What does relational welfare mean?
Many challenges have arisen in our society since the welfare state was established in the 1950’s:
An ageing population, new patterns of illness like diabetes and the increase in cancer, changes to family structures, climate change, and, despite huge rises in wealth for some, the biggest increases in social inequality for over 50 years.
The response of this government and the last one has been to talk about public service reform. Some new ideas – the growth of the hospice movement for cancer care, the early success of Sure Start child development programmes – have made real differences in people’s lives.
But in most cases what reform has meant for those who use and work within our services is a dispiriting increase in bureaucracy. Did you know for example that social workers spend up to 80% of their time on form filling and other tasks around these forms? Did you know that up to 80% of any service budget is spent assessing people’s needs and keeping them out of the service? Such a waste of talent and money when needs are growing.
In order to meet the big and new challenges facing us it is not an answer simply to privatise these old models – which is what so much reform has meant.
At Participle we work on the ground, in the homes and communities of people in very different parts of the UK. We have seen the evidence for what is needed – a truly responsive welfare state that builds the capabilities of all: services that value and build on relationships. A form of welfare that understands that loneliness kills; that you need a social network to find a job when 80% of jobs are never advertised; that you need someone to stand by your side when you have grown up in a community that no longer remembers decent work and you are confronting all the problems of violence, depression and anxiety that go along with this.
Relational Welfare is not just an idea. At Participle we have created new examples of how it can work and how we can pay for it. Several thousand people have benefited so far.
Life, our work with families, is an empowering experience for the families who face many difficulties in day to day life. The families have the potential to change their own lives. We provide the framework for those at the front line to create a new relationship with families that starts from a different place, and supports transformation. www.alifewewant.com
Backr is a service that creates opportunites for those seeking work. It provides someone to vouch for you, to support you, and reflect with you. It will build a social network around people within this framework and includes support for the small businesses that will drive job creation. www.backr.net
A relational approach defines not just the goals but the way we can get there. Relationships are the glue that keep us together – we can build public services that foster good relationships.
If you want to read more about our practical examples see here www.participle.net.
If you want to read more about the ideas underpinning our approach see herehttp://www.participle.net/images/uploads/soundings48_cottam2.pdf
What does relational welfare mean to you?
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