Social support and resilience and the role of information sharing

Kathryn Ward, Engagement Manager Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing

I recently attended an academic conference at the University of Salford on, Supporting families: An introduction to complex and troubled families.  The event focused on the movement of family support services towards a more pro-active role; where multi-agency professionals focus interventions on being more preventative than reactive. The aim of the event was to enable participants to develop further knowledge on a whole family approach and the strengths and impact of working with families in a multi-agency context. Also, whilst not an explicit part of the day, the impact of information sharing was also discussed. It was recognised that this is an integral part of multi-agency working.

One of the areas explored was how key-workers can strengthen “social support and resilience” when supporting a family.  The definition of resilience provided to support discussion was: “an individual’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity. Stress and adversity can come in the shape of family or relationship problems, health problems, or workplace and financial worries, amongst others.”

The session explored how practitioners can provide interventions that enable families to learn how to build networks with services and peers, which help them to deal with issues before they hit crisis point and require more in-depth intervention from services.

This resonates with the work of the Transience Programme I am currently working on and supporting with Blackpool Council and its key partners. The aim of the programme is to make Blackpool;

  • A great place to live
  • Where people will want to stay
  • Will thrive and
  • Feel part of their community

Through this, partners across Blackpool have been developing their networks and collaborative working. Partners have been using and sharing local intelligence and information on families who are not currently known to or receiving support from services. Partners are beginning to recognise that by working together and using family information more effectively between agencies problems can be tackled before they reach crisis point. Families can also learn to develop resilience techniques so that they can deal with their own issues. Services across Blackpool have really embraced the importance of information sharing to improve outcomes and the Centre have supported a number of workshops to help them to challenge and seek solutions to the barriers of collaboration and sharing.

During these workshops, it has become apparent to me is that services want to share, want to collaborate and build networks and this programme is enabling services to do this without limits on barriers to sharing (whilst complying with relevant legislation). All partners want families to grow, benefit and contribute to their local place and ultimately make Blackpool a place people want to live.

One of the ways in which the programme has begun to support families has been by developing a mixed social support network. Specific job roles for delivering the programme’s interventions and outcomes have been designed and developed to strengthen service user’s resilience and social support. For example; Family Support workers in Blackpool engage with individuals, which can be identified through three areas:

  • A veteran supporter – someone who has come through similar issues (mentoring/ voluntary sector engagement)
  • A mutual supporter – someone who is going through the same issues (drop-in centres)
  • An enabling supporter – where an individual attends a service (a professional referral/sign-posting service).

It was also interesting to hear at the event, that there are three factors that influence successful engagement:-

  1.       Initial Contact – the first contact is the most important
  2.       The workers characteristics – trust and confidence
  3.       Consistency amongst multiple agencies

This relates to how services across Blackpool work to build and develop relationships with families and this is integral to the on-going success of the programme. The way that Family Support Workers form relationships with individuals, requires excellent inter-personal skills and one factor that aides this conversation is the confidence and assurance in how information will be shared with partners and measuring the impact of the referral on the individual, the partner organisation and the wider community.

Through the tracking of an individual’s uptake and progress following a referral, information can be collected that can help aide evaluation for the continued rollout of the programme to new cohorts in Blackpool. In pro-actively knowing what the right information is and when to provide it to partners, this promotes sustainability and a continued belief in the service.

Read more about our work in Blackpool