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The Impact of Austerity

The Challenges to Implementing PIE

”It’s not about the money,” Jessie J sang to us in 2011” it’s not about the money, money, money” I don’t think she was talking about PIE but she could have been. You don’t need an injection of cash to become a psychologically informed, trauma responsive environment.  

Ok, let’s be honest. It would help. It’s always useful to have additional funds to support new interventions and approaches. But. Fundamentally PIE is a change in mindset, a shift in how we understand and respond to emotions and behaviours we can find challenging or consider too “high risk” to manage.  

“Psychologically informed environments are intended to help staff and services understand where these behaviours are coming from, and so to be able to work more creatively and constructively with people with so-called challenging behaviours.” 2012 PIE Guidance

Traditionally, comments Amanda Skeate, psychologist working with St Basils, we have tended to support emotional dysregulation within invalidating environments. Instead, she continues, we need to make an individual feel safe and understood, support them to learn positive relational skills and coping techniques, through validating or enabling environments.

 A validating environment provides understanding and acceptance of another’s internal experiences, teaches and reinforces positive learning, provides opportunity for positive experiences and promotes reflection. Would it be unfair, to use Jessie J’s term, and say that these things can be achieved, at least to some extent, without a price tag?

In 2011 the Making Every Adult Matter coalition asked organisations to take a different approach to working with people experiencing multiple difficulties. Despite the lack of additional funding forty areas across the UK expressed interest, indicating a genuine desire in the sector to do something different.

Without doubt the passion and commitment of people working in the homeless sector is what keep the fires burning. But, as numbers and needs rise, as other services raise their criteria thresholds, we need to take an honest look at how to end rough sleeping and homelessness by buoying up this resilience and good will as opposed to relying on it. Whether this will come from the governments rough sleeping strategy is unclear.

The Local Government Association report that the 2018 strategy has, “a heavily centralised approach, introducing numerous, nationally-controlled and disparate pots of funding. This stops short of giving local authorities the strategic influence needed for them to effectively tackle all forms of homelessness in a coherent, joined-up way,” and that “half of the £100 million committed within the Strategy has been announced previously; the other half will be re-prioritised from existing budgets within the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government”.

So, what do we do in the interim? A few key thoughts on implementing PIE and becoming trauma informed without additional funding are;

1. Acknowledge the complexity of issues staff are having to deal with and provide regular opportunities for “time out” and reflection.

2. Reduce paperwork, duplication and traditional targets. Talk to your commissioners and negotiate how you can provide different outcomes if they are more flexible in their expectations, monitoring and evaluation.

3. Identify free resources and opportunities which are available to you – maybe a student psychology placement or looking internally for specialist skills and knowledge which can be shared. Create communities of practice, share the learning.

4. Become a smart, lean, PIE machine – review how you currently spend your organisational time. Where and how can this be re-prioritised?

5. Random acts of kindness  - to each other. We all need to feel validated and valued, small demonstrations of compassion can work wonders.