Our first customer was Citizens Advice Newcastle (CAN). Adviser Gayle Purvis and her client Tony completed the first ever SIGNAL Life Map in the UK in 2018. This week I met with Gayle again as CAN prepares to use SIGNAL in a new project to engage with families in a programme to reduce child poverty in the west end of Newcastle. Given Gayle’s significance in SIGNAL’s history it put me in a reflective mood about the impact SIGNAL has had on me and my personal circumstances.
I haven’t told this story before because it is not unique and there are hundreds of thousand of people in exactly the same position as me but after reminiscing with Gayle about how inspired she was to see how SIGNAL helped Tony ‘put the fight back in him’, I thought it worthwhile to explain why I was so invested in the methodology from the moment I saw it and why I was driven to make it available to as many people as possible in the UK.
I am an ‘unpaid carer’. I love this role. However, sometimes all my responsibilities together leave me feeling overwhelmed because I have no time to take a breath; and so problems accumulate, stress builds and I reach a crisis point. It is an exhausting pattern that repeats itself.
When I completed my first SIGNAL Life Map I was under a lot of stress connected to what I had considered to be a difficult financial situation which was affecting many aspects of my life. Seeing the Life Map with all the indicators in a neat orderly pattern was incredibly calming. It was a relief: it helped me face things that I’d thought were insurmountable. The first thing my Life Map showed me was that the financial difficulties I was experiencing were connected to my housing situation. It was not where I had expected to start and it was a difficult thing to confront but the more I thought about the ‘causes’ the more I started to focus on the impact that making a fundamental change could have on other parts of my life. So, what started as an insurmountable problem about money ended up with my wife and I moving house. It was by far the best thing we have done. For me, the turning point was clicking on the indicator on my Life Map that I had chosen as my priority and opening the dialogue box which asks ‘why don’t you have it?’. It's a simple question that forced me to dig down to properly understand the reason why the indicator was red. Everything flowed from that.
I suppose this is the equivalent of a Friends and Family Test. To paraphrase the NHS: “based on my experience of using SIGNAL I would be ‘extremely likely’ to recommend it to friends and family if they needed similar help” and, of course, to everyone else too.