The Snowdrop Project is a Sheffield based charity that works with survivors of human trafficking to empower them to recover from their experience.
The Snowdrop Project is a Sheffield based charity that works with survivors of human trafficking to empower them to recover from their experience. The charity found that although one of the main support needs for survivors is housing, it was proving challenging to help victims access this because of low stock availability and a process that was not user friendly for individuals traumatised by their experience of trafficking and exploitation.
Snowdrop often works with victims of modern slavery resident in asylum or other accommodation but needing to move out and would therefore begin the process of starting a homeless application for individuals. The charity would contact Sheffield City Council’s housing advice and options number, but there could be queues and delays in getting through to an an adviser, followed by a lengthy assessment call which proved difficult for survivors; council staff would ask necessary questions to try to establish whether the council owed a duty, but often these would be on sensitive issues and could be triggering for the survivor. Providing an address history could also be difficult for survivors if their accommodation had previously been linked to exploitation.
Snowdrop therefore approached the housing solutions team to ask what could be done to make the process better for survivors as well as more efficient for the council and charity. They led to work with the council to both improve the process and strengthen joint working between them.
What does the trusted assessor scheme involve?
The council agreed that the Snowdrop Project could have trusted assessor status under an existing scheme originally introduced in 2014, enabling it to undertake the initial assessment process on behalf of the council.
As a trusted assessor, Snowdrop is responsible for completing an electronic trusted assessor form containing the information required for a homeless application, reducing the need for the survivor to go through their experience multiple times with different organisations. This has proved helpful because, although the form is lengthy and covers difficult issues such as the individual’s history and any experiences such as domestic abuse, Snowdrop’s staff often already have much of this information anyway and are trained to ask questions in a non-triggering way when they do not. Once the form is completed, this is sent to a specific email address at the council; the information is uploaded onto the council system and subsequently taken forward. The council will then contact the client or the support worker to take forward the application.
The trusted assessor status is utilised by more than 20 partner organisations working with Sheffield as well as Snowdrop, typically supported accommodation providers who are also able to refer clients directly into supported accommodation.
Impact and outcomes
Snowdrop report that the trusted assessor process has proved to be a huge improvement for their clients. The council was able to respond to applications a lot more quickly as it was a tried and tested process, and Snowdrop had a more direct route for sharing key information such as medical reports and assessments. Snowdrop submits on average at least two homeless applications per month and the new trusted assessor form saves at least two hours’ of caseworker time per application.
For the council, there were key benefits in that giving Snowdrop trusted assessor status removed a layer of how the council usually works to undertake Homelessness Reduction Act assessments, reducing the input and time required for individual applications.
Snowdrop proactively approached the housing solutions manager and requested to attend a team meeting to highlight some of the challenges the organisation was experiencing in making homelessness applications for its clients. Because the team was open and receptive to hearing the concerns raised, this enabled a solution to be found. Both partners felt this was a good example of how councils can work with partner organisations to improve service delivery.