Transforming Early Years - Knowsley

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Early Years
  • General resources

Basic details

Organisation submitting example

Knowsley KMBC, Family Voices

Local authority/local area:

Knowsley


The context and rationale

A radical efficiency methodology was used to increase reach and universal provision through the deployment of volunteers. The success of the model was due to reflection on the insights provided and mapping those into service plans. The service has been reconfigured in order to train community members as Family Voices Volunteers. Universal sessions and Outreach provision is now solely delivered by the community for the community.

Knowsley Background

The metropolitan borough of Knowsley is one of the five metropolitan districts of Merseyside alongside Sefton, Liverpool, Wirral and St. Helens. Knowsley itself has five town areas of Huyton, Kirkby, Halewood, Prescot and Whiston and has a population of approximately 150,000 people. Of this population approximately 29,500 are between the ages of 0 and 15 years and data shows us there are around 65,000 ‘households’ within the borough. The 2010 Mid Year Estimate predicted that there were 9,400 children aged 0-5 in Knowsley.
In socio-economic terms 55% of Knowsley residents are within the ACORN classification of “Hard Pressed” and Knowsley itself is ranked as the fifth most deprived borough in the country in the 2007 Index of Multiple Deprivation.
The Children and Young People Needs Assessment (Summer 2010) stated that: 
• 58% of children and young people in Knowsley live in poverty.
• There was a large increase in Children’s Social Care Referrals between 2008/09 and 2009/10.
• In 2008/09, reception age children on average missed 12.08% of half day school sessions compared to an overall primary average in Knowsley of 6.3% of half day sessions missed and an overall primary average for the North West of 5.2%. Poor attendance often leads to poor education outcomes. 
• There are around 21,500 families with around 35,000 children.
• 31% of families have no working adult and 47% are lone parent families.
• 26% of lone parent families are without work 
• 95% of families with dependent children are in receipt of tax credits. 
• 33% of workless households are home to approximately 12,500 children and around 10,000 (or 80%) of those are in single parent families
• Around 81% of all children in workless households, 61%, (or 20,500) live in parts of the borough which are in the lowest quintile nationally for the overall child wellbeing. 

In 2009, Knowsley became involved in five of the government’s Child Poverty pilots, (Family Intervention, Volunteer Family Mentors, School Gates Employment & Enterprise, 2 yr-old Childcare Project, Extended Services Disadvantaged Study, Child Development Pilot) and undertook additional work as part of a Knowsley Child Poverty Programme. These pilots tested new approaches to reducing child poverty and the findings highlighted the importance of:
• Involving all sectors and multi agency partners in tackling child poverty, including GPs, housing, local business, 3rd sector and the police.
• Dedicating time to understand the challenges families in poverty face, and only then applying a solution.
• Empowering the community to be instigators of change in their own lives.
• Understanding individual’s incentives and motivations for long term change.
• Being innovative with community outreach and recognising how place and peers can be more effective.

Informed by the learning of these pilots, Knowsley sought to develop a similarly innovative approach to increasing Children’s Centre reach. Any approach would need to address the difficulties of increasing reach, especially for families in greatest need, while operating in a climate of increasing financial pressures.

Knowsley has also developed a family policy. The Knowsley Family Policy identified 4 broad categories of families. These were Thriving, Coping, Just Coping, and Complex. 

Related research on families suggests that approximately 48% of families in Knowsley are ‘just coping’, living on low incomes with limited support from agencies. Drawing on ethnographic research into families in hard pressed households, we learnt that these families were not accessing support service to address the complex issues that they face of a daily basis and compromised their children’s life chances. We recognised the importance of early intervention in early years, to tackle health inequalities and improve the emotional wellbeing of families, as well as to address improved parenting capabilities and issues of social isolation. 

When Knowsley was approached to work with The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) and the Innovation Unit on a project entitled, Transforming Early Years, it was the ideal opportunity to progress the ongoing work around families and child poverty and develop an innovative way of delivering Children’s Centre services. 

Description of your idea and knowledge base

Supported by the Innovation Unit Knowsley MBC followed the Radical Efficiency Framework to identify solutions to ‘do differently’ to improve services at a reduced cost.

Radical Efficiency is about public service innovations that deliver different, much better outcomes for users at significantly lower cost. The Radical Efficiency framework highlights four principles; new information, new customers, new suppliers and new resources. The first two principles provide new perspectives on challenges while the latter two principles provide new perspectives on solutions. Together, they illustrate that by taking a fresh look at the nature of the challenge, as well as thinking creatively about how to construct better solutions; systems can be fundamentally changed, not just improved. This is a completely different approach to deliver better public services for less money.(Innovation Unit “Practical Guide to Radical Efficiency, October 2010).

In May 2010, the first phase of the Transforming Early Years model began. Early stages focused on gaining new perspectives on the challenge faced by Children’s Centres. Once the challenge had been redefined this provided the basis for developing an innovative solution that would provide a better services to the community at a reduced cost. 

Initally, project staff trained multi agency practitioners and local parents to undertake ethnographic research in the communities of Prescot and Whiston (1). The main insights gained from this exercise were that there was an expectation within the community that Knowsley MBC should provide free childcare and free activities for children to attend and for families to do together. This highlighted that parents may have become dependent on the Local Authority who have sought to provide extensive opportunities in the past. This allowed partners to question the role of their service and if they should be enablers, as well as providers. It was also found that parents want the best for their children but that they had a fear of engaging with public services.

Project staff also undertook a Resource Audit of all public money which is spent in the Whiston and Prescot Area on children aged between 0 and 11 years. This was presented in a visual timeline and shared with partners allowing all to think collaboratively. The Resource Audit generated a shared view on resources in terms of interactions, overlaps and gaps. The greatest insights from this workstream was learning about allocation of money spent in the geographical area and the cost of services in relation to levels of need. It allowed project staff and partners to question if the community recievies a service that is value for money. The Resource Audit is available from C4EO team at the NFER.

In order to gain further insights project staff completed a Horizon Scanning exercise, this involved analysing examples of best practice from around the world and understanding how others had gained new perspectives on the challenge they faced before applying a new solution. Furthermore, there were several design principles in the horizon scanning examples that the co-design group thought needed to be encompassed into the solution to transform early years services. These were;

• Empowerment of staff, service users and community members
• Co-production with the community
• Sustainability
• Aspirations of individuals and families must be at the heart of services
• Respect for and knowledge of the local community
After gaining new insights from ethnographic research, resource audit and horizon scanning the project team were able to identify that current service models provided a quality service for those who chose to use them. They were able to reframe the “challenge” for Children’s Centre delivery to: 

We want to build and grow a neighbourhood which has the capacity and resilience to be its own resource for families. We will invest in community institutions and leaders to ensure that neighbourhoods and services work together. This will enable the community to take ownership and responsibility for creating confident and competent parents to be first educators of their children.

The solution to this challenge was to support community members to deliver universal services in the children’s centre and to have an active voice in the co-ordination, co-production delivery and evaluation of children’s centre services. 

A small number of local parents had recently established an informal parent group called Family Voices = Family Choices, also known as Family Voices. They were keen to become involved in the Transforming Early Years project and supporting Family Voices to be able to co-produce universal services became the focus of the project. 

The Aims

The overall aim of the Transforming Early Years project and Family Voices is set out in the re-framed challenge:

We want to build and grow a neighbourhood which has the capacity and resilience to be its own resource for families. We will invest in community institutions and leaders to ensure that neighbourhoods and services work together. This will enable the community to take ownership and responsibility for creating confident and competent parents to be first educators of their children.

This would form the basis of the radical solution the project was looking for and would guide future developments for both the Children’s Centre and Family Voices. To successfully deliver against the challenge both children’s centre staff and Family Voices aim to work together to:

• Increase the numbers of families having meaningful engagement with the Children’s Centre, especially from deprived Super Output Areas, and those families who would be classed as ‘sceptical non-attendees.
• Increase the numbers of volunteers in the centre to increase the communities involvement in the centre and skill-up local residents,
• Host events in the community to develop community cohesion and promote Family Voices,
• Increase school readiness through universal activities

(1) Ethnography focuses on intensive work with a small sample, therefore the sample may not be representative of the Prescot and Whiston communities.

The practice

Turning the vision for the future service delivery into reality would involve not only assisting Family Voices to develop as an organisation, but supporting the individuals involved to develop their skills and capacity. It would also require a significant change in the culture of the Children’s Centre and how staff worked with volunteers.

Family Voices began by conducting all of their activities in partnership with Children’s Centre staff, allowing them to develop in experience and confidence. For the project team and Children’s Centre staff it was important to find a balance between encouraging Family Voices to become more independent, but providing the necessary support for them to be successful. 

Family Voices activities sit in 3 main categories. 

1. Universal Sessions

Family Voices began by conducting universal sessions with the children’s centre staff. Universal sessions are on offer to all registered children and are open access. Family Voices deliver a weekly Stay and Play session, which reduced isolation, support school readiness and begins the engagement process with the Children’s Centre. In addition to this they also provide Baby Massage courses and “Music and Movement” sessions once a week, which promote attachment and development. These sessions designed in response to feedback from parents. They also deliver Whiston Area Dad’s Club on a fortnightly basis and deliver activity sessions for children up to the age of 11 during school holidays. All the Family Voices sessions are well attended and they are working to increase the number of sessions soon.

The delivery of universal sessions by Family Voices free up the staff to spend more time working on targeted support for families with greater levels of need. By leading the sessions the volunteers also model positive behaviour to other parents in the community. 

2. Outreach 

One of the first outreach activities Family Voices became involved with was designing the first contact forms used to collect families details before they register with the Children’s Centre. This form was shorter, brightly coloured and considered more accessible by parents and carers. 
Family Voices attend weekly baby clubs, which is attended by new parents. At the club the volunteers explain what is on offer at the centre, the role of Family Voices and complete first contact forms with any interested families. This has proved to be a successful way of increasing reach through making contact with families and encouraging their engagement with children’s centre services.
Family Voices have hosted several community events, including teddy bears picnics and bonfire night events. These have been attended by large numbers of the local community and Family Voices were able to secure the involvement of businesses and statutory organisations, such as the police. Through the event Family Voices are able to increase the profile of the Children’s Centre and their own organisation in the local community. They are also been a good opportunity to increase both the numbers of volunteers and families registered at the children’s centre. 
Within the Prescot and Whiston area there are 20 Super Output Areas, these are areas of very high levels of deprivation and need. 11 of the SOA’s are in the bottom 30% of deprivation and 6 of these are in the bottom 10%. By specifically targeting these areas Family Voices ensures that families in the most deprived areas of the locality are accessing the children’s centre. Each of these has been targeted through an Action Week, co-ordinated by Family Voices. 
Family Voices have recently refreshed their Outreach Strategy. They will focus on developing relationships with local schools by meeting with head teachers, distributing first contact forms through the schools and hosting “chill and chat” sessions in each school. It is intended that through this strategy Family Voices will reach a new group of families with slightly older children. 

3. Engagement

Family Voices is currently offering individual support to 3 families to access children’s centre services through their volunteer ‘buddy’ scheme. By providing a family with a volunteer they receive an extra source of support and attending services is de-stigmatised and made more accessible.
This is an area of service delivery that Family Voices are looking to develop over the coming year in partnership with the borough’s Family First Service. 

Organisational Development

Family Voices = Family Choices, started out as an informal voluntary parents group within the Children’s Centre. It comprised of local parents, who wished to have greater involvement in the Children’s Centre. In 2010, Family Voices became a constituted group. This was to form the basis of the organisational formal structure and enabled it to start fundraising; in addition it became a focal point within the centre for volunteering and parental engagement. As Family Voices grew in numbers and ambition it became clear that in order to achieve their ambitions for the future a legal structure that allowed it to grow was necessary. 

In May 2011 Family Voices, with support from Knowsley Community and Voluntary Service and the project team, decided that Family Voices should become a Company Limited by Guarantee (Social Enterprise)

There were several reasons for this decision:

• A social enterprise is a business or service whose main goal is to achieve public benefit and any profit is reinvested to achieve this goal. This met the aims of Family Voices. 
• The position of directors would provide leadership for the organisation.
• Directors would only be liable if the company were to go bankrupt for a small amount.
• Family Voices would then be able to enter into contracts in its own right, independent from the children’s centre. 
In September 2011, Family Voices Directors decided to seek charitable status. This was largely because:
• It is an organisational structure that is known and trusted by the community 
• Charitable status would open up funding opportunities for the group. 
In October 2011, Family Voices received notification that they had been successful. This was a significant milestone for Family Voices and a boost to their confidence. 

Volunteer Development

At the start of the Transforming Early Years project Whiston Area Children’s Centre had just 2 volunteers. Family Voices now has approximately 50 volunteers at any one time, contributing at least 2 hours per week each in the Children’s Centre. 

Family Voices recruited many of its volunteers through word of mouth in the local community and through hosting community events, such as Party at the Mead and Bonfire Night and attending the Prescot Carnival. 

All volunteers go through the Family Voices ‘Safer Recruitment Process’, which includes an Enhanced CRB check. Once this has been completed volunteers are able to chose from a menu of opportunities. This includes several possible areas for a volunteer to become involved in:

• Children and families
• Business development and accounting
• IT and Administration
• Volunteer trainer
• Community outreach.

Family Voices and the Children’s Centre are keen to provide each volunteer with an individual pathway that supports them and their unique needs. By having a menu of opportunities ensures that volunteers are involved in the areas of the children’s centre that best matches their interests, skills and areas they want to develop.

All volunteers are given an induction, safeguarding training and undertake supervision sessions with a Director. Many of the volunteers have undertaken additional training including:
• Diplomas in childcare
• First Aid
• Infant Massage
• Working with Dad’s and Male Carers
• Early Years Foundation Stage Training
• Food Hygiene
• Midas Touch
• Relax Kids
• Working with Separated Families
• Solihull approach
• Makaton
• Introduction to Child Care.

Achievements so far

Measures

Family Voices support the Children’s Centre to reach their performance targets, especially those relating to reach, parent support and employability. Family Voices complete a quarterly monitoring return. The Children’s Centre Manager and Project Manager then analyse the return and provide feedback to both Family Voices and the Children’s Centre to improve performance. A summary of this is available from C4EO team at the NFER

Evidence collected so far

A short evaluation was undertaken in late 2011. This aimed to measure the difference that volunteering was making and the impact that working with Family Voices was having on the Children’s Centre staff.
Volunteers
Volunteers were asked to provide details of any qualification, training or employment they had gained during their time as a volunteer. 7 out of the 12 active volunteers (2) completed the evaluation form. Since being a volunteer:
• 6 out of 7 had completed training
• 3 out of the 7 had started working towards a qualification 
• 1 out of 7 had gained employment.
Volunteers were also asked to mark on a scale where they felt they were at the start of volunteering and where they felt they were currently (0 represents the lowest score, 10 the highest). The areas covered were:
1. Confidence in abilities 
2. Involvement in the community
3. Skills
4. Involvement in children’s centre decisions
5. Opinions and views are valued
6. Feel like a competent and positive parent
7. Sense of ownership of the children’s centre
8. Understanding of the importance of engaging parents
9. Confidence giving opinions.

There has been a significant change across all areas and all volunteers reported an improvement on every question. This provides an early indication that volunteering with Family Voices has a significant impact on skills, confidence and engagement with the community. 
A forecasted social return on investment analysis was completed to estimate the return on investment for volunteers. This forecasted that for 50 volunteers Family Voices would generate a social benefit equivalent to £101631.91 (£2032.63 per volunteer)(3) . This figure does not include benefits to the wider community. For further information please contact C4EO team at the NFER
As the number of volunteers increases it is expected that they will also experience these positive changes further increasing the social capital of the Prescot and Whiston Community. It is important that Family Voices continues to monitor the development of its volunteers to ensure that volunteers continue to enhance their skills and personal progression. 

Children’s Centre Staff

At the start of the Transforming Early Years Project, Whiston Area Children’s Centre Staff were asked to complete a self assessment tool. This self assessment tool has been devised to measure the extent of co-production with the community in Whiston Area Children’s Centres through the Transforming Early Years Project (4). 

There are six indicators relating to co-production that can be ranked 1-9, with 1 being the least advanced and 9 being the most advanced. Repeating the assessment during the second year of the project will capture changes in the way the Children’s Centre works. Staff were also asked an extra two questions for the purpose of this report, so for these indicators there is no initial score.

There has been a significant advance in all co-production indicators from the initial questionnaire. 3 out of 6 indicators moved from the basic category (1-3) to the advanced category (7-9) this coupled with the volunteer evaluations and would suggest that Family Voices and Children’s Centre staff are finding positive ways of working together to deliver services to the community. Independent evaluations of other coproduced services have found they offer value for money, higher customer satisfaction (5), increased social capital (6), and incorporation of expertise from the people who use services (7).

Reach and registration figures

In 2009-10, 934 children were registered with Whiston Area Children’s Centres, a total of 53%. In 2011-12, this had increased to 1,104 children, a total of 62.57%
Of those children registered in 2009-10 Whiston Area Children’s Centres reached 397 children, a total of 42.5% In 2011- 12 number of children reached had increased to 684, a total of 62%. In addition to this, in 2011 – 2012 Whiston Area Children’s Centre also reached 269 children aged 5 – 11.
The increase in both figures has been a significant success for all those working in the Whiston Area Children’s Centres. While it is not possible to solely attribute this increase in reach to Family Voices they have dedicated a significant amount of time to outreach, more than would be possible for the Children’s Centre staff to do. Anecdotal evidence suggests that families find Family Voices are good ambassadors for the Children’s Centre, are easy to relate too and reduce barriers to access. They are also able to tap into informal networks in the community. 

Feedback from staff and parents

“I feel that the parents are role modelling working life, developing their own aspirations and also developing their children’s aspirations to work and want to work. Some children have observed changes in their parents behaviours and routines in a positive way, as one volunteer explained today before she volunteered all she used to do was sit on the sofa at home and watch television and let the children play around her, but now the children are accessing childcare and developing their personal, social and emotional development, mum is more motivated to get involved in play activities with the children and as I’ve said building aspirations for both mum and the children.”
Senior Parent and Community Outreach Officer

“For one volunteer in particular her children have observed a change in roles between their mother and father. The children have been used to the routine of mum taking them to stay and play sessions while Dad goes out to work, but every other week the children observe mum volunteering in the Dads Club while they spend quality time with Dad joining in with the play activities.” Senior Parent and Community Outreach Officer

“The staff value the volunteers because without the volunteers the staff wouldn’t be able to reach people like us. They give us 110% of their support, but it’s the fact that we’ve been there. Like myself, I had post-natal depression, if I was to come across another parent or carer who’d been in similar situations I’d be able to recognise it sooner than the professionals, because I’ve been there, got the t-shirt and seen it from that side, So I definitely think so we can reach people, professionals can’t.” Family Voices Volunteer 

“Volunteering has made me grow as a parent, if I hadn’t had the support, I wouldn’t be standing here now, and I wouldn’t be the same person. It’s not just one person supporting you, or the centre manager; it’s everyone across the board. I feel more confident. I’ve gone on to paid employment. I’ll attain my level 3 NVQ. All of this is due to the voluntary work. Before I was buried within myself.” Volunteer

“The confidence in the volunteers has just improved no end. They’ve gone from at the beginning, not being able to speak in a group to speaking at conferences.” Project Manager

(2) Those who had only volunteered for a very short time, or who were awaiting CRB checks were excluded from the sample.
(3) The forecast will be evaluated in a year to check its accuracy.
(4) The toolkit is based on the Co-Production with Children Self Assessment Framework produced by the New Economics Foundation (NEF.
(5)Poll, C. (2007) Co-production in supported housing: Key Ring living support networks and neighbourhood networks’, RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS IN SOCIAL WORK Co- Production and Personalisation in Social Care Changing Relationships in the Provision of Social Care, vol 49, pp 49–66.
(6) Loubens, P. (2007) Villa family: providing care for the elderly in rural France, Besancon: Ages & Vie,
(7) Harris, J. et al. (no date) Outcomes for disabled service users: Department of Health final report, York: Social Policy Research Unit.

Replication

Sustaining the practice

One of the biggest challenges to sustainability is childcare. It is important to offer free childcare to enable people to volunteer, especially the Directors who volunteer a lot of their time. However this is a significant cost and measures have been put in place to reduce this cost. A number of the Family Voices volunteers are undertaking qualifications to allow them to provide a crèche. A partnership was also formed with a local training organisation to provide sessions as part of their staff continuous professional development. This meant their staff became Family Voices Volunteers and were able to undertake their requirement to complete a number of hours childcare and Family Voices had a regular source of free childcare.

For this model to continue to be successful it is vital that new volunteers are recruited, as previous volunteers move on to employment, training or other opportunities. Family Voices will continue to recruit new volunteers as part of their volunteer recruitment strategy. This will include using Family Voices promotional material, including the menu of opportunities, as well as promoting volunteering at community events.

Becoming a company and gaining charitable status allowed Family Voices to hold contracts and bid for funding independently from the Children’s Centre. It is intended that these aspects will be developed over the next year to support sustainability and allow for Family Voices to expand their activities. 

Cost Analysis

The cost analysis document is available from C4EO team at the NFER
A report examining the changing financial cost of operating Family Voices and the benefits to the community is also available from C4EO team at the NFER

Learning from the experience

At the start of the process those involved had to learn to trust in the radical efficiency methodology and to take the time at the start of the project to do research, such as a resource audit and ethnography. It was tempting to rush straight to the ‘doing’ part of the project, but the insight generated enabled the project to generate an innovative new solution that made the Children’s Centre more accessible and encouraged community growth.

The Transforming Early Years project has changed how staff perceived their own roles. Rather than being the providers of services they now see their role as enabling the community to deliver services in partnership with the Children’s Centre. Adapting to this changed relationship has freed up staff time to devote a greater amount of time to working with families with greater levels of need, including those accessing family support. 

By co-producing services with local residents and Family Voices both the amount and the quality of feedback from parents has increased. As a result the Children’s Centre now offers a range of services that better match the community’s needs. It is important to remain responsive to the changing needs of the community and not underestimate the contribution feedback from parents can play in informing service delivery.

Challenges

While most staff, including those from partner agencies, and community members has been enthusiastic and eager to support Family Voices, there has been a minority who see volunteers as ‘taking people’s jobs’. This has on occasion undermined the confidence of Family Voices Directors. In order to overcome this it has been important to include staff as much as possible in the process to get their engagement and enable them to see the benefits of working in partnership with an organisation like Family Voices.

Similarly, in order for this project to be successful it requires a whole team approach and commitment. Although a large proportion of the day to day work became the responsibility of the Parental and Community Outreach Officer we required the support from the Children’s Development and Learning Team in delivering volunteers with early years training and support, the Family First Team in Safeguarding Training and the Admin team in the general IT, and support in the early days of the project.

There have been some practical issues around internet/IT access and information security in relation to working with a voluntary organisation. This has had little impact on the service being offered to families but it has occasionally created difficulties with administration tasks. 

Replication 

This model has huge potential for replication as every area can gain from investing in growing the capacity of the local community and getting the community more involved in the Children’s Centre. However it is important for those looking to replicate this model to understand the needs of the community and what their specific challenge is and adapt the model to suit. 

Knowsley has an active social growth strategy, which this project supports. The Transforming Early Years model will be replicated across the other areas of Knowsley. This process has begun by researching the current voluntary activity within each area and assessing any immediate needs. As each area is different in numbers of volunteers and the activities that volunteers undertake an individual action plan will then the drawn up for each area. This will allow them to follow the Transforming Early Years process and share the learning from those involved, but also allow them to develop a model than meets their local needs. 

Leadership behaviours

The following eight core behaviours have been identified as part of successful elements of leadership (see National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services/C4EO (2011). Resourceful leadership: how directors of children’s services improve outcomes for children. Full report. Nottingham: NCSL see http://www.c4eo.org.uk/themes/files/resourceful_leadership_dcs.pdf).

Openness to possibilities

It was vital within this project for the leaders to trust in the process and be open and actively prepared for change. By making such significant changes within service delivery we had to see the longer term benefits to the outcomes both for Children, their families, the individual volunteers and the wider community.

Ability to collaborate

In order for this project to succeed there is the requirement for the leaders at all levels of the project to collaborate with a wide range of partners, staff and volunteers. The community led organisation needed to be recognised and trusted within their community and by local partner agencies. The successful collaboration with these members is evidenced through positive partnership working to deliver large community events and through securing local funding bids. 

Demonstrating a belief in team and people

Throughout the TEY project it was essential to trust and believe in the process and the people involved. We maintained close working relationships between staff members and volunteers in developing a ‘shared vision’ which we were able to bring people back to in times of challenge and difficulties. This belief in team and people is evidenced by the commitment from staff members to train and support volunteers and in the volunteers delivery of sessions, outreach and large community events. Local Authority staff are traditionally risk averse and cautious in trying out different approaches, they are conditioned to ‘do more’ this is not the case and through the project we know we need to ‘do differently.’ It was important for the project leaders to ensure Local Authority staff understand that volunteers and community members do not have the constraints or ‘baggage’ of Local Authority Officers and demonstrate their ability to reach into the community in ways that would not traditionally feel within our comfort zone.

Personal resilience and tenacity

As leaders of the TEY project it was vital that we were able to demonstrate our personal resilience and tenacity in order for the project to progress and succeed. This project significantly changed our service delivery and developed very new and innovative ways of working. The change itself and the ability to maintain momentum often created challenges from people who struggled with change. The leaders of the project needed insight into how to keep sceptical individuals engaged with the process. 
The ability to create and sustain commitment across a system
Delivering the TEY project required a strong commitment across the system. The commitment of senior managers gave the Children’s Centres permission to work differently and try new things. The involvement of partners was also vital and they gave a lot of support to family voices. The project leaders were able to successful keep everyone across the system engaged and this secured their involvement. 

Focusing on results

The TEY project and Family Voices have received large amounts of positive feedback from volunteers, parents accessing the children’s centre and the local community. The children’s centre staff have also responded positively to being involved. Many of the positive outcomes are only just starting to become apparent as the project matures, including the ability of volunteers to gain sustained employment, the benefit within the wider community and the school readiness of children. In order to maintain the enthusiasm and momentum of change it was important to provide evidence of the ‘difference’ the project had made in the short/medium and longer term. Attributing the contribution volunteers made to the reach and registration figures within the centre was a positive and useful way of demonstrating the success and the positive results the project has had within the area.

The ability to simplify

Occasionally the TEY project, processes and the journey we travelled felt difficult to understand and conceptualise. As leaders of the project it was important for us to be able to successfully communicate these concepts to staff, partners and volunteers in a manner which would not alienate them or make them feel the project was ‘not for them.’ I believe the development and retention of volunteers who were involved from the outset is testament to our ability to make the project accessible to all.

The ability to learn continuously

This project was a new venture for all involved. It contained processes, methods and tasks which were innovative and required different ways of approaching service development. As leaders of the project we needed to be open to the new ideas, able to continue to learn new methodology and develop different thought processes. The project leaders all report that their learning through this project has been significant and continuous. This approach is now in the process of being rolled out across the borough, the project management will ensure that learning from different children’s centres is circulated around the borough. Family Voices have been continuously learning during the process. Their business skills are developing as they implement their business plan. As their business expands so will their knowledge and skills.

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