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Your Health

Tenancy Support Service wins HSE Excellence Award

Niamh Wallace, Head of Service, Mental Health,  Ciara Carty, Focus Ireland Regional Manager, ‘virtually’ presented the Health Service Excellence Award to the teams. Also included in the image is Sharon McInerney, Service Improvement Programme Lead,  James Harrington, Assistant Director of Mental Health Nursing,  Aoife Mahony, Clinical Nurse Manager 2; Bridget Walsh, Housing Co-ordinator for Mental Health; Catriona Sadlier, Clinical Nurse Manager 2; Criomhthann McCarthy, Project Worker, NT Intensive Tenancy Sustainment, Focus Ireland; Michelle O’Connor, Project Worker, NT Intensive Tenancy Sustainment, Focus Ireland; Grainne Madigan, Project Lead, Focus Ireland; Kate Hennessy, Occupational Therapist; Marion Timmons, Social Worker; Tasara Zhou, Occupational Therapist; PJ Kennedy, Addiction Counsellor; Tracey Thompson, Community Liaison Officer, North Tipperary County Council.

A unique tenancy support service that has been preventing homelessness is an award-winning initiative from mental health services in the Mid-West.

The North Tipperary Intensive Tenancy Sustainable Service (TSS) offers intensive tenancy support to adults with mental health difficulties who may be homeless or at risk of homelessness. Two dedicated members of staff source quality accommodation, working in partnership with the relevant community services. They are employed by Focus Ireland but are completely integrated into Community Mental Health Teams (CMHT). It’s the first model like this in the country.

Innovation in Service Delivery 

The judges at this year’s Health Service Excellence Awards, where the service took home the Innovation in Service Delivery prize, praised the fact that service users are supported in a completely integrated service and it is a holistic person-centred, multi-agency service. 

Mary (not her real name) is a young female who was living at home. When assessed by TSS staff, and through working with the mental health multi-disciplinary team it was evident that home life was impacting her mental health negatively. With support, this young person secured private rented accommodation. 

Support

As this was her first tenancy, support was required regarding entitlements, budgeting and maintaining her home. After Mary settled into her new home, she began to explore attending college and secured a place on an Arts course. Staff supported her with college application, and has since been successfully closed to TSS.

Another service user John (not his real name) was fearful of living independently and had limited skills developed for this change in his life. He had lived with family or in supported living all his life. Through practising budgeting, confidence building and planning, John was able to proceed with moving out of supported living. John now lives independently and reports a greater quality of life.

John gets help from family but has developed skills such as how to pay bills, do his banking, maintain his home and has established a routine. This has been very beneficial in terms of personal development. John is now seeking more social engagement and is very focused on addressing ‘social challenges’ as he wishes to engage more with others.

Through Service Reform Funding in 2018, mental health services in the Mid-West got an opportunity to introduce the TSS staff, employed by Focus Ireland, to two CMHTs in North Tipperary.

A key priority of the project was that the TSS staff would be fully integrated with the multidisciplinary teams based in Nenagh and Thurles.

Key workers

The TSS staff act as key workers to service users with the ultimate aim of resettling the person to permanent, independent living in the community with or without supports.

In November 2018 Mid-West Mental Health Services also appointed a Housing Coordinator for Mental Health Services for the region. The post of Housing co-ordinator, in collaboration with the tenancy support project, provided the opportunity to meet effectively the housing needs of people who experience mental health difficulties.

A recent evaluation of the service has indicated that since the introduction of the TSS role to the CMHT, the housing needs of service users have been addressed successfully. The project workers are supporting service users to settle into new accommodation and sustain their tenancies. The service is providing unique housing solutions for service users and is preventing homelessness during times of family crises and social support breakdown.

Life skills

By assessing all aspects of their lives, the service is supporting service users to build life-skills and access community-based supports which enables them to live independently and aids their recovery within the community, under the care of the CMHT.

Service users have become more empowered, confident and connected with their communities since availing of the service. Based on a comparison of data received from the HSE, hospital admissions for service users availing of the service has significantly reduced. Also contacts made by service users to crisis services have considerably reduced.

The relationships that the TSS staff have built with agencies external to the CMHT have been invaluable in terms of access to housing and other supports.