The goal is to understand, and better support, vulnerable people in the Ilford area. The challenge is to get ‘frontline’ services talking better to each other, those developing strategic thinking in Whitehall talking better to each other, and frontline and centre talking better to each other. Relationships are in place that help, for example, a Domestic Violence Unit to engage with other teams. But at other times, linking a person to the help they need can rely solely on an individual’s proactivity, the breadth of their own professional networks, and the time, patience and energy to make the necessary telephone calls.
Ellie, on secondment with the Home Office’s Strategy team, took the initiative to arrange an event for frontline teams in Ilford and central Government Departments. The aim of the event was to increase understanding of where an intervention could really transform a vulnerable person’s life and circumstances, and to form links with a view to better sharing of information. Her motivation for this was that she had seen first-hand the effects of working in silos on individuals, where often the required intervention came too late.
Ellie made a list of all the frontline services in Ilford she knew about, and of relevant central Government Departments. She populated the list with contacts she had built up over the previous 18 months and rang up other teams to find out who might be interested in attending. In all she issued over 100 invitations. 60 people attended, from central Department strategy teams, Home Office, Dept of Health, DfE, DCLG, and DWP, and frontline workers on housing, community safety, employment, child protection, youth offending, schools, social services, mental health, fire, immigration enforcement and the police.
The day was organised to discover what multiple strategy teams having conversations with multiple frontline workers could yield, specifically for citizens. It opened with perspectives from a borough commander working with the private sector on safeguarding, the Head of Community Safety in Ilford, and the Director of Strategy and Transformation at the Home Office. The bulk of the day was spent in world café format based around case studies of individuals commissioned by Ellie from her contacts in frontline teams. The author of each case study facilitated a table conversation introducing and talking through the life story of a vulnerable individual showing how they had got to the situation they now found themselves in. The participants round the table then discussed the what points where there could have been an intervention that could have made a key difference. The participants then moved to another table to discuss another case study.
Participants found a conversation centred on the story of a particular individual, where the person telling the story knew the individual, powerful and thought-provoking – much more so than simply reading about them. It reminded frontline staff of real clients and prompted thoughts on possible action in relation to them which might lead to better outcomes.
All of the delegates came together for a summary discussion at the end to reiterate the actions to be taken forward.