We recognise that it can be very hard for people to look after themselves when living on the street. Some people take drugs or have a drink to cope, and this can make it more difficult to get help. Workers from different agencies can disagree about what is the best way to help someone, and this can sometimes lead to poor care where the person is harmed or dies. The government is concerned that when a homeless person dies the lessons are not being learned

Homeless man

Research aims

The aim of this research is to explore how self-neglect is experienced by people who are homeless, and how this can be addressed though strengthening local adult safeguarding responses. The research aims to develop a better understanding of local safeguarding services’ strengths and weaknesses, and staff and service users’ experiences and perspectives, in order to develop practice guidance to improve support for people who are homeless and self-neglect.

How the research will be carried out

The study will be carried out through qualitative interviews with some observation and economic analysis. Interview participants include 20 social workers; plus in case study sites 60 professionals and 30 service users. Researchers will use participatory and action orientated methods to work collaboratively with Safeguarding Adults Boards (SABs) across three English local authorities to identify positive practices and areas for improvement, opening and addressing issues around supporting people who are deemed ‘too difficult’ to help. Communities of practice (CoPs) will be tested in each site as an approach for facilitating reflective practices and moving beyond repetitive findings. Finally, so that the learning from the research can be shared more widely, we will develop practice guidance and, if the findings support this, a ‘tool kit’ for using CoPs in adult safeguarding more broadly.

How service users will be involved

Service users are integral to the study and the research team. The study advisory group comprises 12 members, six of whom are homelessness ‘experts by experience’. Members were recruited and involved from the development phase and include experienced ‘peer researchers’ who have worked with us on previous homelessness studies. Peer researchers will jointly carry out research interviews with people experiencing self-neglect alongside professional researchers. We are confident that this will assist with rapport building and lead to better insights. Peer researchers will also contribute to all other aspects of the study, including drafting interview guides, discussing findings, reviewing study outputs and co-presenting study findings during the dissemination phase.

The study is funded by the NIHR School for Social Care Research. It was adopted by ARC South London in December 2019 and will be completed by October 2022.

Read more about the study.