Navigating our relationships with funders is essential backbone work we do to be able to deliver direct supports to clients and communities. Developing services and responding to tenders requires us all to be thinking about the communities we will be providing support to and what their needs are, the desired outcomes for people accessing services, service activities, staffing and budgets. Key performance indicators are then set, and contracts are signed.
We reflected recently on a partnership with one of our funders that stayed strong and active through the life of the contract. The close working relationship we developed led to great outcomes for program participants. The program was STEP-Link (Supported Transition and Engagement Program), a Covid-19 response housing program commissioned by the NSW State Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ).
STEP-Link supported people experiencing homelessness and in temporary accommodation because of the COVID-19 pandemic, helping them to obtain permanent, safe, and affordable housing. The program operated across the Southwestern Sydney, Western Sydney and Nepean and Blue Mountains districts. Despite being delivered by a small team of just five staff, in the 2022-23 financial year alone, the STEP-Link program housed 433 people – almost 60% of referrals – achieving a rate of 36 housing outcomes per month.
An evaluation of the program showed that warm and positive relationships between front-line workers and consumers were key to this success, particularly for people who had a heightened fear of rejection or being disregarded. However, collaborative relationships between Neami and DCJ staff were just as critical to the program’s success. This was evident in the feedback provided by consumers, with one service user commenting, ‘Like a well-oiled machine, they bounce off each other really well, you know one hand knows what the other hand is doing. One is no good without the other.’
This partnership with DCJ involved regular brief meetings to discuss progress and problem-solve roadblocks together, and spontaneous contacts to address issues as they arose. There was a clear, shared vision of success, and commitment from both parties to make it work. The result – great housing outcomes for many people impacted by Covid and a re-valuing of strong, collaborative relationships with our funders, as they are critical to positive outcomes for the people we support and the communities we work in.