Interview: Kate Fitzhugh, Stockport Family

I spoke with Kate Fitzhugh, the Principal Lead Transformation about the development of Stockport Family. Our Case Study on Stockport Family was published earlier this week. Here is what Kate had to say about their journey:

What or who has been your greatest inspiration or influence?

Hearing what it felt for families who were ‘in the system’. At the beginning, we undertook some detailed process mapping and system thinking. We then interviewed four families in depth and that was enough. We were shocked at how complicated we had made things. Each family said the same thing – “we asked for help right at the beginning, but didn’t get it.” We also did an in depth analysis of 32 of the families in our Troubled Families cohort that again revealed how families bounced around the system we had created and once we knew this we knew this we had to make big changes.

The best thing about what we’ve done is….

The training in Restorative Practice has been very important. We could have chosen other strengths based methodologies. It is the common language and ethos that matters, our phrases. Everyone who did the three days training said they loved it, that it was inspirational, aspirational, a light bulb moment.

It has changed how we work with families and also how we interact with each other. We are respectful and go out of our way to make connections.

What has been the biggest or best mistake you have made?

We wish we had dedicated more resource to having an education perspective earlier on. We had a seconded primary head teacher for a while who helped us understand the ‘language of schools’. She was an ambassador for what we were trying to achieve and made a huge difference. We wish we had recognised this earlier and kept that role longer.

Did anything surprise you during the project?

Our biggest surprise is that we have made it happen, got this far! There were times of difficulty, even despair and we did not know how it would end. People challenged us; vocal people who said it was too risky, too generic and would dilute skills.

Once we had enough people believing it was possible it suddenly all came together. The momentum built and the next thing is we found ‘it worked’.

What piece of advice would you give to someone thinking of doing something similar?

My advice would be to make sure you have the foundations in place: the relationships, the phrases, the learning together. You can then build on these.

Our approach was to keep talking, get people in the room to work through the issues. We always talk about having more similarities than differences so we find what the similarities are and then work through the differences.

Our metaphor is a beach ball. If you look from one side you might see it as white, from the other blue. They are different views of the same thing. If we share these we will all understand the beach ball better. Keep asking more questions, keep hearing the other point of view.

What’s next?

We’ve all completed the training and everything has gone live. Now we need to focus on keeping going. We have to keep momentum and energy, including our own. We have to maintain the changes and keep everything safe.

Where can we find out more?

Our website has some information and I’m happy to talk to people about our journey. Email me at Kate.Fitzhugh@stockport.gov.uk.

Tell us your favourite quote…

“All the time on purpose”. This comes from Restorative Practice and is a key part of our thinking now. The key one for me is ‘have you had the conversation?’ – have you done this all the time on purpose?

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