Cooperative working in Stoke-on-Trent


Julie Griffin, head of Co-operative Working at Stoke-on-Trent City Council, writes about the authority’s ambitious services redesign, which aims to improve lives through partnership and innovation

Local authorities are having to find increasingly innovative ways to provide high quality and much-needed services with decreased budgets. It’s not easy, and involves huge changes to the way services need to be delivered to residents.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is no exception, having saved more than £97 million over the last four years and tasked with saving an additional £26.9 million in the next financial year. The need to change the way services are delivered is imperative.

We are now embarking on an ambitious redesign of services, called Co-operative Working. Our aim is to help vulnerable people to live their lives well by offering a more co-ordinated approach across council and partner services to help solve problems. Residents will get the support they need at the right time – only having to tell their story once.

Co-operative Working is based on a successful pilot scheme, and is a completely new approach to helping residents to live independently. Through increasing efficiencies in the way partners work together, and by working with residents at an early, preventative stage, it is estimated it will save the city council and partners in the region of £36 million over the next three years.

The programme has been given a huge boost in the form of a £4.9 million Transformation Challenge Award from central government, meaning people will be able to access the support they need much sooner. The funds will help deliver transformational change by giving us the capacity to pick up the pace and scale of the work.

A key outcome of the Co-operative Working approach is that it helps people to help themselves – creating independent, well-supported residents who in turn want to help others.

It is really exciting to be rolling out such a significant scheme, which will help us to support around 10,000 households. Co-operative Working is a unique way of working which will completely transform the way that services are delivered. We will work with individuals to provide them with the skills to live independently and prevent them from requiring high cost public sector intervention.

For too long, agencies have worked independently, with residents in need being passed from one agency to another without making a sustainable difference to the quality of their lives.

Instead of residents accessing help from a variety of sources to address a range of problems, those with complex needs will be assigned one key worker who will work with them to find solutions. This key worker will ‘pull in’ expertise from other agencies including the police, fire service, NHS and the voluntary sector if needed.

Referrals will no longer be a part of the process. Service users will no longer have to repeat their story to access the support they need.

We achieved great success with our pilot scheme. It was introduced in two city wards in 2013, and in the 18 months it was operational,190 households were supported. As a direct result, there was a 23% reduction in anti-social behaviour and a 17% reduction in rent arrears in the area.

We’ll now be helping many thousands more households affected by a range of issues, including debt, unemployment or repeat offending – to prevent issues escalating. Savings for the public sector will come through reducing the need for more costly interventions, such as court proceedings, A&E admissions or children being taken into care.

We’ve had really positive feedback from residents living in the pilot area. Their needs are being addressed at the first point of contact, and lives are being turned around.

Implementing the changes that Co-operative Working will bring about is not going to be easy, but to be able to make improvements for residents and the communities in which they live is an exciting challenge.

The first phase of the restructure started last September and involved the internal re-design of city council services. It focussed on reducing the layers of management and expanding the number of key workers. Once staff have completed full training in the new way of working, we will start to roll it out from April 2015.

Co-operative Working is about taking a co-ordinated and holistic approach to helping people to make positive changes to their lives – and saving millions of pounds in the process. I am very excited to be a part of it.

Julie Griffin is head of Co-operative Working at Stoke-on-Trent City Council

Visit the Co-operative Working website for more information

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