RCM joins royal colleges calling for better support of homeless people

on 28 October 2019

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has joined other royal colleges and homeless charities in a call for mandatory training in supporting homeless people.

RCM and The Royal College of Physicians, along with 5 other medical colleges, and homeless charities have come together to call on the UK Government to urgently address the needs of homeless people.

The organisations have joined forces as a collective response to the government’s consultation on the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA), which says the NHS has a duty to refer homeless patients to their local housing authority.

Professional Policy advisor at RCM, Clare Livingstone, said: “Homelessness is a real and growing issue; everyday midwives and other health professionals working in our NHS are caring for people who are vulnerable in our society and we need to ensure we are collectively supporting them in the right way.”

Since the act’s implementation in 2017, it is still unclear whether the HRA mandate is having any real impact. Some evidence suggests that implementation has been patchy, with some NHS staff not receiving the appropriate training.

The call to government includes:

  • Collecting and publish data on the implementation of the HRA (2017) to get a clear understanding of whether the act is working
  • Provide mandatory training resources to NHS staff such as identifying homeless patients and those at risk of homelessness, how to approach the subject with patients and getting their consent, and what information to use to provide useful referral
  • Tackling wider structural barriers, such as lack of affordable housing, and funding for local addiction and alcohol support services.

In March this year, RCM published new guidance for midwives on supporting pregnant women who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

The guidance recommends midwives and maternity support workers as women about their housing situation, if they feel a woman is at risk, at least four times during their pregnancy – their first midwife appointment, at 28 weeks, at 36 weeks and on discharge after birth.