Team Around Me: A collaborative approach to tackling system blockages

February 05, 2020

Lucy Campbell, Operational Development Manager at Fulfilling Lives Islington and Camden (FLIC), discusses their innovative approach they’ve developed for holding case conferences or multi-agency meetings for clients experiencing multiple disadvantage – Team Around Me.

At FLIC, we recognise that it can be challenging for people experiencing multiple disadvantage to navigate the complicated network of services involved in their support. Accessing and coordinating services can be confusing, disempowering and is often dictated by the remits of the services, rather than the needs of the individual.

Similarly, for professionals supporting people experiencing multiple disadvantage, working in partnership with a range of cross sector services that may have different remits, different attitudes and varying degrees of flexibility, can be complicated. Professionals meetings designed to aid case coordination can, at times, lapse in to negativity, confusion about which service should take responsibility for what, and result in a lack of clear and achievable actions. Whilst services are generally striving to offer flexible and person-centred support, the systems in which they are operating do not always allow this, and lack of resources coupled with systemic barriers can lead to a sense of powerlessness.

In response to these challenges, FLIC, in collaboration with Pause Islington, have created the Team Around Me model – a new structure for holding case conferences or multi-agency meetings for clients experiencing multiple disadvantage who need a multi-agency response.

The Team Around Me guidance and template were developed in recognition that many professionals are holding multi-agency meetings already, but there is currently no standardised structure for how meetings are held, minuted, and how agencies are held accountable for agreed actions. Where possible clients are given agency by enabling them to choose their own lead professional who can call meetings, take minutes and advocate for the client if they choose not to attend themselves.

The meeting structure begins with recognising positive factors and achievements, rather than problems or deficits. This enables the client and the agencies who work with them to reflect on what a client is doing already to keep themselves safe, and what their strengths are, before thinking about what goals to focus on.

Team Around Me also aims to identify “system blockages” – i.e. problems or issues which are getting in the way of a client accessing services or achieving their goals. The template includes a system blockages process tool, which guides meeting attendees through identifying and thinking about blockages collaboratively with a solution/action focused mindset. This allows services to work together to overcome obstacles and to create flex for clients individually. Any trends in system blockages can be captured, quantified and fed back to the relevant decision makers, to evidence the need for wider change where necessary.

Team Around Me is currently being piloted in a number of cross sector services across Camden and Islington. Initial feedback has been positive:

“We have found the positive and solution focused parts of the of the tool very helpful in keeping meetings on track and staff have found feeding back to clients much more enjoyable when it feels there a solid plan in place. The TAM tool focuses on understanding people’s barriers to engagement and past experiences rather than what they have done wrong. It also seeks to find out what the clients wants and how they see their recovery.”

“It was easy to follow and allowed the client to be in control. The client decided who she wanted to attend and I believe that complimented the level of engagement. It is a better format than typical professional meetings as it was client led. The meeting started by acknowledging the client’s achievement and she was overwhelmed by how far she had come as she generally suffers from low self-esteem. The meeting was extremely uplifting.”

FLIC’s aim is to embed the model more widely and use collated system blockages to evidence the need for sustainable reforms so that people experiencing multiple disadvantage can benefit from services which are designed, delivered and commissioned to give them choice, control, and strengths-based, well-coordinated support.

If you would like more information or would like to pilot TAM in your area, please contact lcampbell@shp.org.uk