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A Year in the Life of the Frontline Network

A Year in the Life of the Frontline Network

A Year in the Life of the Frontline Network

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

David Barclay reflects back on his year spent working on, and developing, the Frontline Network.

What a difference a year makes! When I joined the team at St Martin’s in August of last year, the Frontline Network had very recently been launched, and many of its features were still being figured out. Just twelve months later and we have a clear and compelling initiative, with great partners and a range of resources to help those on the frontline working with homeless and vulnerably housed people.

One of the major developments in that time has been the launch of the Frontline Network website, which happened in January of this year. Developed with significant input from frontline workers, the website has a range of resources which are now being taken up by people in a variety of contexts across the country.

The Forum is allowing people to share best practice in overcoming some of the many challenges of working at the frontline, as well as creating a space to discuss topical issues affecting homelessness in the UK.

The Ideas Board has seen some brilliantly creative suggestions from frontline workers, which we have been able to fund and turn into reality.

And the ‘News and Views’ section has highlighted some amazing initiatives and people who are inspirational in the way they are working with some of the most marginalised people in our society with passion and determination, despite some extremely challenging circumstances.

The main aspect of my role has been working with our amazing partner organisations across the country who have been facilitating the Frontline Network in their local area. They have worked extremely hard to create new communities of frontline workers, and have brought great energy and imagination to making their work attractive to people who are, as a rule, extremely busy and time-poor. More than 25 events have so far been organised, attracting almost 700 people from at least 150 organisations. These events have introduced people to each other, to new ideas and to new resources which can help them in their roles.

Some of the recurring themes have been around mental health, dual diagnosis and Psychologically Informed Environments, as well as how to develop collaborative practices amongst frontline staff in an environment where services are often being pressured to compete for funding.

Another highlight of working on the Frontline Network was the National Conference we ran in the Autumn of 2016. Hearing the personal stories of frontline workers and what motivated them from the main stage was a profound experience, and when one shared their story of how a support worker had effectively saved their life when they were experiencing homelessness, you could have heard a pin drop in an auditorium of over 200 people. It was a perfect example of what the Frontline Network is trying to do, giving voice to the experiences, struggles and views of those who are closest to the ground and who therefore have a unique but under-recognised perspective.

As well as helping out on the Frontline Network, I have also led on the evaluation and development of the Vicar’s Relief Fund, our emergency grants programme. Working with a team from the London School of Economics, we have sharpened the focus of the Fund without losing the key elements valued by frontline workers – particularly the speed of response and simplicity of the application form.

We’ve also created the platform for more work to better understand the impact of our grants, which we know from anecdotal evidence can make a huge difference in enabling frontline workers to achieve significant positive outcomes for the people they are working with.

Overall it’s been a busy year, but a hugely enjoyable and productive one. The Frontline Network is now firmly established, and I look forward to watching it continue to grow and make a significant contribution in tackling the crucial issue of homelessness in the UK.

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