The Alternative UK Podcast: an interview with Hilary Cottam on "Radical Help", her plan to revolutionise the welfare state

We're delighted to announce an occasional new feature on The Daily Alternative. It's a podcast series where we commit to hard-drive our conversations with some the fascinating and inspiring people we're meeting, as we foment this "friendly revolution". 

Today’s guest is social entrepreneur Hilary Cottam, who uses a design approach to solving the world’s problems – and as such, was named Designer of the Year in 2005 for her work in schools, health services and prisons. For the past ten years Hilary has been working with her team at Participle, to re-imagine social services as relational welfare.

This is an approach which puts relationship, rather than management, at the heart of interractions between vulnerable people and the state. Today we are celebrating the publication of Hilary’s new book Radical Help (available here on Amazon). It documents the incredible success she has had in turning people’s lives around using this idea of relational welfare. Alternative UK's co-initiator Indra Adnan interviewed Hilary in her office in Peckham, London.

The podcast page is here - sound file at the top. Our Apple Podcasts syndication is imminent, and will be posted here when it's ready. 

Note: Indra has expanded a little on her interview with Hilary in her latest A/UK Editorial - here's the relevant passage: 

I met with not-so-old friend Hilary Cottam mid-week, to talk about her new book Radical Help. Some of you will be familiar with Hilary’s work on relational welfare which we’ve talked about before in the Daily Alternative as core to an effective care system. Hilary identifies the waste of time and resources in throwing multiple kinds of disconnected interventions at a single person or family that is not able to thrive. Most of the time and money is spent on managing the system of care, rather than responding to the vulnerable person’s needs.

Instead, she has proven how a small team of dedicated helpers, creating a constant support structure - but led by the person /people who need help, can deliver outstanding results. What makes a person able to become responsible for their own life is relationship with one or more people they can trust to help them as they grow.

Those people have to be willing to take the rough with the smooth, experiment with different forms of help and not bail when results are slow in coming. It’s a journey in which the vulnerable develop the capabilities needed to engage in the networks that surround them -  in ways that give them their own autonomy and independence in society.

This book writes up ten years of testing out Hilary’s approach, working as Participle. It covers help for struggling families (Life programme), developing the youth engagement (Loops), effective help for the unemployed (Bakr), general health (Wellogram) and combatting loneliness for the elderly (Circles). It adds up to a complete re-imagining of the welfare state for the 21st Century, using simple technology and better resourced community support.