I was reading an article writen by John Bird, he of the Big Issue. In it he talked about the benefits system, the TV programme Benefits Street, and the ability to 'benefit' people. He has hit on a point that has been demonstrated in the last few years, by a few people.
In Stoke on Trent, they have experimented with trying a different way to deal with people who are struggling with something in their lives. This struggle is affecting them in ways like an inability to pay rent, running out of money, needing to get on the waiting list, etc.
What the team did was to take some people in need, and ask them what problems did they have that they needed help with? And whatever they said, the team would go about helping the person to fix that problem. It was that easy.
Chief executives from a range of public sector partners has agreed that the team has the ability to pull on any service they needed to to get the competence to fix the problem. In addition, the action they took and money they needed to put towards helping that person, was available to be spent.
The team took cases, and the first step was to understand the problems the person was facing, and the nature of their problems in the context of their lives. The next step was to then do only what is necessary to help the person resolve their problems.
What was found, was that the people they took, had a range of interdependent problems, that often took time to properly understand. Often, people were wary of this approach from an organsiation they did not trust.
Then, the team found that the problems that were presented with, were not usually solved by taking the standard approach that that service would normally take. For instance, if someone wanted to move, the first thing to do is to understand the reason for the move. It was discivered that most people who wanted to move, actually had problems that could be resolved, that meant that they then did not need to move.
The outcome is that the people with needs to be resolved, actually had their problems fixed, or had ways that they could continue to resolve the issues on their own. The majority of people that went through this system accepted the help, and the outcomes were positive in every situation.
It is difficult, in a short time to view actual financial benefits. However, the team calculated that for seven cases, the difference in the cost of the work done was £104,000 less in the new way. Even understanding that this figure is an estimate, the amount is staggering.
Another outcome, and one that is just as important, is the impact it had on the people. The intervention on each person was aimed at re-balancing them so that they could then continue to live their lives to develop into becoming independent of the welfare system.
The reason I wrote this example now is that John Birds article said that the benefits system should 'benefit' people. Benefit people in need, to help them to fix problems and improve their lives. The work that has been trialled, using a systems thinking approach, shows that this is not only possible, but that it actually reduces the cost to the whole system. The cost further reduces over time, as people are less dependent and more in control of their lives.