Adur and Worthing Councils, former participants of a Design Council coaching programme, have won gold at the iESE Improvement & Efficiency Awards for their co-designed project to tackle street drinking.

The Rough Sleeping team at Adur and Worthing Council have been working to tackle the social problems and costs associated with street drinking in Worthing. They joined the Design Council programme to find a design-led approach to these issues. Their achievements  have now been recognised with a gold medal in the iESE Transforming Access to Services category, which looks at tackling the root cause of social problems. 

The town's prevalent 'street community' has historically been regarded negatively – perceived as a reason for loss of business and tourism as well as a drain on resources such as housing, health and policing services – and as such has hindered initiatives as agencies do not want to be seen directing resources towards it.

For many years, some key agencies (including Sussex Police, Safer Community partnership, housing, drug and alcohol treatment services) had worked together to try to effectively manage members of the street community through a number of volunteer-run initiatives, such as soup runs, but these tended to work in isolation.

A non-traditional response was needed to address the cause of the problem – the street community itself – in order to tackle its effects on the wider Worthing population and economy. Part of Design Council's work with the team was around the value of prototyping potential project ideas in order to be less risk averse, try out new things at pace but with relative ease and low cost to allow for failure in the early stages.

The methods used by Design Council can be applied in other areas and are already influencing the way that we approach a project or service delivery in general.

John Mitchell, Adur and Worthing Councils

One of the projects, involving members of the street community working on a market stall, resulted in additional benefits as they were interacting directly with the public. The setting and the interaction it brought about addressed the previous negativity experienced with the group. 

As John Mitchell, Director for Communities at Adur and Worthing Councils has said: "The methods used by Design Council can be applied in other areas and are already influencing the way that we approach a project or service delivery in general. [Their work] released ideas and energy that were exciting and innovative, which in turn have made a real difference in our approach to service design." 

In keeping with Design Council principles, the Council and its partners have continued to evolve their learning and practice. This work has focused on improving the care pathway for members of the community entering or being discharged from mental health services.

As the project continues, it is hoped that the street community can be helped on their journeys, whether that is to full accommodation, learning new skills or dealing with substance misuse problems.

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