On 2nd November 2017 we hold our Annual General Meeting, which this year will provide a space for a conversation about partnerships and collaboration.

We want to agree some simple, incremental steps towards being clearer about how we can work closer together and offer a better advice service by improving ways of referring people – particularly when they need specialist help.

A recurring theme in discussions held across voluntary, community and statutory agencies and at events like our Hardship Crisis Conference held in July has been the shameful fact that people, often those who are vulnerable and with greatest needs, fall through the gaps between our agencies. Being signposted to a source of help is no guarantee that a person will get there or that the help they need will be forthcoming if they do. People get stuck in a revolving door. We could surely do so much better.

It’s time we stopped simply acknowledging this problem and did something about it. It doesn’t have to be complicated – in fact it’s best if it’s not.

A system driven by technology is unlikely to work – though technology like an on-line, secure referral portal will help in practice.

Relationships and trust are the important building blocks. That’s nothing new. Research has shown how personal links provide confidence that a referral is in the best interests of a client or service user.

We should start by each agency (and I’m thinking here of advice services, mental health services, advocacy services etc) producing information about what they can offer: who the service is for, what capacity they have, and referral criteria. It should include a contact point (a named person, telephone number, e-mail address) for discussing potential referrals. We could have standard format if that helps to make it clear. We could compile this information about agencies into a local referral guide. Initially, referrals could be made, with client consent, by telephone. The guide would need to be reviewed and updated at least once a year.

An onus should be on the referring agency to identify the need for a service, eligibility for the service, and to check this with the service that they are referring to that the referral is appropriate. There will be no guarantee that a referral will be accepted but if not, the reason will be clear. If it’s about lack of capacity then at least we will start to build up a better picture of the gaps in provision.

Let’s start with a small group of agencies (voluntary and statutory) that are willing to participate and start referring rather than signposting. CAW will do it. The deal is if you want to refer to us, then we want the opportunity to refer to you where you can offer a service our clients might need.

Join us for the conversation on 2nd November or contact me to discuss this and get involved.

Contact me for further details of the AGM.

Phil Jew

Chief Executive, October 2017


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