Life is a new initiative that supports and empowers families facing many difficult issues and circumstances to build lives they want to lead.
Over 150,000 families in the UK struggle to cope with multiple difficulties. Working alongside these families, in conjunction with a number of local agencies we have developed Life, in which we both support family capabilities and alter the current support around them. Life is currently scaling across the UK, and we hope to have it up and running in at least 6 Local Authorities by the end of 2012. You can find more information on Life and its tools by going to www.alifewewant.com.
The Life programme represents a particular approach to working with the UK’s most troubled families. Throughout 2010/11, the Life Programme has been subject to much media and government attention. Often positioned as a ground breaking new approach, in reality it is a common sense new application of resources, within systems that don’t always work that way.
It is early days, but Life is designed to scale nationally, and is currently live in 3 locations. Life HQ, a social enterprise based in Participle’s London office, manages the scaling process.
This page briefly articulates the structure, impact and contents of the programme, based on repeated frequently asked questions.
Developed as a partnership between Participle and Swindon Borough Council and its partner agencies, Life was designed through a process of Participle’s team spending 6 months living alongside 12 families, engaging with their lives and their social workers. Based on these real experiences, the Life Programme was designed with the families and front-line staff.
The programme operates with the following key premises in mind:
- Real Time
The average front line social worker spends just 14% of their time with their clients. The Life Team workers aim to spend 80% of their time with their clients. This is achieved through technology and a specific programme structure;
- Right Time
Of the £250,000 spent on the most troubled families (according to Anti-social Behaviour Intensive Family Support Projects, Department for Communities and Local Government, 2006), of the ones in Swindon, there had been little change in their behaviour. The Life Programme invites families to participate, and allows them to choose which front line staff to work with, so all interventions are aimed at individuals willing to change, resulting in more immediate behaviour change, designed to last longer;
- Resourceful Time
All resources are focused on building capabilities within the families to lead a better life, free of state intervention. The programme is structured as a 4 staged, 12 step programme. Family and front line staff use Life Programme tools, technology and measures, that support the progression between the stages.
Whilst the Life Programme is a 12 step programme, divided in to 4 stages, based on established methodologies of human development, it is also a platform that works with specialists in areas such as addiction, abuse and other therapies, to solve deeper issues, as well as a platform that works with existing organisations focused on support such as employment. The 4 stages are:
Families join and commit to fundamental change;
Meaningful plans for change are developed. These plans detail both external changes, such as work and learning, and family changes such as improving behaviour, caring for the home and each other;
The families build the core skills that are needed to enact the plan, engaging in new opportunities (training and employment) and new activities;
Cementing new social networks and ensuring longevity through establishing the families to live independently within the community.
Life HQ, a social enterprise that received seed funding from the Department of Health and Local Government Association, is a team of 4 individuals working to support local authorities build their own Life Programmes. Owned and managed by Participle, Life HQ deals with all enquiries in to new Life Programmes.
At the heart of a Life Programme is the Life Team, between 8 and 10 frontline staff, seconded from other teams. Life Team members have come from housing, children services, probation, youth services, police and other front line services. They are supported by a data lead. Having being seconded, they work to local safeguarding procedures. Having gone through a fully structured training programme, the Life Team remain committed to spending 80% of their time with the families. Families can choose which team members to work with, and so the Life Team keep in regular contact on the issues within each family.
Life HQ staff have developed a detailed and intensive training programme. Each new LIFE team receives a series of intensive training workshops, and once the team is up and running there is an on-going programme of modular training. This training is delivered to new Life Team members, as well as members of other services working closely with the Life Teams in their location.
A strategic partnership with the NHS Tavistock and Portman Trust ensures we can bring on stream professional expertise as and when needed. Staff from the Tavistock and Portman Trust both support Life Team staff members, and engage with the families themselves in particular cases.
Whilst the starting point for the selection of Life Programme families takes into account the government criteria, the Life Programme also takes into account long-term, intensive and multiple service involvement (to evidence high cost) and the presence of multiple risk factors (to evidence high risk and need.) In short, most of our families are infamous amongst the support services and community, for both service use and lack of behaviour change.
Tools & Materials
In order that the families can progress through the programme, a series of tools have been developed for each stage in the programme. These simple, practical tools ensure that difficult conversations happen, plans are made and reflective change happens at all stages of the work. These Life tools, some digital, some paper-based, are gatekeepers between the stages, as well as informing the measures, and helping with recording process amongst the families.
The Life Programme is able to achieve its objectives, in large part, because of a bespoke cloud- based technology solution. The LifeBoard is an online platform that supports the programme through data capture (measurement and cost saving), timesheeting and digital tools, used by both families and Life team members. The LifeBoard has been designed to minimise bureaucracy and ensure that 80% of worker time is spent with the families, underpinning the cost savings Life Programmes deliver for partner authorities.
The Life Programme was designed from the outset to scale and as such a robust measurement framework that documents social outcomes and financial savings, and the links between the two, underpins the work of every Life Team.
For more information on this project visit www.alifewewant.com or, please email us:
Main photo licensed under Creative Commons