2Overview What is mystery shopping? Does it work? What do the people get out of it?What does the organisation get from it?Would we do it again?What did we learn?Was it value for resources?The Homelessness Networks view?
3BackgroundThe Local Authority Homelessness Network received funding from the Welsh Assembly Government to develop our understanding of how it feels to be homeless.In order to improve our understanding it was agreed to undertake a mystery shopping exercise. To make it valuable we should work with people who had previously experienced homelessness to undertake the exercise.The network approached United Welsh HA, who successfully secured volunteers who were willing to work with us and visit local authorities from across Wales.
4Time BankingTo give the exercise value we used the United Welsh time Banking schemeWhat is time banking?How did it work practically?Why did we do this?Did it aid the exercise?
5The AimThis project sought to assess the quality of service that people presenting as homeless experience when they approach local authorities.The housing offices that were visited were assessed in the following areas:Staff attitude and sensitivity – are staff members friendly, encouraging and supportive? Do they give their name and job title?Decision-making – are mystery shoppers told about decisions that are made, and are they offered good advice and support for what they need to do next?Help and advice – are mystery shoppers given advice in a sensitive manner that ensures they understood all of it?
6The AimGeneral care and support needs – do mystery shoppers receive friendly and encouraging support and assistance?Emergency accommodation – are mystery shoppers offered emergency temporary accommodation (especially when this is most appropriate, such as in cases of domestic violence)?Returning home – do staff members explore the possibility of mystery shoppers returning home?Mystery shoppers also recorded the time they had to wait to see a member of staff and gave feedback on their general impressions of the service they received.
7The Outsiders Who are they? Where did they come from? What did they do?How involved where they?Did they buy into it?Did they need training?Did it help them?
8There Case Studies 1 Domestic violence female: 2 Ex-offender, male A 17 year old who is homeless because she is fleeing domestic violence. Moved into the area two years before with abusive partner. Has a heroin addiction and is taking methadone. Is unable to return to her mother’s house in Barry because she has four brothers and there is no room for her in the family home.2 Ex-offender, maleA homeless 18 year old who has just left under-21 prison in Bridgend. He is originally from Cardiff but his father lives in the area he is presenting in and he wants to make a new start after coming out of prison.There is no room in his father’s house for him. No addictions or health issues.
9The Case Studies 3 Rent arrears eviction, female: A 23 year old woman who has been evicted from her council flat. This was her first tenancy and she got confused and behind with the rent. Although she is staying with a friend she cannot stay there much longer because it is too crowded. She is a care leaver and has nowhere else to go. No addictions or health issues.4 Young person, female:An 18 year old who had moved abroad with her parents but her mother’s partner was violent and she had to leave and returned to Wales. Has been staying with a friend but cannot stay there forever. No addictions or health issues.5 Domestic violence male:A 20 year old man who is fleeing domestic violence from a gay partner and cannot return home. No addictions or health issues.
10The visits 11 Local Authorities All of Wales Covered 12 days given up Support Workers on HandGood hotels and meals providedSplitting Visits
11The respect that was built! Having to re-visit a previous experience in your life and one that would not have happy memories cannot be easy. The young people we worked with, not only did this, but did it on a number of occasions across Wales.They dedicated two days to being trained so they knew what to expect and how to handle things if things went wrong. This may not sound that hard, but when you have methadone scripts to pick up and Job Centre interviews to rearrange it shows a real commitmentThey then visited twelve LA’s across Wales. Bravely entering an office when they knew they may be ‘found out’. They acted professionally. Went through the interviewing process. Fed back to support workers who were waiting for them outside and discussed their experiences in depth with the person who has taken their findings and written the report.The report has been launched and the findings and recommendations contained in it have had a genuine impact on how homelessness services are delivered in the future. This is due to the hard work and commitment of these young people.They discussed their experiences with the managers of services. This, once again, shows a real commitment to changing how things are delivered. It is only sometimes through hearing these stories, rather than simply reading a report, that people are compelled to act.
12The News Headlines 50% of visits did not fully meet the persons needs Inconsistent responsesFour members of staff unfriendly and sympathetic50% of people told about decisions40% thought the service was poorSex of interviewer not discussed with those feeling domestic violenceThat it was not always about accommodationMoving back home hardly ever discussedThat one shopper attended the homelessness network
13The changesThrough a series of regional seminars, engaged all LA's to develop an action plan on how they are going to improve and develope their services for young homeless people (aged ) in partnership with Social Services2 consultants will be spending 2 days with 6 local authorities to help implement their plans and ensure that outcomes for homeless young people are met. Neighbouring authorities will also be able to access part of this training to share good practice and in turn help drive improvement in all LA’s in Wales.Chris Price and Kelly Davies (WAG) will also be working with the LA's that are not receiving the direct 2 day support to ensure they are progressing with their action plans.
14The ChangesWe have also been working with Jan Pickles (WAG – Community Safety) to improve our response to those fleeing DADomestic abuse coordinators will be delivering training to front line housing options/homelessness staff across Wales, in relation to domestic abuse, MARAC and the DASH toolkit. This will help improve the front line response.This training is already being set up in Gwent and North Wales and will be cascaded to other areas in due course.WAG are also considering, with the help of S180 funding available from April, other projects / training that could be developed to help improve our services.And all of this by the time the report was released
15The Value/ Cost For the people For the L/A For United Welsh For future ServicesFor future services
16The Pit Falls Aim high with starting numbers Be entirely clear on what you want to achieveSet times when visiting placesOffer support outside of the visitsExpect high resources to be used for a short period
17The Final NoteFor all the good and bad experiences that I had on this trip, I really enjoyed myself. It’s not only about assessing a service and making it better, it’s about meeting new people, enjoying the experiences you have together, talking freely and making friends. So on behalf of the Mystery shopper team I would like to thank the people who let me have this opportunity and the team leaders for supporting us all the way thank you,Gabby Mystery Shopper