How can we make it work more effectively?
By Louise Duncan
The pressures of reduced funding, inefficiencies incurred through multiple agencies supporting a single beneficiary, and the confusion in accessing support, calls for commissioners and providers to develop programmes which will create more effective integration of services.
But what does this mean for providers of employability services? How can we effectively engage and co join service provision to improve service provision?
My four years as chair of the Work Programme, Six Primes Strategic Group in London, created out of a desire to offer a simpler solution (i.e. as a collective), to engage and drive the join up of complimentary service provision, gave me insight into effective partnership. Here is what I learned:
It’s the age-old problem: people’s prejudices are often based on ignorance. Taking time to understand each other’s service offering and desired outcomes will build knowledge and open dialogue to align provision. Further still, staff training of services and creating a single point of contact in each organisation, will cement relationships and drive a greater desire to work together. Easier communication will reduce the risk of those falling out of provision and enhance the chances of the beneficiary completing both programmes and of achieving their desired outcomes.
2) Create an incentive:
Most often the funding to deliver the specialist support is limited and any help to improve outcomes may be well received. As a larger provider interested in accessing complimentary funding, we should consider what we can offer in receipt of this support. This could include access to other funding streams we may possess or through our supply chains; national employer solutions/ vacancies to drive job outcomes; offering partnership opportunities through other contracts. Forming this type of relationship will allow us to become a more trusting and attractive strategic partner. We in turn will benefit through the development of a quality specialist service to build into our future supply chain.
3) Make co location work:
Physically being in the same location does not make a perfect partnership. A joint working agreement which includes the points above, (i.e. education and incentives) along with agreement of joint outcomes; regular meetings to measure success and development of strategies for continuous improvement will lead to more effective joint working.
4) Lobby to create a universal data sharing policy:
I understand the legal challenges data sharing brings, particularly around ownership and working with vulnerable citizens. However, a set of guiding principles, developed at senior level across all government departments would allow for greater engagement at ground level and more effective partnership in joint planning support for the individual. I understand work is being done in government to ease this issue, however we have an opportunity to use our collective voice at this time to drive this as a priority.
5) The customer comes first!
It’s obvious, but often lost in the politics and protection of funding. We have a duty as public servants to support the beneficiary before our own interests. Therefore, consider primarily how service join up will benefit the individual and use this as the principle guiding tool to engage and plan joint working principles. This will develop a more effective and beneficial partnership for all.
Louise Duncan is an independent consultant specialising in solution design, stakeholder engagement and partnership development across the Welfare, Health, Justice and Skills sectors.