Dochas Service Evaluation

Dochas Service Evaluation

Operated by CrossReach and funded by the Western Isles Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP), the Dochas service offers practical support and advice to adults who are seeking recovery from substance use and at risk of homelessness on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. It supports around 20 individuals at any one time and has a staff team of three part-time support workers. The staff work primarily on an outreach basis but have an office base in Stornoway. The vast majority of service users are resident (in either temporary accommodation or independent settled housing) within Stornoway.

The Dochas service aims to prevent homelessness by helping clients to sustain their own tenancy or prepare them for taking up new or short-term tenancies, whilst also helping them address problematic relationships with substances and wider issues in liaison and via joint working with other relevant (statutory and voluntary sector) agencies. The service has been commissioned to provide both emotional and task-based support to enable clients to maintain recovery from substance use and sustain their tenancy. Its remit has evolved in recent years to incorporate a preventative focus as well as an assertive and non-time-limited approach to support delivery in the vein of the principles of Housing First.

This summary report outlines the key findings of an independent evaluation of the Dochas service. The evaluation was conducted by the Institute for Social Policy, Housing and Equalities Research (I-SPHERE) at Heriot-Watt University and was funded by CrossReach. It aimed to gain insight into any potential ‘difference made’ to the lives of people the Dochas service supports with a view to informing its future operation and CrossReach’s response to the client group more generally. It involved a review of literature regarding the effectiveness of assertive outreach services (including but not limited to Housing First) in rural or island contexts, and in-depth interviews with CrossReach staff service users and external stakeholders.


About the Author

Professor Sarah Johnsen is a Professorial Fellow in the Institute for Social Policy, Housing and Equalities Research (I-SPHERE) at Heriot-Watt University.   Much of Sarah’s work focuses on homelessness and related forms of ‘street culture’ (e.g. begging and street drinking).  She has extensive experience in evaluating services for people with experience of severe and multiple disadvantage.  Sarah has been involved in the conduct and review of research on Housing First and related interventions for well over a decade.

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Sarah Johnsen