What is Homeless Health Peer Advocacy – HHPA?
Homeless Health Peer Advocacy offers one-to-one support for people experiencing homelessness to make and attend health appointments, overcoming the practical, personal and systemic barriers which prevent them from addressing their health needs. The program is delivered by Peer Advocates – volunteers who all have personal experience of homelessness. In addition to providing practical support such as accompaniment to appointments; our Peer Advocates build the skills and confidence of clients to access health services independently.
“Groundswell achieves not just a massive increase in access to health services but also fosters an atmosphere where clients know change is possible” (Referring agency)
The background on HHPA
The HHPA core service started in 2010 with funding from and NHS Regional Innovation Fund and has since been adapted to deliver a range of services, across nine London boroughs, along with additional pan-London projects. Funding comes mainly from CCGs with support from the GLA. Last year, we delivered 3,500 one-to-one engagements and health promotion sessions at homeless service providers.
The case for HHPA
The Problem. Health is a serious unmet need for homeless people. 73% have a physical health need; with 35% attending A&E in the past six months, and 26% being admitted to hospital. (Homeless Link’s ‘The Unhealthy State of Homelessness’ 2014).
The Impact of HHPA. HHPA work results in people getting their health issues diagnosed earlier, sustaining their treatment and improving their health outcomes – often a critical pre-requisite for addressing other issues such as substance misuse, employability and housing need.
HHPA Volunteers. Volunteers are at the heart of all our work. We have established a robust recruitment, training and support package for our volunteer Peer Advocates, who all have personal experience of homelessness. As Peer Advocates they are supported by our Volunteer Progression Manager through our Volunteer Progression Programme – a cohesive, person-centred programme of coaching that builds self-reliance and self-determination. To date 21 of the 52 Peer Advocates completing this training have gone on into paid employment.
“Homeless people feel judged, that causes a lot of anxiety. A Peer Advocate can help, having someone by your side who won’t judge you, someone who has been there as well“ (Groundswell Peer Advocate)
What does HHPA achieve?
HHPA work results in people getting their health issues diagnosed earlier, sustaining their treatment and improving their health outcomes – often a critical pre-requisite for addressing other issues such as substance misuse, employability and housing need. The Young Foundation have recently completed a year-long evaluation of HHPA that found it has multiple and wide ranging benefits.
It improves clients’ health through:
- Increasing confidence, knowledge and motivation to access healthcare and to engage proactively with health management;
- Decreasing reliance on unplanned secondary care services; and
- Decreasing missed outpatient appointments.
Which results in:
- A 68 per cent reduction in missed outpatient appointments;
- Bringing DNA rates for scheduled outpatient appointments in line with those of the general population;
- A 42 per cent reduction in unplanned care activity;
- A saving of £2.43 for every £1 spent due to a reduction in unplanned care activity costs in the first six months following HHPA intervention.
“HHPA reduces use of A&E, missed appointments and unplanned admissions; resulting in improved health and a 42% reduction in NHS costs” (Young Foundation HHPA Evaluation 2014)
To learn more about the evaluation and to read the report, ‘Saving Lives, Saving Money’, please click here.