community coaches

thinkpublic worked with Barnet Council and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) to prototype and deliver Community Coaches, an innovative community service for families with complex needs.

The starting point for the project was a recognition that families experiencing multiple disadvantage require significant input from the state yet often continue to experience poor outcomes.

Nationally, for example, an estimated £300 million could be saved over three years if care leavers achieved the same take-up of education, employment and training as their peers (Cabinet Office, 2008). In Barnet, an estimated £87.2 million per year is spent on the two per cent most disadvantaged families, yet research carried out with the families themselves found the current pattern of public service delivery was for many ineffectual (Barnet Council, 2010).

Faced with evidence that existing ways of supporting families with complex needs were not working, could new community-led service models provide deliver outcomes at lower cost?

Working with a team of over 50 people from Barnet Council, partner organisations and the local community, we used prototyping techniques to quickly and cost effectively develop and test new service ideas.

Responding to user feedback from the first round of testing, we began to focus on a single service idea, which came to be known as ‘Community Coaches’. Over six weeks, we worked with volunteers to ‘live test’ the service with six families with complex needs.

As the live test was running, we worked with Barnet Council to blueprint social business models to put the service on a sustainable footing. We also monitored the service’s performance throughout to identify opportunities for future improvement.

Families felt the coaching they received helped improve their confidence, resilience and independence. In turn, this is expected to reduce families’ dependence on public services, generating significant cost savings for Barnet Council and its partners.

The Community Coaches service is now running across a few different communities in Barnet.

We also plan to adapt the Community Coach service model so that more communities can benefit from the service.

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