The London Housing Foundation provides support to organisations working with the homeless in a number of ways. Often this is with a grant, but sometimes what an organisation needs is expert advice and help. We have supported the London Network of Nurses and Midwives (LNNM) Homelessness Group for a number of years by sponsoring their conference. However, after a period of success and growth they requested some consultancy support to help them decide on their strategic development. We asked Samantha Dorney-Smith of the network to tell us how this went.
The London Network of Nurses and Midwives (LNNM) Homelessness Group was set up in 1999. The network brings together nurses, midwives, health visitors, and some health support workers and allied professionals working in inclusion health roles across London. This includes staff working in specialist homeless health services, addictions services, infectious disease services, maternity and homeless office environments.
The LNNM stopped receiving any NHS funding in 2007. Despite this the network has continued, primarily due to the enthusiasm of the membership, and the perceived need to share best practice, work as one service, and support individuals and services delivering highly autonomous healthcare in often quite isolated situations. The network has also done some very useful lobbying work in the last few years, and the opinions of the network are much valued. However, staff often struggle to get released for meetings, and have often given considerable voluntary time to e.g. respond to consultations on behalf of the network.
Since 2014 the LNNM has also run an annual conference to support its membership. The last conference was attended by almost 250 delegates, and received excellent feedback. The delivery of those conferences has been enabled by the generous financial support of the London Housing Foundation. However, the delivery of the conference also does create a considerable amount of voluntary work.
At the end of the 2017 conference it was felt that the future of the LNNM needed to be considered. Whilst there was obviously a clear need, the amount of voluntary time required to keep it going was largely unsustainable. It felt like we were at a crossroads: did we continue as a voluntary group and scale our activities accordingly, or was it possible to look at a different route that would support our aims more effectively?
At this point the London Housing Foundation stepped in again to offer some consultancy time to support a process of reflection.
Having the support of the expert business development consultant has been invaluable. Although sustainability has come up as a discussion issue repeatedly over the years, just having the consultant to assess, analyse and drive our thinking has enabled a clear focus to be put on the issue.
Following a series of discussions, an options paper has been produced, and a workshop has been run with the main stakeholders. Many of the stakeholders have since been much more supportive e.g. offering free meeting space, and promoting network activities. NHS England have also shown a renewed interest, and may be providing a small amount of funding for a year of certificated CPD delivery within meetings, and leadership training. A small grant has also been won from the Burdett Nursing Foundation for network development.
A small steering group has been created with the consultant attending and we are now considering the organisation structure. After due collective consideration, and on our behalf the consultant is now looking into the possibility of the LNNM gaining charitable status.
Ultimately having the consultant work with us has led to the network feeling more supported and has stopped the potential group burn out that could have happened. We now have a renewed positivity and sense of purpose. This is a major achievement in what is frankly a fairly difficult NHS and voluntary sector environment.
If your organisation could benefit from some expert advice and input, talk to the LHF by contacting Cassandra.firstname.lastname@example.org