an AHB.

Six mental health service users transitioned to secure tenancies from either living with their parents or from insecure tenancies.  One service user  transitioned from living in a nursing home to a secure tenancy. One service user returned to their own home from a hostel.  Three service users were supported in existing tenancies that were at risk, and one was supported to transition from hospital to Council housing.

They moved as part of the ‘My Home Project, a Sláintecare Integration Funded partnership project between Mental Health Services, HSE Community Healthcare West  and Galway Simon Community, working closely with Galway and Roscommon County Councils. The ‘My Home Project’ is a housing-focused service that works in close partnership with Galway Simon, the  County Councils and individuals who are expressing a desire to move on to independent living.

“The results of the evaluation of the ‘My Home Project’ indicate that the provision of on-going mental health support, social care support and appropriate housing enables persons with mental health conditions to live independent lives in their communities in line with National Policy guidelines and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities,” said Ann O’Kelly, Researcher and Report Author.

 “When Health, Social Care and Housing Services work together in genuine partnership, with the quality of life of the individual accessing the service as our focus, we can better support people with mental health needs on their recovery journey. The Sláintecare ‘My Home Project’ helps people move from shared congregated residential services when they chose to live independently,” said Lorraine Kelly, Housing Coordinator in Mental Health, Community Healthcare West and My Home Project Lead.

“The partnership working between services in this project is something we want to replicate across Community Healthcare West,” said Charlie Meehan, Head of Mental Health Services, Community Healthcare West.

The evaluation demonstrated that providing social care support in addition to mental health support to persons moving from HSE mental health residences to independent living settling and perhaps into a tenancy is extremely important.  Support can include helping the person with setting up home, independent living skills and discovering community activities they might like to get involved in.

Dr. Susan Finnerty, Mental Health Commission Inspector of Mental Health Services has previously stated, “Assessments indicated if the appropriate resources were in place, many could move to smaller more independent accommodation, but this is not happening, due in part to the lack of appropriate housing, not enough rehabilitation teams and inadequate staffing of rehabilitation teams.”

Social care floating support provided by Galway Simon Community working in partnership with HSE Mental Health teams and working closely with County Councils as housing providers were identified in East Galway and Roscommon as the ‘missing pieces’ of the jigsaw to support individuals living in mental health residences to progress to independent living.

 “I wanted to be independent, have a cup of tea whenever I wanted. The hostel living was kind of like a hospital setup, certain jobs during the day and only open certain times and things like that. Plus the fact you had someone looking over your shoulder the whole time. I now have an address other than a health board address – it is my own which is a huge thing,” said a Service User Participant.

“Demonstrating through the ‘My Home Project’ that this person can function quite well independently forces the system to change how it treats and forces a change in work practice,” said a member of the Senior Management Team.

The tenancy support worker helped me. I am on top of it all now… It takes a bit of getting used to managing all those things you had not done in 20 years, ”said a service user.

Before I moved into this house I did not know where anything was in the shop or how to get a trolley out, put money in the trolley and take it out I had never done that before. My MHHSW showed me how to do all that and where everything is in the shop.

In time I should be able to manage on my own but at present (tenancy support worker) is very welcome. When I get the house sorted out and the finances not so much support needed then…people would need support for a year or so”.

The ‘My Home Project’ recommended:

1.The ‘My Home Project’ be continued in East Galway and Roscommon and be expanded to Mayo and Galway City.

2.Staffing of Rehabilitation and Recovery Mental Health Teams should be increased to the levels recommended in ‘A Vision for Change’ to provide an assertive outreach model.

3.Given the risks of institutionalisation, that local authorities consider earlier access to secure tenure housing for people living in HSE residences or hospital, even if they may not have made a timely housing application.

What is the ‘My Home Project’

The project uses an integrated approach between services, with the housing and support needs and preferences of each individual person at its centre.

Based on the Creating Foundations project – a partnership between Mental Health Services in Dublin and Focus Ireland, working closely with the local authorities – the ‘My Home Project’ is a HSE Mental Health Service led, housing-focused service that works in close partnership with Galway Simon and County Councils. The ‘My Home Project’ works with individuals that are expressing a desire to move on to independent living. Referrals are taken directly from Mental Health Teams. Mental Health Teams continue to provide ongoing support to the individuals in the community in their new tenancies.

The Project provides the person with a Mental Health Housing Support Worker to provide pre and post ‘move in’ support when they have been allocated a tenancy. The Project provides 6 to 12 months of post settlement support – however, this can be increased or decreased depending on the needs of each individual. 

With funding from the Sláintecare Integration Fund and the support of the Community Healthcare West Mental Health Area Management Team, the project commenced in East County Galway and County Roscommon in January 2020, working closely with Galway and Roscommon County Councils. The project lead is a Senior Mental Health Social Worker, employed as a Housing Coordinator for Mental Health. The Housing Coordinator works in partnership with a Galway Simon Service Manager who line manages the Mental Health Housing Support Workers.  There are currently two fulltime and one part-time Mental Health Housing Support Workers working in the project.