On 4th November, coordinators and navigators across the MEAM Approach network came together for our national learning hub, Navigating a Pandemic.
2020 has been a challenging year for people facing multiple disadvantage and those supporting them. Local services have worked tirelessly to ensure that people can access the support they need during the crisis and put in place flexible responses, as recent research from MEAM shows. Supporting people during this period has not been easy for frontline staff. From discussions with partnerships across our network, it was clear that navigators and coordinators would benefit from time to reflect on their experiences and the importance of looking after their own wellbeing during this time.
The learning hub provided space for delegates to share their experiences with colleagues across the network as well as to engage with wellbeing training provided by Stephanie Hill.
A range of issues emerged from the conversations during the hub, including:
- Navigators and coordinators across the MEAM Approach and Fulfilling Lives networks have been working exceptionally hard this year. Many had taken on extra responsibilities and felt overwhelmed at times.
- There have been a number of changes in the way navigators and coordinators are carrying out their work and how they are building and maintaining relationships using new forms of communication. Some delegates felt that they were able to develop better relationships with clients over the phone, but others missed the face to face observations which can sometimes yield better information about how a client is really doing.
- There was a frustration that despite local partners working more closely together and increasing flexibility, there are still some elements of the system that haven’t been able to do this or that are returning to previous ways of working. Access for people to some services remains problematic.
- There has been little chance for navigators and coordinators to consider their own wellbeing. It’s vital that time is found for this and that the role of partnerships in supporting navigators and coordinators is recognised. While navigators and coordinators hold responsibility for their own wellbeing, they can only achieve this within collaborative and supportive partnerships. As we enter the winter months, frontline navigators and coordinators should be supported to continue their vital work and keep safe and well while doing so.
- Delegates suggested that they were currently facing an ‘adjustment period’ of trying to return to ‘normal’ roles while still experiencing uncertainty as to whether there will suddenly be crisis mode again.
- Despite the challenges, there had been some positive aspects to the year. For example, staff reported that they had been able to build relationships with people who had previously been less engaged in support. As a result, some delegates were feeling more valued for the work they do than ever before.
The hub was a great afternoon and a welcome opportunity to spend time with navigators and coordinators across the network. We will continue to facilitate spaces for navigators and coordinators to come together in 2021 and our first practitioner forum will be held on 3rd February. Information will be sent out to the network shortly.
Finally, we hope everybody involved in the national MEAM network continues to keep themselves safe and well as they continue the vital work of creating local systems that are effective for people experiencing multiple disadvantage.