Why a Flexible Fund?
In developing our Fulfilling Lives Programme, Inspiring Change Manchester has adopted a ‘Flexible Fund’. This is a specific type of fund which can be used to purchase goods or services for individual clients which may not already be available to them as part of our service.
Based on the principles of a personalised budget, it enables ICM members to:
Overcome barriers to accessing support
Work towards their own personal goals by giving them a choice. They can purchase goods based on their needs, rather than just what is on offer.
Flexible Funds have been shown to enable individuals experiencing multiple disadvantage to make lasting sustainable improvements for themselves. This includes maintaining long-term tenancies, taking on training and education qualifications, improvements in mental health and well-being, building independent living skills and reduced re-offending.
How does this work in practise?
Through developing person-centred approaches with ICM Clients, Staff and Peer Mentors we identify opportunities for using the Flexible Fund. This can be used for practical support such as annual bus tickets or interpreters to aid engagement with services. But it is also used to enable meaningful use of time, this was particularly utilised over lockdown and the fund was used to purchase annual gym memberships, arts and crafts materials and IT devices. Spends can also be made to create more long term, lasting positive change, such as education or training courses or even driving lessons and provisional licenses. The ICM Flexible Fund was used to support a member to enrol on a Personal Training course who subsequently went on to employment. This qualification has equipped the member with a life skill which can lead to future opportunities.
As the Flexible Fund allows for creativity in the ways we enhance engagement, we have freedom to spend this on the things that will mean the most to our members. One great example of this is a member who had a history of gang involvement and so had a number of tattoos which were symbols of this gang. This had been a difficult period of his life and having the tattoos on his body was a physical reminder of this. Using the flexible fund, we were able to pay for tattoo removal and support the member to move forward.
There are some key elements we adopt in using our flexible fund:
Use of the flexible fund is identified and agreed with ICM Clients and is built into their own person-centred Action Plans to enable them to overcome barriers to accessing support and work towards their own personal goals
Purchases are then agreed with ICM Team Leaders from across our four pathways to ensure fair and unbiased use
Large or cumulative spends are to be agreed by a panel with representation from management, operational delivery partners and an individual with experience of accessing services.