Stronger Together Hub
Ensuring sustainable collaborative community support as a COVID response
Kingston Council and community organisations have come together to offer effective services through the Kingston Together (KST) hub to support vulnerable residents through the COVID-19 crisis response and recovery.
FutureGov undertook a review of the KST hub to understand what worked well, assess how it needs to adapt to be more sustainable and explore what role the hub might have alongside the council’s wider strategic objectives and transformation agenda.
Taking a user-centred approach to the review, we asked council and partner staff to reflect on what has worked well, what hasn’t and where there may be opportunities to do things differently in the next phase of the COVID response and recover.
Interviewing 14 council officers, 3 directors, 4 voluntary and community sector (VCS) leads and evaluating 10 tier review presentations we captured thoughts on the strategic direction of the hub. Overarching insights focused around collaborative partnership working, multidisciplinary team working and the diverse and capable voluntary and community sector, amongst others.
We’ve summarised who’s been supported by the hub, their needs and staff reflections on the likely medium to long-term COVID-19 support needs that may appear in the coming months.
The greatest volume of services has been around low complex needs such as food and pharmacy deliveries. And the greatest reported value in the hub has been in addressing needs that are more complex, but that would not necessarily have gained statutory support outside of a COVID response, such as supporting people with lower-level mental health challenges.
The hub has shown the benefits of taking a multidisciplinary approach, addressing a resident's holistic needs and solving problems for them, rather than relying on a single-service pathway response.
Kingston went further than many councils in reaching out to residents to make sure they were safe during the crisis. This proactive approach surfaced some demand in emergency response (needs around food or medicine) but also led to holistic problem solving, where people's needs were interconnected and too complex to be met by a single service offer. Participants in the hub see this as the real opportunity as the council and its partners move through the remainder of 2020 and past the COVID-19 crisis.
A preventative approach to supporting people is where the hub generated its greatest value, and is how its future should be designed. Based on our review we’ve made three recommendations to Kingston Council on how best to continue this preventative approach, create sustainability and guide the future of the KST hub.
Recommendation 1: overall strategy
There was acknowledgement across the council and VCS groups that the hub was a successful prototype of a new, multidisciplinary partnership based model of organising around resident needs rather than traditional siloed services. The emergency nature of the COVID-19 response forced quick decision making and teams and services were able to rapidly protect those most vulnerable.
We’re recommending the council shift its focus and step away from services that can be delivered as effectively, or more effectively by others.
Recommendation 2: the council’s future role
We recommended that the council further boost its role as an 'enabler' in the Borough. This means not always delivering services, but understanding it's wider influence and power in Kingston looking for opportunities to give space and power away to the VCS and other organisations to better meet people's needs through COVID-19 and beyond.
Recommendation 3: test and learn
Our final recommendation focused on taking the opportunity to strengthen and test the multidisciplinary triage model as the focus of transformation across the council. There’s a unique opportunity to build on the learning from the hub as a multidisciplinary front door to the council and its partners, and continue this way of working.
We suggested the council take a minimum viable approach to test and grow the hub, and define it’s different capabilities for the long term. This way the council will understand more about the outcomes it can achieve whilst continuing to support the vulnerable throughout COVID-19.
The Future Model of the hub is built around 6 hypotheses that need to be tested over the next 6-9 months:
- a central, multidisciplinary triage that manages demand can prevent needs escalating and provide effective pathways of support
- shifting to a strength-based approach leverages the assets of individuals and provides more support options
- a new commissioning relationship with the VCS focused on outcomes will encourage greater collaboration and flexibility to mobilise and respond appropriately
- wider engagement of the VCS and other partners to create a neighbourhood model will avoid duplication and make sure the best organisations are able to deliver services
- the council should move to an enabling role, reducing its service delivery within the hub, and take on a coordinating and facilitating role to fulfil its mission to build community resilience
- a distributive leadership model drives better, more efficient decision making
Our review defined the future model of the hub at a strategic level, aligning to the council's ambitions. We’ve also identified three additional recommendations on how to apply the insight in this review more broadly within the hub and to other activity that’s taking place in the council, focusing on:
- a review of the voluntary and communities sector
- the integration of health and social care
- the relationship between the hub, digital transformation and the customer contact centre