User-controlled information - London Borough of Barnet

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Project description

This is a user-controlled IAA (Information, Advice & Advocacy) service and peer support brokerage service commissioned by the London Borough of Barnet. It is delivered by Barnet Centre for Independent Living (BCIL) as the main contractor, with other user-led organisations sub-contracted to provide specialist advocacy and advice services.

The IAA service was set up in April 2012 and offers three tiers of support. Tier 1 includes triage and provision of information. Tier 2 includes complex advice work or complex advocacy support. Tier 3 offers support to professionals or third sector organisations.

The peer support brokerage service was developed through 'Right to Control' and has been running since early 2011.

Who is the service for?

It is for disabled and older adults living in Barnet, including people with sensory or physical impairments, and/or mental health problems. There are no eligibility criteria for accessing the service. Most people who use brokerage have a personal budget, but it is also used by self-funders. Referrals also come from the council's adult social work teams.

BCIL and sub-contractor partner organisations provide additional support and advice to other groups and organisations by providing specialist advice to support effective signposting and referrals.

Intended outcomes

The project aims to help people exercise choice and control, by empowering them to make informed decisions about their lives. It aims to help people plan ahead and anticipate their health and social care needs, and to maximise their social capital by making best use of all resources available to them.

Other intended outcomes are to manage the local care market, by increasing the amount of information available about needs and demand; to reduce people's dependency on statutory services; and to achieve value for money.

Why was the service being developed?

The peer support brokerage service was developed as part of Barnet's bid in 2010 to become a Right to Control Trailblazer area. Central to the success of this bid was partnership with user-led organisations, and the proposal that peer mentoring, support planning and brokerage would be delivered by BCIL.

A consultation carried out by the council in 2011 found that local people wanted a service that was geared to the particular needs of disabled people, older people and carers, separate to the Customer Services Organisation that serves Barnet's general population.

The council took the view that commissioning Information, Advice & Advocacy through BCIL would create the right conditions for integrated working between specialist organisations and across the different groups of people who use services.

Were the people who use services and carers and other key stakeholders involved in setting up this service?

This is a user-led service, and people who use services and carers were closely involved from the outset. They have had control over how these services are managed and delivered from the earliest stages through BCIL, which was created in autumn 2010 as a coalition of interested voluntary organisations.

BCIL is committed to the principles of genuine user-led delivery and peer-led services. It has grown rapidly as a service delivery organisation and is now working to strengthen the independent voice of people who use services.

Has the service met the intended outcomes?

A review of the peer support brokerage service showed that from May 2011 to July 2012, 172 people were empowered to exercise choice and control through this service. An increase in demand for peer led brokerage indicates a target of 300 support plans is likely to be met during 2013. Feedback from people who have used the service showed that the peer element was significant: people felt that brokers who have personal experience of disability were able to understand their needs and situation.

A review in 2013 has highlighted significant added value and benefits for beneficiaries and the wider stakeholder group.

  • More than 70% of staff and 87% of directors have lived experience of disability. BCIL is a truly peer-led organisation and peer support is key to how it delivers services
  • Peer support brokerage is delivered exclusively by people with lived experience of disability and using personal budgets
  • The service has been able to give ten volunteers with lived experience of serious mental illness or autism a welcoming and inclusive environment in which to contribute to BCIL's development
  • Participating in the Barnet Healthwatch partnership ensures that seldom-heard groups are heard
  • BCIL has worked with the local authority on leaflets and factsheets, and there is peer-led input, checking these for accuracy and accessibility
  • BCIL has developed a bespoke outcomes tool, known as the 'Outcomes Web', in order to reflect the impact of the support they provide and to capture people's journey towards greater choice and control
  • BCIL is a strategic partner in the Right to Control project, and both a BCIL director and its CEO sit on the Right to Control Programme Board.

What were the learning points in setting up this service?

  • Recognise the importance of good working relationships between commissioners and external organisations, including a shared commitment to user-controlled services
  • Allow for the resource implications of partnership and sub-contracting arrangements, which can involve a large amount of negotiation and can affect the amount of time available for service delivery
  • Be prepared to invest significant time in developing effective partnerships
  • Be prepared to find a balance between delivering an effective service that meets commissioners' requirements, without compromising the independence, values and ethos of user-led organisations.

Contact details

Glen Crosier
Commissioning Manager, London Borough of Barnet
Telephone: 020 8359 6193