Supply and Demand

Supply and Demand

So David Cameron wants to double the number of Health Visitors. Those tackling the worklessness agenda want to use caseworkers to get people off of benefits and back into work. On the Enterprise agenda we have community motivators, enterprise champions, enablers and streetwalkers – all working in communities to encourage individuals to consider self-employment and starting a business.

Two problems:

  • Service providers on the supply side compete with each other to attract individuals onto their programmes so that they can count them in their outputs. Some can threaten to remove benefits unless individuals from target groups take up their services. Others spend lots of cash on marketing and sales, saturating the marketplace with messages about how their services will transform individuals and communities;
  • There is little or no demand for their services in the target communities. There is no demand side. People are cynical, feeling manipulated, threatened, belittled and demonised. Their communities are saturated with outreach workers from the supply side looking to sign them up to their programmes. They are subject to advertising campaigns, leaflet drops, door knocking and telesales.

Perhaps what is required is a much more client centred (rather than policy led) engagement on the (distinct lack of) demand side – helping individuals to decide for themselves what might constitute progress for them (rather than for the policy makers) – and then helping them to access service providers that can help. Community workers who are not looking to sell policy objectives but just to respond effectively and with commitment to individuals who want to try to make things better for themselves and their families. Workers who are trained to leave people alone unless they ask to be helped. Outreach workers with nothing to sell – just the skills to help and extensive networks into the expertise and infrastructure that has already been developed on the supply side.

This would be a very different model of engagement and one that might just work.

The case workers might just start to help people move forward on agendas that matter to them. To become more enterprising in improving their own circumstances and ability. To start again exploring and developing their own potential

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