The Charles Plater Trust Project – Improving Lives and Building Social Justice

By Ruth Moore, Director of St Wilfrid’s Centre

The impact of the Charles Plater Trust’s very generous grant to St Wilfrid’s Centre has been much wider than we originally envisaged. The delays to the Project, especially those created by lockdowns and restrictions, have meant that changes had to be made to the original plans and the chance to reflect more on our practice and our outcomes at St Wilfrid’s Centre have led to what we believe is a more effective and sustainable project.

The result has been the commissioning and implementation of a bespoke database. Key to moving the project forward initially was the need for clarity over how we would review and track progress.  After much reading about current practices and research, we formulated our own approach that we felt would be effective at the Centre but that also could be adapted or used in a different format elsewhere. Our other key learning point has been the need not to pre-empt what impact and progress are, instead formulating a wide-ranging ‘vulnerability’ measure which includes a ‘best-fit’ approach, that is flexible and adaptable once we have enough data to evaluate. Because our clients have so many different needs we also need to make sure our understanding of impact and progress focuses on the individual.

Welfare workers review clients ‘vulnerabilty’ under a number of headings, including ‘Isolation’, Mental Health, Financial needs, ‘Housing Needs’, Life Skills’.  The use of the vulnerability score and the lessons learnt from the development of the database demonstrates a different approach and/or principle to what has become for many public sector organisations the introduction of targets. Our aim has always been that good practice and principled work/leadership, underpinned by Catholic Social Teaching, will not be driven by imposed targets but will instead drive the need to identify real progress, even if that means just coming to a safe place and attending the Centre once a week, and evidencing how it can be measured.

The project has also led to a complete review of our use of hardware and software and the need for a long-term strategic plan. As is often the case for small organisations like ours, the use of technology has developed on a need’s basis over the years, without any real funding commitment or consideration as to how its impact on clients can be increased. The bespoke database would not be as effective without secure and effective hardware and so a detailed costed plan for new hardware was devised and implemented. Although we have had to seek additional funding from individuals and trusts for this, we do feel that clients are already benefitting in Skills for Living Sessions and when needing help applying for benefits etc and the use of the database and the development of Vulnerability reviews are effective.

So, as we continue to focus on the principles and needs of clients that guide us, we are unmoving in our determination to provide an effective service and a safe place for clients ‘just to be’ for many years to come. The Plater Trust have enabled and accompanied us on that journey and we ask that our amazing supporters, as I know many of you who read this are, also accompany us on that journey. Without our supporters and your generous donations, St Wilfrid’s Centre could not exist and we want to thank every one of you for your generosity and support.