Fulfilling Lives in Islington and Camden

Fulfilling Lives in Islington & Camden (FLIC) is an eight-year Lottery funded learning programme closing in May 2022, designed to support people experiencing multiple disadvantage and affect system change to improve the experience and outcomes for people accessing services.

Too often the voices of people experiencing multiple disadvantage aren't heard. Putting clients at the centre of everything we do is key to our work. Our support service is intensive, trauma-informed and led by the experiences and insights of our clients.

We work in partnership with statutory and voluntary agencies across both boroughs to improve services for people with multiple needs and drive systemic change, influencing how services are designed and delivered.

- written by Lauren Wallace, Operational Development Manager

"Some of the strongest and deepest working relationships I have with clients are those which at one point I thought were beyond repair. Working through the ‘impossible’ times with as much respect, perspective and support as possible is a process that will serve us both and teach us both so much."

We all strive to continuously bring our best selves to work and maintain hope, positive regard and patience, but we are only human and sometimes it can feel like the relationships we’re trying so hard to nurture are painfully stuck.  

What’s more, our clients have almost certainly had experiences where they’ve had enough of us! We are not perfect and make mistakes. We work closely together sharing the mundane and the intimate and it’s no wonder that at times connection can feel strained.  

For me, there have been times where I’ve felt that my working relationship with a client has been beyond repair. Misunderstandings or painful experiences can make communication fraught to the point where you’re left wondering how you can ever make it back to a point of trust and openness. Each interaction can fill you with anxiety and stress. You’re tired and under pressure yourself, and may be working with someone experiencing intense emotional pain, at very real risk of harm and reliving past trauma.  

You really need a supportive and safe space around you to carry on. At FLIC we are lucky to have this in our team, having trust in each other to be able to speak frankly about how difficult the work can be (maybe even some tears here and there!), empathise and hold the hope. Sometimes it’s letting it all out in a team meeting, coming back to the office and letting off some steam, or finding a colleague to have a quiet chat with. Chances are they have had an experience that has left them feeling the same way; upset, angry, unappreciated. 

In this space you can take a breath and figure out a way forward with support. Sometimes a colleague may step in temporarily to help take the pressure off, or just hold space to debrief so that you can return to the relationship having worked through your own responses; present and with compassion.  

"People can think they’re past saving, they’re convinced no one can help them, they’re trying to avoid being helped... That person is feeling like they’re impossible to help... Developing human connection can bring back their humanity." - FLIC Client.

It takes a lot of thought and intention, but repairing these ruptures can be some of the most worthwhile work we can do. Often the people we are working with are so familiar with abandonment or people walking away, feeling they’re ‘too much’ or ‘not enough’. If we exclude or withdraw at a point of rupture, what message does this send?  

When there’s an alternative experience, where despite things going wrong or turning painful, that person comes back and shows up, there’s so much space for learning for both people involved. I definitely learnt a lot about my own pressure points, where to hold boundaries, how to prioritise taking care of myself, and how to work through some very messy situations with as much honesty as possible. Sometimes saying sorry when I’ve got things wrong has been a big part of this.  

As a worker I have learnt so much about the depth of trauma and all the confusing and unpredictable ways this can manifest in relationships. Some of the strongest and deepest working relationships I have with clients are those which at one point I thought were beyond repair. Working through the ‘impossible’ times with as much respect, perspective and support as possible is a process that will serve us both and teach us both so much. One client in particular, told me how through our working relationship they have learnt about forgiveness and this will undoubtedly reflect in other relationships in their lifetime.  

FLIC's work on Restoring Relationship
We're in the early stages of developing tools to help services mend client relationships in order to continue to do brilliant work. We have been trying to find ways to approach this issue in a way that feels consistent, trauma aware (for staff as well as clients) and constructive.

If you'd like to be the first to know when this piece of work has been published you can sign up to our mailing list here. Or if you have any questions on any of the above please email Lauren via [email protected].

In our short film below, Naomi and Lauren discuss the impact of trauma, the support that's needed and how the right client-worker relationship can bring laughter back into someone's life.