Clare Hyde and Simon Duffy launched their report Women at the Centre on the 21st June in County Hall. (You can hire it free if a charity or social enterprise). The report, the first to illustrate with graphic detail that multiple services for people with complex lives do not work, but that they can be transformed when practitioners respond to the complexity of people’s lives.
Calderdale Women’s Centre has been working with women offenders for over 25years and has a 95% success rate – by women supporting women as human being for as long as it takes, it could be 30 minutes or 3 years. Simon Duffy,the inventor of personal budgets and Clare Hyde, former chief executive of the women’s centre, now director of the Foundation for Families present a powerful case yet for integrated and holistic services, delivered by people who are flexible enough to deal with the realities of abuse, violence, debt, addiction and mental distress in a way that support recovery rather the depress and reoffending. The problem that those who attended the launch addressed was how to take this model to some sort of larger scale without losing the holistic model.
The report Women at the Centre can be obtained from the Women’s Centre http://www.womencentre.org.uk or downloaded ISDN 978-1-907790-15-7, is beautifully produced.
The challenge is for service commissioners whether in GP consortium (or whatever evolves), DWP, local authorities and the Ministry of Justice etc is how to commission across services when DWP and MOJ are so centrally driven. I am meeting up with Adam Sharples, DG in DWP responsible for future co-design later in the month – as part of the MBS research on future commissioning of innovation in the public sector. The Work Programme commissioning process has resulted in less diversity, local control and fewer contracts to independent organisations such as the women’s centre.
Clearly, local commissioners are in a better position to see what is working well and what is not, but they also have to have the confidence to dismantle departmental funding walls, only when commissioning becomes a whole system function will holistic services, such as that delivered by Calderdale Women’s Centre, expand.
Simon Duffy threw out the challenge to the Women’s Centre to bid for a wider package of services across West Yorks, forcing commissioners to change even if it ruffled some feathers among others in the region.
A friend demonstrated how providing community training in things like radio-production can have dramatic impact in the most unexpected ways. Judith Weymont, who I uased to work with years ago in Yorkshire Television came back from Zambia last month teaching community radio for an NGO funded to reduce the spread of HIV Aids. This is her second year she had already trained recruits in villages who are now making programmes on what matters in their communities, the ideas stemming from listenin groups – for those in border village, ‘rape’ is a problem. While the NGO and its USA funders talk of ‘behaviour change’ what this actually means to local people is changing the dynamics and attitudes for women in particular. Using radio as a tool for community conversation has resulted in victims of rape and even ‘rapists’ telling their stories to regain respect.
There is a common thread between these accounts – both involve women finding a voice through organising and the role of practitioners and intermediaires supporting social and personal change by listening and responding to local complexities not assuming that their specific training provides the answer.