SILC has grown out of concerns regarding the pressures facing the voluntary sector counselling and psychotherapy services that the CORE IMS support team has worked with over the years. Voluntary services are generally extremely resilient – but they are under growing pressure and being increasingly squeezed.
Paradoxically the need for voluntary sector services has never been greater. Yet commissioning is not a level playing field, with commissioners bypassing local and specific voluntary organisations in favour of large-scale providers that may not cover the same ground or address the same client needs. At the same time, pressures on statutory services contribute to inappropriate referrals to the sector, along with cutbacks and a lack of funding security. Ultimately clients and patients suffer, as those with mental health issues who could benefit from psychological therapies lose out on the services they need.
The most pressing problem facing the sector is that of attracting funding to secure ongoing, sustainable services. Voluntary services have started to address this by forming strategic partnerships. One model is for a single provider or group of organisations to go into partnership with their local Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) provider. Another is for organisations to join with similar services to form a consortium and pool resources. SILC is a natural extension of this latter model.
The SILC initiative is based on tried and tested learning collaborative methodology from the United States. It represents a new and unique type of partnership working and learning in the UK – but one that has the potential to offer a viable long-term solution to the challenges facing the sector.