A pilot scheme offering a ‘stepping stone’ for mental health service users, who are ready for discharge from health services but still awaiting a permanent home, has been extended after saving a local NHS trust over £500,000 in just 30 weeks.

The Step-Down Transition service, designed to ease pressure on the NHS is a partnership between Hertfordshire based Hightown Housing Association and Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (HPFT).

The project was launched in January 2018 after HPFT successfully secured funding from NHS England and partnered with local supported housing provider Hightown. The service is now set to run until March 2019.

Jess Lievesley, Director of Service Delivery and Customer Experience at HPFT said:
“They key focus of the model is to provide an interim place for our services users to stay, before a permanent home is found for them, where they can also be supported to live independently. The benefits to service user recovery have been significant and I am delighted the service has been extended to March next year.

The Step-Down model allows the mental health trust to refer service users to Hightown’s supported accommodation, where they stay for approximately two to three months while they prepare to move into permanent housing.

The support offered includes budgeting advice; registering with local GP services; help accessing welfare, benefits and education and integrating into the community. Residents are given private bedrooms and have use of communal kitchens, lounge and garden areas.

This interim service has allowed service users who have suffered with serious mental health problems to make a successful transition back into independent living through a phased, ‘step-down’ approach. Hightown and HPFT are saving local NHS services up to £500 per day - the typical daily cost of prolonged stays.

Dave Black, Director of Care and Supported Housing for Hightown Housing Association said:
“The Step-Down service is a positive example of how partnership working can bring significant benefits both to public services and to the individuals who use them. We are pleased that the pilot has been extended and look forward to continuing to work closely with HPFT, as we strive to continue to not only bring about cost savings but to help people reintegrate back into their communities and find a permanent home to call their own.”

Gavin, a current service user, was living on his own when his landlord put the rent up to an unaffordable rate and he had to move out. Due to the stress of trying to find somewhere else to live and worrying about money, he had a breakdown and was sectioned. After a six month stay in hospital, he moved into the Step-Down Transition service.

“Nobody knows me here so it’s like having a clean slate. It’s a nice quiet area and has given me the time and space I need to get my focus back and concentrate on being well.

“The staff are all very helpful and supportive. If I’m worrying about anything, I can always have a chat or ask for advice. I’m going to be moving out to my own place in a couple of weeks. Once I get settled, it will be a good step forward move for me.”