Although Participle has closed its doors, Relational Welfare was always part of a bigger movement towards services that put people and relationships at their heart. After 3 years of running this blog and seeing all the fantastic groups and individuals committed to making this a reality, we are confident Relational Welfare will continue to grow and shape the world.
If you are interested in receiving updates on key developments in Relational Welfare, or in the work of Participle’s founder, Hilary Cottam, you can sign up on our legacy website, or follow @HilaryCottam on Twitter.
The context of relational welfare
Since the welfare state was established in the 1950s, our society has changed in significant and challenging ways: our population is ageing, long term health conditions are more prevalent, our family structures have changed, and despite huge rises in wealth for some, we’re facing the biggest increases in social inequality for over 50 years.
The response of this government and the last one has been to talk about public service reform. Some new ideas – the growth of the hospice movement for cancer care, the early success of Sure Start child development programmes – have made real differences in people’s lives.
Yet, in most cases what reform has meant is a dispiriting increase in bureaucracy for both those who use and provide our services. For example, social workers spend on average up to 80% of their time on form-filling and other tasks around these forms. Did you know that up to 80% of any service budget in the UK is spent assessing people’s needs and keeping them out of the service? Such a waste of talent and money when needs are growing.
In order to meet the big and new challenges facing us it is not enough to simply privatise these old models (which is what so much reform has meant).
What we need is a truly responsive welfare state that builds the capabilities of all: services that value and build on relationships. We must have a system that understands that loneliness kills; that you need a social network to find a job when 80% of jobs are never advertised; that you need someone to stand by your side when you have grown up in a community that no longer remembers decent work and you are confronting all the problems of violence, depression and anxiety that go along with this. We call this relational welfare.
Relational Welfare in Action
Relational welfare is not just an idea. At Participle we created new examples of how it can work and how we can pay for it. Several thousand people have benefited so far.
The Circle Movement fights isolation and loneliness among older people while prolonging independence. A rich social network provides a structure for people to reach out and get lower level care and small practical tasks taken care of, such as changing a lightbulb or planting a tree.
The Life Programme is an empowering experience for so-called troubled families who face multiple, multi-generational complex problems. We provide the framework for those at the front line to create a new relationship with these families, putting them in charge of their own interventions.
Backr is a social network that connects people interested in boosting their careers, whether they be looking for work or simply planning for future success. Providing a way to build personal connections online and face to face, it helps its members see opportunities in the world of work that might otherwise stay hidden.
If you want to read more about our practical examples, visit our legacy website, www.participle.net.
For a more in-depth exploration of relational welfare, read the essay that inspired the movement: ‘Relational Welfare’ by Hilary Cottam. Along the same lines is our new vision for public services, which builds on the achievements of our shared past: Beveridge 4.0.