Homeless People and Adult Social Care in England: Exploring the Challenges through Practitioner-Researcher Partnership

Karl Mason, Michelle Cornes, Martin Whiteford

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Keywords: homelessness, adult social care, eligibility, practice- informed research

Homeless people’s access to adult social care services remains a significant challenge in the UK and internationally. Viewed from the perspective of social care in England, the ‘intractability’ of this issue has recently been brought into sharp focus through the winding down of ‘Supporting People’ funding and the overhaul of England’s community care legislation, including eligibility rules, through the Care Act, 2014.

In this paper, we will provide an illustrative example of academic practitioners working in collaboration with frontline practitioners from both adult social care and housing-related support services to critically and reflexively explore the challenges and opportunities associated with these recent policy changes through the development of a ‘community of practice’. Drawing upon these inter-professional discussions, we will outline the helpful links between theory, practice and research in supporting the practitioners with daily challenges and also supporting the academics with developing a practice- informed research bid.

The paper will also pay special attention to the key challenges facing social workers and homelessness practitioners in understanding and navigating the new eligibility regulations per the Care Act. Challenges are shown to include continuing tensions between the homelessness sector and statutory adult social care in terms of referral, maintenance of support, a shared understanding of the complexity of homelessness and the problems raised given the ‘atypical’ nature of homeless referrals within statutory adult social care. We then focus on a number of strategies and opportunities, which have been developed and shared through the study groups. These include shared practice examples such as the use of ‘Care Act compliant’ language in referrals or the explicit identification of self-neglect issues, following the Care Act statutory guidance categorizing this as a safeguarding issue. We argue that social workers in statutory adult social care welcome new ways of working as well as the ability to (re)conceptualize their role following the Care Act’s implementation. This leads us to push at ideas about social workers’ capacity to use the Care Act to secure new and improved outcomes for homeless people at a time when adult care services and related systems of welfare face deep funding cuts under what has become known as ‘austerity’. The implications of this conjunction for frontline practitioners, policy makers and academic practitioners are considered.

We conclude by suggesting that the paper’s contribution is found in its attentiveness to the possibilities of understanding the support needs of people affected by homelessness through different forms of partnership and cooperation between academic researchers and social care practitioners
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2017
Event7th European Conference for Social Work Research - Aalborg, Denmark
Duration: 20 Apr 201722 Apr 2017
Conference number: 7


Conference7th European Conference for Social Work Research
Abbreviated titleECSWR
Internet address


  • Homelessness
  • adult social care
  • eligibility
  • Care Act, 2014
  • Social Work

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