Over 120 guests attended the official launch of the Birmingham Changing Futures Together project at the Studio in Cannon Street on Friday 19th June, to find out more about our achievements so far, our aspirations for the future and how they could get more involved. We also took the opportunity to capture their views on how they think Services, Outcomes and Systems (SOS) for people with multiple and complex needs can be improved across the city.
Councillor John Cotton, opening the event, expressed his delight at seeing partners from the public, voluntary and private sectors well represented and keen to look for ways to work together. He explained that he had first become involved with the project in his capacity as Cabinet Member for Health & Wellbeing, prior to taking on his current role as Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Management and Homes.
“Our aim as a City Council is to help people to live active, independent, lives and to support them in being able to manage and improve their own mental and physical health. I have a new role since the election, but have been involved in this project from the outset in the capacity of Cabinet Member for Health & Wellbeing. I am pleased to say that Birmingham Changing Futures Together is backed by substantial resources from the Big Lottery Fund and I am keen to see how, in the years ahead, we can all work together to offer earlier interventions to support people with multiple and complex needs. It will not only be better for individuals but also for the public purse, which has many demands placed upon it.”
Brian Carr, Chief Executive of BVSC, explained how the project had come about, the facts and figures relating to the issues it is aiming to tackle and the various work strands included. He also thanked all those involved in designing and implementing the project so far and urged others interested in getting involved to come forward.
“We estimate that there are 736 homeless people in Birmingham, 8,000 people with problematic alcohol use, 5,700 people with problematic drug use, 3,588 people who continually reoffend and 1 in 4 of the population suffering with mental ill health. Around 1,300 people are grappling with two or more of these issues and many who feel trapped in a soul-destroying cycle from which it is hard to break free. We know that interventions by current services are less successful if delivered without strong connections to other services – and we know that failure can cost lives. We are aiming to make some big changes, but I am confident that, together, we can do it.”
Julie Galano, Head of Funding (Investment) for the Big Lottery Fund (BLF), outlined BLF’s approach to funding and set the wider context in which our project is being delivered. It is one of 12 different approaches being trialled across the UK, with a key emphasis on learning and sharing results in an effort to help those with multiple and complex needs break down barriers and improve their lives.
“Our funding aims to help improve and create better coordinated services to prevent people with multiple issues being passed between charities and services which often cannot individually deal with their wide range of needs. Birmingham Changing Futures Together is one of 12 projects we have funded across England, each trying a different approach to increase the stability, confidence and capability of people with multiple and complex needs to lead better lives. People who have experienced homelessness, mental ill health, substance misuse, and reoffending have helped shape local services supporting them to focus on the strengths of the people using the services and trusting them to collaborate and make changes. Using the knowledge of people with experience to help design services should become the norm not the exception – and we are seeing that happen in Birmingham.”
Key to the project is the involvement of those people – the service users, who have become ‘experts by experience’. Their value of their role was vividly brought to life by Will James from Shelter, speaking on behalf of the three partners – Shelter, Birmingham Mind and SIFA Fireside - who are recruiting and supporting them through the ‘Every Step of the Way’ strand of the programme.
But, without doubt, the highlight of the morning was a film (below) featuring some of the ‘experts’ telling their stories. Made by production company Colonel Duck, the film moved some in the audience to tears and created a moment of silence before loud applause.