Case Study

System change case study: The Wigan Deal

by | Nov 3, 2021

Youth Futures Foundation has gathered this case study to help applicants to our Connected Futures Fund understand the kinds of things that might be involved in collective local efforts to change the ways that systems work. We recognise that the fund is not like ordinary project funding, and we hope you will find some of these case studies helpful prompts as you think through your application.

You do not have to copy or draw on this examples at all. It is only an example, and it won’t all be relevant to you and your context – feel free to take what you need, and ignore the rest.

We will not give preference to applications that look like this example. We want to see your ideas for changing how things work.

The Wigan Deal

What is it?

Launched in 2013, the Wigan Deal aims to change the relationship between people who deliver services and people who use them – “a different conversation”. It emerged from a mix of a positive vision of a more relational approach to services, which could help people move on, rather than simply “containing” their problems, and the need to find significant savings in the context of austerity. Rather than salami-slicing budgets year on year, the council took the risk of moving to a new model which it believed would deliver better results for less.

Key components of the Deal include:

  • Asset-based and strengths-based approaches, starting from what people can do
  • Permission to innovate and support to take risks – “we will back you”
  • Place-based working, with seven “service delivery footprints” based on real neighbourhoods and communities that feel meaningful to local people
  • Shifting resources into prevention and early intervention
  • Investing in communities and the voluntary and community sector, to build their capacity – especially through establishing community hubs across Wigan
  • Collaborative approach to commissioning, treating service providers as partners and encouraging them to collaborate and share learning and resources

How does it work?

The Deal is reflected across every service area. For example, the public health team has trained over 3,000 community health champions who lead local health improvement activities, take part in health promotion campaigns, and provide advice and support to friends and neighbours.

In education, five “Start Well” family centres have been established, each managed by a local primary school. These bring health visitors, school nurses, youth justice teams and early intervention services together under one roof, whether at the school, a GP practice or another community “anchor point” such as a church. Services are designed with parents, and “parent champions” lead many of their activities.

Many services are now organised in neighbourhood “footprints”. The weekly huddle in each footprint is attended by children’s and adult social care, Start Well staff, district nurses, health visitors, schools, housing, antisocial behaviour teams, police, link workers, employment support and VCS organisations. It is a problem-solving forum, where agencies discuss people they have concerns about, share information and agree on a coordinated response, often led by the organisation with the best relationship with that individual.

What makes this an example of systems change? 

The Deal is an example of transformational change – shifting the whole basis on which public services are delivered.

It is a cultural shift which has now spread beyond the council to include the local NHS, police, schools and other services. For example, GP practice clusters and police officers’ beats have been rearranged to match neighbourhood footprints.

Elements of systems change: 

  • Rethinking relationships with service users (from passive recipients to active citizens)
  • Aligning funding streams and incentives (around neighbourhood footprints)
  • Reorienting existing services and resources (to focus on early intervention and prevention)
  • Improving multi-agency coordination, information-sharing and collaboration
  • Changing objectives, incentives / accountability, culture and behaviours within services
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