As part of my job I get asked to speak at a lot of events. While I’m always flattered to be asked, more often than not I turn them down because sometimes we speak so much about topics like this that the conversation becomes circular . My career has been built on doing, rather than speaking, and making stuff happen on the front line. I like to be in the thick of it, rather than preaching to a choir of like-minded people at events who already have a rough idea of what needs to be done to see the change we are all looking for.
But when I was given an opportunity recently to speak to the Public Policy Exchange about the Troubled Families programme, I took it. The Troubled Families programme wraps up in 2020, and seeing the end of another large scale funding scheme come really made me reflect. ‘Programme’ gives the impression it has been one, linear piece of work, but as any of us working in this sector knows, there have been lots of different approaches, different funding pots, and different cohorts. One day a young person or family might be eligible for support, and the next they suddenly aren’t. Their need hasn’t changed, but what they can access has.
Whoever we are, we all need the same things to be happy
If I was going to have the ear of the converted, they were going to hear something I truly believe in. I hijacked the topic (sorry, Public Policy Exchange!) and talked about what happens when we get too hung up on classifications, and forget that we all fundamentally need the same things to live a full and happy life.
I spoke about the fact that what people need never changes, despite the classifications and distinctions that services and structures make between us. Whoever we are, rich or poor or old or young, we all need the same three things to thrive: good people around us, a good place to live and a purpose in life (the 3Ps as we call them).
Good people around us
I started my career at Catch22 as 17 year old volunteer whilst working in jobs across the public sector. Through my career as a Youth Worker in the public and third sector, through to my role today as Chief Operating Officer, the one thing that can change someone’s life is having someone alongside them that they trust. And yet, how many contracts measure this? How many contracts ask a service user to rate their trust in the people working with them?
Key worker, core family worker, support worker- contractual formalities aside these all basically mean the same thing: someone fighting your corner. We know that consistency is what helps bring about lasting change for those we work with, just as it does in our own lives. And if we know that the quality of relationships is the thing which brings about change, we need to mandate this in services, and prioritise it and above how many visits we’ve had, how many forms we’ve filled in.
Some things change, but some things never will
Of course it’s so important to ensure what we deliver is fit for purpose, and to evaluate the success of our work as we go. Events like the one I spoke at make sure we’re learning, evolving and changing along with social need. This is all essential, but I wanted to make the point that some things stay the same, and that they’re universal.
Talking about thresholds and areas of need are necessary for services to function practically. But we must always remember that people who use services and people who deliver them aren’t that different and, though our lives may look very different on the surface, everyone wants the same things. ‘Troubled ‘or not- we all need the 3Ps.