Mark Joyce, Programme Leader at Changing Futures Northumbria, describes how SIGNAL is contributing to the Liberated Method

How do you get to the heart of what matters to people experiencing the most challenging life circumstances and stay true to the principle of understand and not assess?

Common practice across public services is to apply service-specific assessments that determine how much or little of a given service’s resources can be allocated to an individual. This is broadly based on commissioned or statutory requirements and often includes a level of eligibility or screening.

This type of approach is often service-facing, helps demonstrate efficacy to a model or specification and provides an assurance that the service is working with the ‘right’ people.

However, it also screens people out, lacks an understanding of their personal context and leads to onward referral where an individual’s need is deemed to be out of scope.

Over the past two years, Changing Futures Northumbria has been developing a relational way of working: the Liberated Method. Central to the Liberated Method is the importance of understanding an individual’s personal context. This becomes the starting point around which a relational way of working is developed.

The guided self-assessment approach of SIGNAL enables CFN staff and beneficiaries to approach the principle of understand not assess and jointly set the scope of the work based on the SIGNAL Life Map and an individual’s priorities. SIGNAL has also helped CFN staff and beneficiaries to open up conversations that otherwise would not have surfaced in more traditional assessment-based approaches, and this in turn has influenced the focus of support.

The ability to overlay and compare a baseline SIGNAL with subsequent follow-ups provides beneficiaries with a visual representation of progress and also highlights a change in aspiration. The notion of ‘just good enough’ no longer being good enough resonates with many of the CFN beneficiaries and is evident in a reframing of some of the indicators. At first glance, the trajectory for these indicators is moving backwards but the reality is that individuals have raised their personal expectations.

In turn, the use of SIGNAL to support the development of relational working, and the outcomes that have been demonstrated, contribute to an evaluative framework that sets out the impact of the Liberated Method overall.