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Could this man help to break cycle of homelessness in Ipswich?

PUBLISHED: 14:53 18 July 2018 | UPDATED: 14:53 18 July 2018

Jonathan Dickson, Senior Mental Health Practitioner with NSFT, who is leading a new project to improve access to mental healthcare for rough sleepers  Picture: NHS NORFOLK AND SUFFOLK

Jonathan Dickson, Senior Mental Health Practitioner with NSFT, who is leading a new project to improve access to mental healthcare for rough sleepers Picture: NHS NORFOLK AND SUFFOLK

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Rough sleepers in Ipswich and Suffolk Coastal will be given dedicated mental health support as part of a bid to break the cycle of homelessness.

Jonathan Dickson, Senior Mental Health Practitioner with NSFT, who is leading a new project to improve access to mental healthcare for rough sleepers  Picture: NHS NORFOLK AND SUFFOLKJonathan Dickson, Senior Mental Health Practitioner with NSFT, who is leading a new project to improve access to mental healthcare for rough sleepers Picture: NHS NORFOLK AND SUFFOLK

Homeless shelters in the area believe the year-long pilot project, launched by the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), will make a dramatic difference in lifting people out of homelessness and reducing numbers of people sleeping on the streets.

Senior mental health worker Jonathan Dickson will work with the Rough Sleeping Project to assess people who are not already involved with mental health services.

They will then be given short-term support to help address any underlying mental health conditions which may be contributing to their situations, with the long-term aim of helping them to access mainstream services.

“Many rough sleepers tend to bounce around between different services,” said Mr Dickson.

“They can be very complex, chaotic and spend a lot of time in crisis.

He went on to say: “Although the role will be challenging, it also has the potential to make a real difference to people’s health and wellbeing, which in turn could reduce the numbers sleeping rough by helping them into stable, permanent homes or by preventing them from rough sleeping in the first place.”

Julia Hancock, business manager of Selig (Suffolk) Trust - the charity behind the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter and Ipswich Hope into Action - said: “We’re really excited about the difference he can make.

“It’s the missing piece of the jigsaw and we’re really excited about having it.

“For a lot of people who find themselves homeless, mental health issues have been a contributing factor - so to have that professional working on that with us is crucial.

“If underlying mental health issues have contributed to someone’s homelessness, you can provide a home but if they haven’t got support, chances are they’ll struggle to maintain a tenancy.”

The pilot, which began at the start of this month, has been made possible after Ipswich Borough Council and Suffolk Coastal District Council successfully secured funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Mr Dickson’s first priority will be to work with other organisations to identify the level of need and barriers to these individuals getting help for their mental health. He also plans to complete thorough assessments and offer short-term interventions for people who are either already sleeping rough or at a high risk of doing so, with the aim of enabling them to access mainstream mental health services.

In addition, Mr Dickson will assist other organisations, such as housing support organisations and health outreach services, to support clients with mental health issues.

“I have always been very keen on working with the most disadvantaged, marginalised and hardest to engage people in our community, which is why I applied for this job,” said Mr Dickson, who moved to the role from NSFT’s Access and Assessment Team.

“My aim is to help get them into mainstream services, or to offer support and guidance to the teams already working with this client group.

“I will also be trying to build up trust with individuals and break down the barriers which currently exist so that individuals and services can work together more effectively.

A similar scheme is due to launch in West Suffolk within the next few months, once recruitment has taken place.

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