You are here: Our learning partnership with Birmingham Changing Futures

Birmingham Changing Futures Together (BCFT) is one of twelve Fulfilling Lives:Supporting People with Multiple Needs sites funded by The National Lottery Community Fund. The BCFT programme aims to improve the lives of people experiencing multiple and complex needs, across Birmingham. BCFT defines multiple and complex needs as people experiencing two or more ofthe following: homelessness, problematic substance use, risk of offending and mental ill health. Importantly, the programme focuses on system change, aiming to ensure that models and approaches pioneered during the project become mainstream.

Since early 2018, Revolving Doors Agency has led the local evaluation of the Birmingham Changing FuturesTogether programme. Our evaluation focused on three key aspects of the programme: 

  • understanding the current experiences of people facing multiple and complex needs across Birmingham
  • the impact of Psychologically Informed Environment (PIE) training on staff and their ways of working, and;
  • the impact of the Every Step of the Way ‘Expert by Experience’ programme on the wider system.

We took a learning partnership approach, adapting the research as necessary, feeding back on findings on real time to understand and maximise the impact of the programme on the local system. 



Highlights from the evaluation of Birmingham Changing Futures

The ongoing evaluation of the Birmingham Changing Futures Together (BCFT) programme has recently focused on three elements of the programme:

  • an understanding of the current experiences of people with multiple and complex needs
  • the impact of Psychologically Informed Environment (PIE) training on staff and their working methods
  • the impact of the ‘Expert by Experience’ programme on the wider system.

This report draws together key highlights and learning for the overall programme. Lessons can be learned, and positive aspects reinforced and used to influence systems change.

Service users were more positive than before about engaging with the support available from services across Birmingham. However, some service users were not aware of the wider range of services available, and more should be done to inform people with complex needs.

The PIE training of staff was important in the wider picture of engaging often entrenched service users. Service users viewed staff who had undertaken PIE training as having an increased level of skill and compassion. And most staff reported PIE training as enabling them to read between the lines, pause and consider the best way to respond to clients.

Service users in Birmingham were very positive about the staff working with them, and PIE training has undoubtedly had an impact. The work of Lead Workers and Peer Mentors was highly valued and appeared to make tangible difference to outcomes. Stakeholders were also overwhelmingly positive about the preparedness, work ethic and desire to change the system shown by the ‘Experts by Experience’.

Despite system change being the central aim of the BCFT programme, there is a lack of understanding among stakeholders of what system change is – both as a concept and specifically in the context of Birmingham. Against this backdrop, however, there was evidence of positive impacts on service users and ‘Experts by Experience’. There was also evidence that some services were working well together, though more could be done to make this more seamless.


BCFT Service User Perspectives

This report shares the findings from the first round of qualitative fieldwork evaluating the Birmingham Changing Futures Together (BCFT) programme. It explores how it feels to be a service user in Birmingham and reflects on how people accessing support view changes in recent years.

Although the report doesn’t set out to provide recommendations for practice, it includes clear learning for both the system and services that deserves further reflection.

BCFT aims to improve the lives of people across Birmingham experiencing multiple and complex needs. The programme focuses on service and system change, aiming to ensure that models and approaches pioneered during the project become mainstream.

The overwhelming majority of interviewees were very positive about services - specifically the staff, who were repeatedly described with glowing appreciation. This positively impacted on service users’ confidence, their trust in services and their outlook on the future.

Overall, there were reports that initial access to certain services for people facing multiple and complex needs was improving. However, several people noted the high thresholds for mental health services and severe problems accessing stable or permanent accommodation.

Wider funding cuts and reduced opening hours in some services were noticed and reported as negative. However, the recent establishment of a Liaison and Diversion service seemed to be making a positive difference.

Service users also noted an increased level of staff skill and compassion across most services. Many talked about effective joint working between the homelessness and substance misuse services, but there was less evidence of consistent collaboration to address wider needs.

The work of Lead Workers and Peer Mentors was highly valued and appeared to make a tangible difference to outcomes. There were indications that this had long-term impacts on service users’ identity and confidence.

BCFT Evaluation of Every Step of the Way

This report aims to share research into how stakeholders engage with the Every Step of the Way (ESOW) programme. It explores the programme’s impact at both service and systems level and notes lessons for the future. It also captures Experts by Experience’s views on their impact across the system.

This research set out to gain an understanding of the experiences of Experts by Experience in the ESOW programme. It also looked at the impact of Experts by Experience on individual Birmingham services. Finally, it sought to understand the system-wide impact that Experts by Experience are having.
To enter the ESOW programme as an expert, an individual must have experienced at least two complex needs in the last five years. They can be referred by a support worker or a peer, but often refer themselves. Each expert now enters the programme for two years and has an Engagement and Development worker who supports them individually through their Personal Development Impact Plan (PDIP).

The aim of the ESOW programme is to support the experts in their development at the same time has having an impact on wider system service change across Birmingham. Each expert is offered opportunities to bring their experience as service users with complex needs to services, projects and policies. The objective is to help these services, projects and policies to work better, both individually and across the system.

The key learning points that emerged from this research are the need to:

•    Make ESOW more visible
•    Raise awareness of what system change means
•    Capture the impact of ESOW
•    Use the impact feedback loop
•    Prepare stakeholders to work with Experts by Experience
•    Consider the quality of opportunities that arise.