GMTHINK is the Greater Manchester Tackling Homelessness Information Network. It is a multi-agency data system used by organisations across Greater Manchester to promote partnership working to better co-ordinate support for people experiencing multiple disadvantage.
To help ensure that the voice of people with lived experience played a key role in developing this system, ICM set out to recruit a co-chair for the GMTHINK Steering Group who had personal experience of multiple disadvantage.
This role was designed to:
Co-chair the meetings, helping the group to work together to develop solutions to common challenges
Push forward the voice of lived experience in further developments of the system
Help create a GMTHINK User Group to bring together practitioners across services to share information
Liaise with partners and allies to promote the use of information to build better outcomes for people facing multiple disadvantage
Following a recruitment process, Neil was appointed as co-chair for the GMTHINK Partnership. After starting in his role, Neil wrote a blog to explain his experience;
“On my first day I met the ICM Research and Evaluation Officer and the Development Officer to get set up and learn more about the background of GMTHINK, the reasoning behind why it was set up, some of the challenges that had been experienced and how it has expanded over the last five years. I was shown the GMTHINK system and learnt more about the ICM Programme. We discussed what support I might need and what I could bring to the role. We then began to plan for the first GMTHINK Steering Group I would be attending as well as booking in calls with different GMTHINK users to get their thoughts on how the system is working for them. I found that insight to GMTHINK really useful.”
I then spent a few days speaking to people who use GMTHINK to get a better understanding of how it is used on a practical level – here are a few of my notes:
Service Manager at ICM:
- Some clients on the service are on intensive support whereas others are moved to lesser intensive support if they feel ready. GMTHINK really supports this way of working and it is invaluable in recording this information.
- GMTHINK is used to record information such as: practical support, positive networks and connections, what benefits clients may need help with, how long or how often they have been homeless, client support needs and non-engagement with services. It can also be used for performance management to see how workers are supporting their clients.
- The information gathered from a referral assessment is recorded on GMTHINK and used to pair a client up with the most appropriate worker to ensure the right support is given for that individual.
- The system is also used to bring different organisations together and collectively record and get the individual involved when possible, considering confidentiality and duty of care. ICM clients are advised how they can access their information on GMTHINK and can be facilitated to do this.
Senior Engagement Worker at ICM:
- Referrals are allocated to Engagement workers who will then contact the person to have a chat and do an initial assessment which is recorded on GMTHINK. The information gathered in the initial assessment includes; client accommodation status, areas of support being accessed, support needs and future goals. We also make sure to explain to people why their information is recorded on GMTHINK and what all their rights are if they want to see what is on their record (privacy notice). This information assists with ICM being able to take a person-centred approach. The Outcome Star assessments combined with support plans are used to demonstrate what interventions haven’t worked in the past so other methods can be tried.
- Benefits, previous addresses and support networks are all recorded alongside a Safety Plan to highlight any risks to ensure safety for the client, staff and volunteers. The Safety Plan is used to providing context to triggers and help minimise risk. A new Covid-19 risk assessment has been added to record information as an additional element for client safety. It can identify information such as underlying health conditions which would place the client at greater risk if developing Covid-19.
- A flexible fund budget is available for additional client support. It is used purchase items to improve client wellbeing, help achieve goals and buy any items that they need.
- The sharing of information is beneficial to services as they can identify if a client has been engaging in support with other services if they lose contact with them. It helps support the people too as it means that they don’t have to keep re-telling information
- The individual is completely involved in what information is being recorded and they can access the information being recorded on their profile at any time. Transparency about what information is being recorded is always upheld.
- Clients being fully informed about what information is being recorded leads to a trusting relationship being built.
- Training takes place on how to record cases sensitively, in a person-centred way that is open and transparent.
Engagement Worker at ICM:
- After allocation, engagement workers will work with the client to complete a Safety Plan together on GMTHINK. This information is so important as it provides the context of the client’s story as well as detailing which other services the client accesses. It is also used to identify what support has and hasn’t worked in the past so different ways of working can be found. This is beneficial for the client as it helps give the client the best support possible
- Support is on an individual basis and the amount of client-worker contact is dependent on what the client wants
Worker at Manchester Action on Street Health:
- When I spoke to MASH they noted that GMTHINK has become a lot more strategic and the GMTHINK Steering Group is particularly importance. They also stressed the importance of setting up a User Forum so that workers have a voice in helping to develop a better service for clients
- GMTHINK is beneficial for both frontline workers and the client as it is easy to navigate to find the best possible help for the individual
Manager at Back on Track:
- GMTHINK’s multi-agency use is great for information sharing as it connects statutory services and charities to work better together
- Workers are trained in how to record sensitive information safely and any concerns are brought to the Steering Group to talk through collectively
- GMTHINK is made up of a set of principles and values that try to break through the complexities of homeless systems and to work in a more person-centred way. The system is used as a tool to empower individuals so that they can work with services in a more equal way
- Following points raised by users, they can be added as agenda items for discussion at the Steering Group. Solutions and actions are always voted on and will only be put into place following a majority vote.
The Real Systems Team:
- Real Systems have a history of working with charities to develop databases for rough sleeper services. That is why they were chosen to be the organisation who helped develop and run GMTHINK. They have experience of clients moving between boroughs and services, so a multi-agency database is a great tool to connect different areas and services
- The Real Systems team are responsible for the functioning and the day-day running of the system. They are continually improving the system to reflect the wants of the user organisations
- If new organisations would like to sign up to GMTHINK, there is a process that must be adhered to first. They firstly complete a User Access Form entailing the reasons why they would like access and how the system will be used. It is then taken to the Steering Group who will either approve the application or ask for more information.”