How co-locating relevant services helps put individuals’ needs at the heart of any thinking
Me and My Learning, Melton Borough Council
Melton Borough Council’s Me and My Learning Programme (M&ML) supports people in securing sustainable employment by helping them to develop skills, reduce debt and become healthier. With over 20 different partners involved, it’s an exemplar of collaborative working and cross-agency information sharing. M&ML is further evidence that, by co-locating relevant services, you foster an environment which puts an individual’s needs at the very heart of any thinking.
There are wide-ranging barriers which affect someone’s independence and ultimately their employability. These can range from drug and alcohol abuse through to homelessness and debt.
Overcoming these barriers can be a complex process, which involves many different services including external organisations. Recognising this, Melton Council adopted a person-centric approach to put the emphasis firmly on collaboration. However, due to the lack of co-location, this was still quite tricky to coordinate.
Engagement and Action
Senior figures at the council were already keen advocates of early intervention, co-location and collaborative working. Following a devastating fire in 2008, the council set out a vision, which included the development of a new office for its 170 staff, along with 11 public and third sector partners. In 2011, the Parkside building was opened, which has since been instrumental in helping residents to transform their lives and reduce their dependence on the public purse.
With a fair degree of confidence, it was decided that partners of the M&ML programme would also be housed at a single location, namely Phoenix House.
Partners include: Adult Learning Leicestershire, CAN - Drug & Alcohol Support, Clockwise Credit Union, CSCS card training, Family Voices, Let's Talk Wellbeing, Loughborough College, Tenants Awareness Training, The Prince's Trust, Remploy, Working Links, Work Pays and Voluntary Action Leicestershire.
The decision to integrate these services has been instrumental to the success of the programme, as Dave McKenlay from M&ML explains: “By coordinating a wide range of organisations under one umbrella we’re helping the agencies to work together and helping people on an individual basis, rather than just signposting them and keeping our fingers crossed. The payback for us as a local authority is that the more independent the individuals are the less they rely on our services which carries a clear cost benefit”.
In practice, following an initial referral, triage is carried out by the service where the individual has presented themselves. This exercise gathers an array of information relating to their needs, motivators and self-esteem. If, during this conversation, any specific requirements are identified, then a personalised programme is created which may involve several partners.
Beyond this, as someone progresses through the programme, the collaborative nature of M&ML makes it simple for mentors to cross-refer to one another. The whole concept of cross-referrals, along with the sharing of information, has been a hugely positive aspect of the programme.
Underpinning this new way of working, the council use E-CINS software by social enterprise Empowering-Communities. This enables data to be shared securely between partners and puts the emphasis on the requirements of each individual, enabling people to tell their story once and not multiple times as is normal practice when accessing public services, this is particularly challenging when there is a mental health issue involved.
Dave McKenlay states: “E-CINS allows us to actively manage people’s progress and journeys through M&ML and also provide significantly more detailed and richer data than our previous spreadsheet- based system. Our Caseworkers coordinate the activities between all our partner organisations including drug and alcohol teams, money advice and employment advisors and we actively work with these providers to monitor the individual’s progress across a whole range of issues. We use a Red, Amber, Green system to rate clients according to complexity and E-CINS allows us to balance and manage the workload more efficiently”.
M&ML continues to be received extremely well by residents and 153 people have moved into employment as a direct result. This is quite an achievement given that over 70% of those referred face four or more complex issues in their lives. The programme has also moved more people closer to work with around 300 training activities or qualifications being undertaken.
But, as Dave McKenlay explains, it’s the area of early intervention that’s perhaps the most promising. “We have seen the level of contacts with our customer services team reduce, suggesting people are more independent. We also see people receiving support at a point where they may have issues, but those issues aren’t yet severe enough to trigger statutory services”.
Keith Aubrey, Strategic Director at Melton, added “M&ML has shown what is possible if you are prepared to challenge and change the way services are delivered to people who face challenges in their lives. It has developed into an important strategic facility for the council and is a major contributor to our successful approach of reducing demand”.
Comments from residents also really bring home the success of the programme:
“The guys at Phoenix House have been extremely helpful, understanding and supportive in getting me back on my feet finding work”.
“Phoenix House has brought my inner self out. I have found the real me again. All my talents have come alive”. “Jane, you have changed my life completely”.
Me and My Learning Melton Borough Council