The ‘classic’ formulation emerges

Here we next explore the more 'in-depth' and 'operational' guidance, 'Psychologically Informed Services for homeless people', which was produced by the same team that had written the original "complex trauma' guidance; and subsequently developed further through the PIEs Managed Innovation Network seminar series, and finally the assessment and implementation guidance for services, commissioned by Westminster City Council.


'Psychologically informed services' was co-authored by Helen Keats, Peter Cockersell, Robin Johnson and Nick Maguire, as the follow up to the original DCLG/NMHDU guidance, more commonly known as the 'complex trauma guide". In it they attempted to give further examples of the kinds of services that they saw as constructive; and to outline more clearly the contours of a 'psychologically informed environment'.  This document gives the first fully elaborated account of the main themes of a PIE:

  • (Using) A psychological model
  • (Working with) The built environment and its social spaces
  • (Stressing) Staff training and support
  • (Focusing on) Managing relationships
  • Measuring Outcomes 

And through out all these, it is stressed, reflective practice, seen as the 'Golden Road' to creative, responsive services.

(NB: for a somewhat fuller account of this, the 'classic' formulation, see the one page excerpt from Johnson's chapter for the forthcoming book by Jay Levy; or the 10 minute video, "A Handy Guide to Being a PIE"; or the Westminster guide, discussed below.)


Through 2013 and 2014 a series of local workshops were then held across the country - from Durham to Exeter - to explain and explore these ideas, and also to hear about creative local practice, as part of the University of Nottingham's Managed Innovation Networks mental health research programme.

In the course of this programme, which aimed to build bridges between researchers and frontline providers, the 5th principle, that of 'Measuring Outcomes', gradually widened and became translated into 'Evidence Generating Practice'. This had two main implications: that measured outcomes were not the only or even the principle form of evidence, and more subjective and qualitative judgements could also aim for greater objectivity; and also that services should treat all forms of evidence as feedback on 'what works", as part of their own 'action learning'. Formal, research evidence of a kind that might be published was put on a par with the learning of the organisation itself.


Many providers nevertheless continued to ask for a more hands-on, immediately practical guide to development. In 2015, therefore Westminster City Council - one of a number of local authorities that had by then decided to put the PIE framework at the heart of future local commissioning for homelessness support services - invited Claire Ritchie (of No One Left Out Solutions, and formerly a commissioner herself) was asked to produce a further 'assessment and implementation' guide.

This guide, with copious examples of very practical steps that services might make - and that commissioners might expect to see -  was produced with extensive consultation with commissioners, frontline services and researchers, and it used the (by now standard) 5-theme framework (ie: with reflective practice seen as pervasive, rather than described as a distinctive sixth element)

However, there were two small changes: the term 'psychological model’ is changed to somewhat broader ‘psychological framework”; and the awkward term 'managing' in 'Managing Relationships' is dropped, so that this element is here identified with a commitment to putting relationships at the centre of all a PIE services' work. 

NB: in a teach-in series that Ritchie subsequently ran for HomelessLink, Claire has suggested a still more slimline version, with one word titles for each of the key themes. For this, she drops both the 'managing' in 'Managing Relationships', and the 'built' in "Built Environment', to give a very easy to recall acronym, PETER, meaning: Psychology, Environment, Training, Evidence, Relationships.


For more developments at the boundaries of the PIE account, now see the next section, on newly emerging areas