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  • New models of care and support with accommodation

May Day Trust Supporting people through tough times


Mayday works to prevent the systematic institutionalisation of people accessing services.

Mayday is a forward thinking organisation working with people going through some of the toughest of transitions such as experiencing homelessness, coming out of prison, leaving care and moving away from substances. 

Mayday delivers a radical new Personalised, Transitional and Strength Based approach - the Personal Transitions Service. It runs directly and alongside a network of partners in England, and will shortly be expanding this approach across the UK. 

What is the problem this innovation solves?

Mayday changed its mission to respond to the problem as defined by people within the system - ‘the systematic institutionalisation of people going through tough times’.

From listening to people and deeply reflecting on what people had to say, Mayday discovered that, as an organisation established to end homelessness, we were trying to solve the wrong problem. 

People described a 'system-led and deficit-based system' that limited individual power and control, retraumatised and institutionalised people who were becoming trapped in services. 

The current focus on ‘complex needs’, fixing problems rather than hearing people’s individual stories and situations, does not work.  Dividing people into 'problem' cohorts, government siloed funding streams, competition for local authority contracts has created perverse incentives which directly impact on people's ability to receive the right intervention at the right time.


Over the past 7 years of prototyping a new person-led and strength-based way of working with people - the Personal Transitions Service (PTS) - Mayday has turned the traditional way of working with people on its head; passing power and control back to the person and offering voluntary access to a PTS coach who builds on strengths, by-passing the system where possible and sourcing opportunities in the local community to avoid institutionalisation. Each intervention is person-led, allowing for meaningful, tailored, co-production to happen at an individual level to listen to people’s stories and identify systemic barriers to personalise each response. No two interventions are ever the same.

This goes beyond a service approach and models the paradigm shift required across the whole system including organisational transformation, culture change, systemic disruption and commissioning practices; ‘influencing through doing’ to ensure systems change happens at the grassroots.

Evidence base

As a strength-based approach, we developed a strength-based way of capturing and measuring impact. We adapted an Asset Development tool alongside the Search Institute in the US who had tested their evidence base with 4m young people, across 70 countries over 25 years. They proved that by focussing on, and increasing individual assets, positive, sustainable outcomes and thriving behaviours naturally occurs. 

We have tested this tool with 1,207 people so far and have found that people deemed as being ‘complex needs’ are actually none of the sort. People come with surprisingly high internal and external assets and strengths which, once built upon, have led to statistically significant outcomes of 83% sustained accommodation; 69% increased wellbeing and 36% engagement in employment, education and training. We don’t ask people about their histories but for those who chose to disclose, of these, 55% reduced their use of harmful substances and 60% reduced reoffending. 

Expected impact

Through Mayday Trust and our network of partners, we aim to test the approach with a minimum of 2000 people to prove the research question of ‘if you increase individual assets through the PTS approach, individuals sustain positive change’.

As we continue to prototype the approach across the UK and challenge the wider system through the doing on the ground, we aim to model an entirely new, transitional system that is completely person led. This embeds the PTS and personalised, strength based approaches as the norm, transforms organisations to become culturally appropriate to pass power to the frontline and people they work with, utilises and builds communities and has a more equal partnership approach with funders and commissioners. 

The impact for the individual is that, when fallen on tough times, these are a brief transition in their lives, not a life sentence.

Stage/spread (where it is/how much is there?)

Since 2016, Mayday has been working with 8 other organisations and commissioners in England who are testing this approach alongside us as ‘PTS Innovation Partners’. The PTS is now being delivered across the North East, in Sheffield, Wigan, Derby, Herefordshire, Northamptonshire, Oxford, Deptford and Westminster. To date we have worked with 1,207 people and continue to collectively gather learning to inform our research.

From October 2019, the PTS will also be available across Wales and Scotland and then in Northern Ireland as we work with infrastructure partners to offer the PTS to providers and commissioners across their countries to build a UK wide approach to Person-led, Strength Based systemic change. 

The PTS has also been welcomed by an international audience and has been disseminated to global leaders of homelessness provision in Chicago from countries such as Bangalore, Belgium, Austrailia, Croatia and Chile as part of the Institute of Global Homelessness.

What would councils/health organisations/local areas need to do or have in place to enable it to develop?

To develop a genuine, person-led system where people can truly take the lead, Mayday Trust are aiming to work alongside councils and health commissioners to prototype a new, whole systems commissioning response. 
Co-production and collaboration around a broken deficit based system will only produce more efficient version of the same, however to truly uncover the systemic barriers that individuals face through deficit based systems and practices, this needs to be modeled and learned from in real time. 

Through bringing together commissioners from across silos and sectors to invest time and resources into the PTS locally, and collectively reflecting, learning and adapting to create a new response to what is happening in real time, a new strength based commissioning response will be created that is based on the real experiences of people and will allow investment to follow the individual in a person-led way, and not the system we have created.

What would kill it?

A transitional, person-led system would be killed if funding and commissioning remain focussed on outputs and prescriptive contracts that require organisations to game for resources in order to survive. The false economy of developing projects and programmes and categorising people into labelled silos in order to draw down funds will take away the ability to respond to an individuals’ unique situation and strengths and instead, will perversely bend practice to satisfy contracts. 

Co-production and collaboration around a broken system will also kill this opportunity as we do not have the answers amongst us generate a prescriptive response to each person’s experience. 

Only when we unlearn what we think we already know as best practice, pass power and control to the people and adapt a position of reflection and learning through prototyping a new response, will strength based and person-led work stand a chance of becoming the systemic norm.

Where to go for more information