Not about us without us
Client involvement in supported housing
By Mike Seal

To see sections of this book in a PDF, please click here.

For agencies, workers and clients, this important new book builds on existing guidance - especially Supporting People's A Guide for Client Involvement, to which it is an invaluable companion. It offers theoretical insight and practical help with developing client involvement in running and advising on existing provision of supported housing, campaigning for change, and creating new services. It emphasises: the importance of champions, commitment from senior management, independent advocacy, and the need for agencies to be open to ideas about changing their structures.

  • The first section, for anyone looking at client involvement strategically, considers rationales, policy, and lessons from other sectors.
  • The second and third sections - photocopiable when undertaking specified work - look at barriers faced when structuring involvement and managing power relations between clients and workers; and offer detailed suggestions for developing non-prescriptive practice.

  • Addressing what has been an area of weakness in supported housing for historical, cultural and practical reasons, the suggested approaches can significantly improve: clients' quality of life; organisations' effectiveness; funding of projects linked to Quality Assessment Framework for Supporting People, Housing Corporation's charter mark, tenant participation compacts for registered social landlords, and Best Value for local authorities.

    Bridging the gap between practice guides and academic works - and directly focussed on work in supported housing - this book can help in work with: people who have been homeless; rough sleepers; ex-offenders; people at risk of offending and imprisonment; people with a physical or sensory disability; people at risk of domestic violence; people with alcohol and drug problems; teenage parents; elderly people; young people at risk; people with HIV or AIDS; people with learning difficulties; travellers; homeless families with support needs.

    More than having token clients on management committees, a more radical vision of client involvement is given from a client perspective: "We should fight it, fix it, escape it and replace it". Clients need to be involved in campaigning for changes in services (fighting it); advising them on remedying what they are doing wrong (fixing it); creating alternative spaces for clients to recover and discuss ideas (escaping it); and setting up their own initiatives (replacing it).

    Against these aims Seal discusses: ingrained cynicism resulting from a bad history of client involvement; the chance that client involvement will develop unpredictably, and even negatively initially; the presence of different, and sometimes conflicting, motivations from different stakeholders; and the sometimes unacknowledged ideologies that underpin how agencies often negatively view their clients.
    But, powerfully in support of client involvement, and helpfully about how to make progress, this book shows: how agencies can work towards redressing the balance of power in favour of the clients; how workers and clients can to see each other as allies; that effective client involvement takes time, commitment and resources… and acceptance that fundamental changes will ensue in how agencies function and relate to clients.

    A4 paperback. 160 pages. 978-1-905541-25-6. published 2008. £29.95


    Practitioners, activists, policy-makers, researchers, academics and students in housing, homelessness, offender management and social work, particularly those involved or interested in government projects such as Supporting People in England and Wales.


    Introduction: what is client involvement in supported housing?
    Rationales for, histories of and policy background for client involvement.
    Why client involvement: developing a rationale
    Client involvement in context: lessons to be learnt from developments in social housing and other care sectors
    Policy imperatives and supporting people
    Barriers against, principles underpinning and the power dynamics of client involvement
    Barriers to client involvement in supported housing
    Principles behind effective involvement in supported housing
    Making sense of structures: power, influence and managing stakeholder interests
    Processes of, levels of and methods for client involvement.
    The process of involvement: organisational change and initiative development
    Levels of involvement: the breadth and depth of involvement
    Methods and techniques for involvement
    Conclusion: reflections on training on client involvement
    Appendix: resources on client involvement


    Mike Seal
    is a Senior Lecturer in Informal and Community Education and programme director for the Advanced Professional Certificate in Working with Homeless People at the YMCA George Williams College in East London. He has worked in the supported housing field for 18 years as a front line worker, trainer and development worker in a variety of settings. He is the author of Resettling Homeless People: Theory and Practice (RHP 2005), Working with Homeless People: A Training Manual (RHP 2006) and Understanding and responding to homeless experiences, cultures and identities (RHP 2007).


    "Provides guidance to everyone involved in working in the sector, and helps turn insight into quality service delivery. This book will be useful both for novices to this area, with its good overview and explanation of basic concepts and approaches, and more expert readers for whom it is an excellent resource." Addiction Today.