A partnership between Homelessness NSW,
Domestic Violence NSW and Yfoundations

Partnership - Inner City Service for Women with Complex needs between B Miles Women's Foundation, Community Restorative Centre and Detour House Inc.

Excellence in Ending Homelessness - Diverse Groups Nominee

Partnership - Inner City Service for Women with Complex needs between B Miles Women's Foundation, Community Restorative Centre and Detour House Inc.

Please give your reasons for nominating this partnership.

The Inner City Service for Women with Complex Needs (ICSWCN) was established in 2014 in recognition of the significant need for specialist women’s services in a rapidly shifting service sector landscape.  The ICSWCN is a new partnership between three long-standing specialist women’s services; B Miles Women’s Foundation (for women impacted by mental ill-health), Community Restorative Centre (for women involved with the criminal justice system) and Detour House Inc. (for women recovering from substance dependency). The establishment of this service was founded on the understanding that too often women with multiple and complex needs fall through the gaps in the service landscape, because of their complexity of need.  As a consequence, this population often also end up being ‘managed’ in institutional and criminal justice system settings, rather than being supported into the community. The nomination of this service is intended to highlight the significant work that has been achieved over the last three years, but also to draw attention to the remarkable outcomes that are possible when highly vulnerable women are given the opportunity to access specialist support.
The ICSWCN has built robust pathways across a number of sectors in order to ensure that clients of the service benefit from cross-sector collaboration particularly with health and justice agencies. The consortium understands that for highly vulnerable women, casework and support requires a holistic approach which importantly does not shy away from advocacy in terms of facilitating access to services. The ICSWCN also recognises the importance of engaging with women while they are inside institutional settings in order to assist in successful transition.  To this end the consortium has developed an innovative best-practice approach to working with women at risk of homelessness - but who are also at risk of criminal justice system involvement, in-patient institutionalisation and relapse into problematic AOD use.

What outcomes were delivered as a result of this partnership?

The ICSWCN has consistently exceeded its targets both in terms of the numbers of women supported, and the outcomes for the women participating in ICSWCN programs and services. In 2016/2017, ICSWCN supported 670 clients with multiple and complex needs. Of the women supported leaving custody, only 8% returned to prison.  Given the comparable recidivism rate for this population hovers around 80%, this is a remarkable achievement. 

The key success of ICSWCN has been advocacy for sustainable housing for women who in many cases have never sustained tenancies.  The majority of women experiencing homelessness who were supported by ICSWCN over the last 3 years are now on a pathway to sustainable housing. The service is assisting women to not only stay out of prison and hospital, but also to build productive and meaningful lives in the community.

ICSWCN’s achievements extend beyond the services provided, and relate to the role that ICSWCN has taken within the sector in terms of information sharing and capacity building. ICSWCN partners provide regular workshops and training to multiple agency partners to share innovative best practice models, and build the capacity of all agencies to adopt best-practice approaches to working with complex needs homeless women.

Reference statement:

Alex Greenwich, Member for Sydney

I write to support the nomination of the Inner City Service for Women with Complex Needs (ICSWCN) for the SHS Good Practice Awards and commend the organisation’s essential and inspired work.
As a consortium of service providers in the homelessness sector, ICSWCN provides a range of essential specialist services to women across inner Sydney, many of whom are the most vulnerable and marginalised in our community.
I work with ICSWCN agencies in advocating to government for specialist service funding within the homelessness sector. Agencies responding to vulnerable women require strong linkages and pathways to a range of sectors and services, not only to resolve housing crises but to also address physical and mental health concerns, substance dependency or legal problems.  
ICSWCN works with large numbers of marginalised women across the Sydney electorate and surrounding suburbs. These services make a valued contribution to resolving the diverse and often multiple problems faced by women with complex needs. 
The ICSWCN early intervention service model means agencies can engage with women before they leave institutions or inpatient facilities to plan and support their transition into the community. Holistic early intervention service models represent best practice and are essential for the women who need support and the communities they live in. 
ICSWCN’s specialisation on the needs of vulnerable women allows these agencies to establish areas of expertise and become proficient at supporting clients with multiple complex needs.
It is my experience that the specialised services within ICSWCN are often smaller, independent and localised, allowing them to be progressive and adaptive in their service models. The services have an outstanding record of good practice and I hope their smaller size with fewer employees and smaller voting network does not disadvantage their opportunity for recognition under the SHS Good Practice Awards. 
Through my work on behalf of vulnerable women in the Sydney Electorate, I have seen not only the excellent service the organisation provides, but the positive outcomes achieved for the women who seek their support. I am pleased to support the nomination for a SHS Good Practice Award. 
Yours sincerely
Alex Greenwich