The overall view of practitioners who work in a strength-based way was that whilst it is not easy, there are clear benefits for the individual and the practitioner.  Key to this was a  trusting relationship, the person having choice and control, understanding the context of their situation, the language used, and the focus on people building an identity outside of problem-defined services, managing their own risks and being able to determine their own path out of the current situation, accessing the support they needed on their own terms.

The barriers encountered by both practitioner and the individual included lack of understanding and organisational commitment to strength-based working, target driven funding and commissioning of services, sector expectations to fix and manage people, the perception of strength-based working being the softer or nicer side of working within homelessness, and as such being an add in to the deficit-based environment.

So how can practitioners and organisations respond to this?

  1. Trusting practitioners – It requires time, listening and reflecting with the person at the beginning of the relationship in order to facilitate the shift from reliance on services to self-belief and the ability to transition out of a tough time. Practitioners need to be trusted and to be able to share the learning and impact of strength-based working within their own organisation and with their funders.

  2. Organisational culture and commitment – Whilst there may be compromises due to funding, current systems or structural issues, organisations can learn more from practitioners and those they support. Organisations can support this way of being e.g adapting policies and procedures, use of language, funding applications which detail the benefits and behaviours of strength-based working.

  3. Funding  – Some organisations have responded to reporting requirments by reporting on strength-based outcomes and impact alongside their other reports, this sparks interest in funders and can lead to change, including more meaningful outcomes and data reporting. Learning together with commissioners and funders can bring about meaningful change for both organisations and funders. Practitioners and the voices of people they work with can be invaluable in this learning.

  4. Understanding strength-based work  – There’s a lot to learn from strength-based practitioners and the people they work with – if organisations take the time, create the space, it can benefit everyone.

  5. Housing and support – Organisations could review how they structure their housing management alongside their strength-based support, learning from within and from others who have made changes in how these services are aligned/delivered. Where systems present people with barriers, practitioners and the people they work with need to be supported to challenge what doesn’t work. Organisations can come together as allies to highlight what doesn’t work and what they have learnt by doing things differently.

  6. Fixing – If you take the time to listen to people they can come up with their own solutions and strength-based working can reduce the reliance on services. It’s not always easy, organisations could provide practitioners the space to reflect and learn as they work in this way. Practitioners could share the impact with other organisations as a way of influencing wider change and understanding.

  7. Risk – You may want to review your approach to risk, be honest about what is for the benefit of the organisation and what is a way of working with someone to identify what they need to feel safe. Reflect on how we all take risks and how your approach to people receiving services may be different to that for people outside of homelessness, social care or other systems.

  8. System challenges – Systems and services are under pressure, they can be difficult to navigate, people may give up and feel that everything is a battle. Strength-based working can be an opportunity to enable people to understand the context of their experiences, to keep going as opposed to giving up and feeling hopeless. Practitioners and organisations can do the same, to channel their frustrations and support each other through both understanding each others context whilst also challenging where needed.

  9. Being Strength-based brings passion into the work – There’s a set of behaviours which are part of strength-based working.  Both practioners and organisations can explore what this would look like for them, and what support structures they can put in place for what is often challenging but impactful and rewarding work.                                                                                                       

“Strength-based work should be the norm. It makes no sense that we even have to say that.”

If these Wisdoms have sparked a fire in your soul and you’d like to join us, please get in touch for a chat: or click below to download the full report.