In the first of a series of blogs, Vic Citarella considers the crucial role of the workforce in Fulfilling Lives for people with multiple and complex needs. Vic is keen to start a dialogue with projects on this topic. You can get in touch with him using the details below.
“The CFE and University of Sheffield 2nd annual report into the national evaluation of Fulfilling Lives: Supporting people with multiple needs programme has chapters on ‘interventions and approaches’ and on ‘working the frontline’. The report says it raises as many questions as it answers but without doubt it pinpoints the workforce and what they do as the mission critical factor in the projects. More is promised by way of research and future evaluation. That means, among other things, dialogue with the practitioners, the managers, the stakeholders and the customers of the services.
What better way to exchange views than by identifying some themes in a Blog?
A question of purpose
The evaluation reports that users of the services value the ‘sense of purpose’ that the project workers share with them. Clearly we need to know how that ‘purpose’ is articulated and shared. What is it about the mission statements, vision, values and principles that motivates and convinces the workforce that they are doing the right thing? There is a saying that: if you lose your ‘why’ then you lose your ‘way’. Well, we have to know why.
There are a number of big pointers in the annual report and perhaps foremost among them for the workforce is a purpose which includes:
- Meaningful service user involvement
- The concepts of open-endedness and persistence
- Psychologically Informed Environments (PIEs)
- Systems change
A question of detail
Few people remember the second half of the quote: The Devil is in the details. It goes on to say: so is salvation. The problem with specifics is sorting out what is important and what gets in the way. There are some clues in the annual report that will warrant further exploration.
The projects all work through some variation of keyworkers. We know from the report that this means in practice both personal, relationship-based support and service coordination or navigation. Knowing the detail of how these twin roles are demarcated and overlap will help prepare operational job descriptions and person specifications, make for effective values and skills based recruitment and ensure appropriate support and training for the workforce.
Knowing what types of people that you want to perform what roles and tasks is about sorting through the specific details to make clear statements of what is important.
So for example it appears from the annual report that service user involvement and peer support are both important. Quite right, but what are the important details?
A question of pragmatism
Everyone wants to know how to do things – a handy guide, top tips or a readiness checklist. There is no shortage of these on the web to encourage best practices for the workforce and their managers. They may not be exactly useable off-the-shelf but a lot of general policies and procedures can be customised to the multiple and complex needs project scenario. What may be challenging is undertaking the customisations.
The annual report spells out that pragmatism, practicality and perseverance are the order of the day in projects. It flags up a number of workforce issues that will need further evaluation. Among them are:
- People with lived experience on the frontline as volunteers and/or employees
- Caseload management
- Navigation and systems brokerage as emerging job roles
The annual report makes it very evident that members of the workforce are at the heart of evaluating progress with the projects. It is they who complete the two measuring tools – Homelessness Outcome Star and the NDT Assessment – with the service beneficiaries. One of the features that workers enjoy about the projects is the move away from target driven approaches. We need to know how, without the target driver, projects capture the imagination and creativity of practitioners in working alongside beneficiaries in getting as full an evaluation picture as possible.
So for example projects could share views and opinions on:
- The skills and training required to make good use of the tools
- The amount of time it takes to collect the data and information
- What helps and what hinders in using the tools
- How the data and information is useful to them in their work
- What makes data collection less challenging
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