Monthly Archives: January 2016

PM’s announcement – great news, but how will people find the support?

The Prime Minister’s announcement today about increased investment in parenting, relationships and mental health is greatly welcomed.

Stronger families will lead to stronger communities and let’s see to ensure parents who gain confidence in their role, support their friends to do so too.  We welcome the focus for those parents who need to most help, but let’s not forget there are challenges for all.

Even more important is relationship support.  Relate do an amazing job of providing high quality support to couples, but there is very little else.  Parenting becomes a much harder job when there is not a stable relationship undergirding the family.  We trust that the increased investment will be used for prevention as well as breakdown.

Yet, still there is a fundamental issue being faced by every Local Authority.  How do we make sure information about services is available, up-to-date and accessible.  How do we make sure those in need of support, get the help they need – when they need it? 

It’s a constant challenge and one the CommunityConnect team is working hard to tackle.  We recognise that there are lots of amazing support services that people just don’t know about.  This can be because limited budgets mean organisations don’t have time, expertise or finance to make sure their services are publicised or it can be that they have enough people coming thorugh the door that they don’t need to advertise.

Our drive is to make sure that information can be found easily – especially for the people who are not familiar with ‘the system,’ but find themselves with needs and really don’t know where to turn.  Our goal is to make it possible to get the right support quickly and painlessly, even when you don’t know what is available for you!

We have piloted the CommunityConnect model in Barking & Dagenham – mapping local service and making it very easy for people to find the support they need.  That includes making sure that parents know what support is available and couples know who to turn to – it also highlights the lack of such provision – thus why we welcome David Cameron’s announcement.

We want to make this service available in all Local Authorities, across the UK.  Strengthening families, individuals and the community – joining up what already exists and narrowing the gaps between support services.   

Knowledge Empowers

I recently supported a friend who was struggling to get the help she needed from a mental health service. When she called, she was put on hold or fobbed off and this was causing her great distress.  I offered to call the department for her.  I was slightly removed from the situation, not distressed and armed with knowledge about what she was entitled to.

I was her advocate – it led to us being put through to the right people who were able to get provide the support she needed that week.

Things like this happen all the time.  I can think of times (to my shame) when I’ve been the one on the end of the phone blocking someone! It’s not malicious, it’s just priorities, perception or criteria and sometimes only the people slightly removed can work through that with the ‘blocker’.

So… we need to make sure information about local ‘advocacy’ support is available to people who struggle to get the support they need?    Yes, but maybe we need to keep this professional service for those more complex situations.

Knowledge empowers – imagine something as simple as more people knowing more about what support/help is available and how to get it.  Knowledge empowers and like me with my friend, when we know what we are asking for, it makes it easier to get what we need.  As most of us have experienced, sometimes it’s just too hard to do on our own and so actually, the more people (friends/neighbours/family) who are empowered with knowledge, the more likely an individual will get the help they need.

Equipping the wider community.   My friend needed support from a public service, but actually, at that moment – she really needed help from someone who could make a phone call and understood what support should be available to her.  People are falling through gaps because accurate, up-to-date information is not easily accessible.  It’s just not okay!

No one ‘owns’ general information, I get that, but let’s make sure as service providers, we don’t become complacent or arrogant thinking people can easily find us.  Let’s own our specific information and make sure it is published accurately.  Then maybe, just maybe we can reduce the gaps ensuring a problem doesn’t become a crisis for those we serve.

So my call to you – the service providers is let’s do our part in sharing information to the wider community.  And my challenge to you – the wider community – be ready to be that friend when you meet someone too overwhelmed to do it alone.  

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