Autumn News from I-SPHERE

It’s been a busy few months for I-SPHERE.  Here is a round up of what the team have been involved in and new projects underway.


Professor Morag Treanor been appointed as a Commissioner on the Scottish Government’s Poverty and Inequality Commission.

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick is to chair a Homelessness Prevention Working Group, supported by Crisis, for the Scottish Government.

I-SPHERE Honorary Professor Mark Stephens has been appointed to the Social Justice and Fairness Commission chaired by Shona Robison MSP.

New Projects

Hunter Foundation and Scottish Government Partnership

In November 2019, Sam Thomas will be joining I-SPHERE as a Senior Research Fellow. He will lead a new partnership with the Hunter Foundation and the Scottish Government examining the impact of innovative, relational and capability-based responses to poverty and disadvantage across Scotland. Sam will work with a team based across I-SPHERE and Homeless Network Scotland.

Sam brings a depth of policy expertise to the team, having previously led work influencing government at Making Every Adult Matter, a coalition of leading charities working to address multiple disadvantage. In his current role at the Health Foundation, he manages a £1.65 million funding portfolio to support better health care across the UK. His research interests include preventative approaches to homelessness, substance misuse and mental health policy and participatory approaches to policymaking. He has held previous positions at the Royal Society of Arts and the University of Leeds, and in 2016-17 was awarded a Crook Public Service Fellowship at the University of Sheffield.

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, director of I-SPHERE, said:
“We are absolutely delighted to welcome Sam to the I-SPHERE team. His deep knowledge of co-production and participatory approaches will significantly expand our current methodological skillset, and his expertise in both complex needs and policy influencing strategies will further enhance the reach and impact of I-SPHERE’s work in helping to drive change for people affected by extreme disadvantage. The cross-sectoral partnership forged with the Hunter Foundation and the Scottish Government is a fantastic opportunity to test new ways to tackle poverty and social disadvantage right here in Scotland.”

Sam said: “I’m thrilled to be joining the team at I-SPHERE. Having worked closely with them over the years I know their commitment to doing research that makes a real difference to people’s lives. The new programme I’ll be leading is an opportunity to do just that, bringing together people leading change on the ground, the philanthropic sector and government.”

I-SPHERE will be recruiting for a research associate in the new year to support this new area of work. You can learn more about Sam’s work to date on his personal website.

Ending Global Street Homelessness

I-SPHERE has been commissioned by the Institute of Global Homelessness, with funding from the Oak Foundation, to evaluate progress towards ending global street homelessness. Thirteen ‘Vanguard Cities’, spread across all six continents, are involved in the Institute of Global Homelessness ‘A Place to Call Home’ initiative, and are committed to ending street homelessness or at least achieving significant reductions in street homelessness in their city by 31st December 2020. I-SPHERE are working with I-SPHERE Honorary Professor Volker Busch-Geertsema and colleagues at GISS Bremen, Germany to review the cities’ approaches, outcomes and lessons that can be learnt to support future cohorts of cities to make sustainable reductions in street homelessness.

International Research on Housing and Poverty

Professor Mark Stephens is working on an ESRC-funded comparative study of housing and poverty in Europe with Rod Hick and Marco Pomati at the University of Cardiff. The project will employ the EU Survey on Housing and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) to examine the relationship between housing and poverty across the EU since 2005, and will capture the impact of the financial crisis. It will also explore
1. How, if at all, have European housing systems changed over the last 10 years?
2. What is the association between housing deprivation and poverty, and how does this vary between countries over time?
3. What is the relationship between housing costs and poverty, and how does this vary over space and time?
4. How significant are housing events in explaining poverty transitions?

Children’s Outcomes

Professor Morag Treanor has been appointed as co-investigator in the ESRC-funded Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research and its Co-Lead on Understanding Children’s Outcomes.

The work aims to explore the factors affecting outcomes for children and young people in Scotland and will examine datasets about children and young people being brought together for the first time in Scotland, to paint a picture of academic achievement, health, economic activity and wellbeing. This will support the national ambitions for people in Scotland (captured in the National Performance Framework), namely that children grow up loved, safe and protected so they can reach their full potential.

Independent Care Review

Glen Bramley is helping the Independent Care Review in Scotland by developing a Human and Economic Cost Model. His research is particularly concerned with the costs of public services used by people with complex needs who have a background in the care system.

Destitution 3

The I-SPHERE team are in the field for the 3rd study of Destitution in the UK for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The Destitution in the UK research programme has had significant impacts to date, including informing the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty in the UK report and the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee review of the Welfare Safety Net. This time round, with boosted funding from the Greater London Authority, we have extended the research from 16 to 18 local authority areas across the UK. With thanks to our funders, fieldwork partners Kantar and all the organisations and individuals supporting this important research.

Recent research impact

Children’s rights and the Scottish Town Planning system

The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 received Royal Assent in July 2019. At stage two of the bill process, two amendments were lodged by Monica Lennon MSP to include:
1. ‘Play Sufficiency Assessments’ where planning authorities would assess the sufficiency of play and recreation opportunities across their area for people under 18, looking at both quantity and quality and formal and informal provision.
2. A statutory right for children and young people to be engaged across the Local Development Plan process.
These speak to the two key elements of Dr Jenny Wood’s PhD on children’s rights and the Scottish town planning system. The amendments were recommended by the Scottish Alliance for People and Places, for which Jenny has been sitting as a representative of the Scottish charity she co-founded to respond to her PhD findings, A Place in Childhood (APiC). This means that Scotland now has the strongest protection for children and young people through planning legislation of any UK nation.

Mortality amongst children and young people

Professor Morag Treanor recently conducted a study for Aberlour, analysing mortality statistics for children and young people by deprivation. The research found that children and young people living in the most deprived areas of Scotland are three times more likely to die under the age of 25 than those in the least deprived areas.  The research attracted very significant publicity and features in Aberlour’s Autumn campaign – A bad start shouldn’t mean a bad end

Housing Requirements in England

In September, the National Housing Federation published Professor Glen Bramley’s analysis of housing need in England, which identified that 8.4 million people in England are living in unaffordable, insecure or unsuitable housing. The federation are calling for long-term investment in social housing to provide people with suitable homes they can afford – £12.8bn a year over the next 10 years to build 340,000 new homes – including 145,000 new social homes. The research and NHFs campaign have attracted significant media attention.

Hard Edges Scotland

In June, I-SPHERE’s Hard Edges Scotland report was published. The research was commissioned by Lankelly Chase and the Robertson Trust, following earlier similar research in England, to highlight the experiences of people facing severe and multiple disadvantages including homelessness, substance misuse, involvement in offending, domestic violence and abuse, and mental ill health. The report illustrates the mismatch between the multiple disadvantages people face and the fact that services are often set up to address ‘single issues’, and garnered significant attention in national and local media with a reach of over 500 million people.

In its most recent Programme for Government, published on September 3rd, the Scottish Government made a commitment to develop a national vision for severe, multiple disadvantage, and establish an “Inclusive Scotland Fund” of £10m over two years to contribute towards the delivery of the vision. These developments are directly linked to the powerful cross-sectoral impact of the Hard Edges Scotland research.

Homelessness Prevention in Newcastle

Our research for Newcastle City Council examined the scale and effectiveness of local interventions to present homelessness. It found that Newcastle is a city facing an extremely challenging context, but managing to maintain extremely low and stable levels of homelessness on almost all measures. The City Council and Crisis have since launched a trailblazing homelessness prevention partnership with the aim of ending homelessness in the city within 10 years. You can learn more at here

Measuring Rough Sleeping

Professor Glen Bramley appeared on Radio 4’s ‘More or Less’ programme on 4th October speaking to Tim Harford about different ways of measuring, and the scale of rough sleeping in different contexts. You can listen again here. 

Discretionary Housing Payments

We recently published a review of Discretionary Housing Payments completed by Megan Park, our second I-SPHERE and Oak foundation research intern. Read the report here.
Matthew Downie, Director of Policy and External Affairs at Crisis chaired the expert advisory group for the research. He said
This much-needed report provides a detailed analysis of the use of Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) by local authorities. Underinvestment in the welfare system has left it falling far short of providing vital support for families to cover housing costs, and DHP’s play a crucial role for local authorities to be able to respond locally to prevent and resolve homelessness.
However, despite the important role they play, there has been no evaluation or insight into how DHPs are used and how effectively they are deployed. This report gives the best insight to date of this and raises critical questions about the conditionality used to award DHPs, and their adequacy for local authorities to respond to people in housing need at a time when local authority budgets are already stretched. The recommendations give an excellent framework to ensure DHPs are used successfully for their intended purpose for both national and local government, as well as highlighting the further work needed in this area”.

Megan Park will be presenting her findings at our I-SPHERE seminar on Wednesday 11th December at 3.45pm at Heriot-Watt University, all are welcome to attend. Their implications are currently under consideration by the Social Security Advisory Committee.

Recent I-SPHERE blogs and events

Dr Beth Watts spoke at A Right to a Home? | The Forum for Philosophy event on Tuesday 15th October and you can listen to a recording of the event here.

Dr Beth Watts also spoke at the HSA autumn lecture.

Professor Sarah Johnsen spoke at the Porchlight 45th anniversary conference at Canterbury Cathedral today (10th October).

The Housing Journal Podcast  features an interview with Professors Fitzpatrick Bramley about their Housing Studies paper ‘Homelessness…. who is most at risk?’, its key messages, reception & impact.

On 8th October Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick and Dr Beth Watts Beth spoke at the Homeless Network Scotland annual conference “Prioritise Prevention”

Dr Janice Blenkinsopp facilitated two workshops at the National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers Conference on the 13th September  on the use of vignettes in social research.

Professor Morag Treanor has recently spoken at the following events:

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick and Dr Jenny Wood contributed to the Institute of Global Homelessness 2019 Vanguard city summit in Glasgow.

Professor Glen Bramley spoke at the Inclusive Growth Summit in Alloa and Cardiff conference on Psychologically-informed environments.

I-SPHERE Seminars

Our seminar programme is back – keep an eye out here for details of dates and the exciting speakers we have lined up. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Contact us for further information on these articles or any of the wider work of the team.

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