Meet the Future Leaders - Advocating for unpaid carers
Author: Michael-Jordan Faucher-Folie
- Service User centred design
- Sector Local government
- Date 15 August 2022
Our Future Leaders programme gives young digital entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds the skills, support and network they need to grow successful businesses.
MJ — founder of paperless carer's assessment Just Once Ltd - shares his experience of Future Leaders 2022
I’m delighted to have joined this year’s TPXimpact Future Leaders programme alongside a brilliant cohort. I’d love to share a bit about why I applied, how I got here and the vision I’m working towards.
After graduating with a degree in advertising, I became a Social Enterprise Champion while volunteering at the social transport enterprise HCT Group. This was hugely rewarding and inspired me to think about further ways I could make a positive difference in the lives of others.
To explore the possibilities, I joined the 2021 Year Here social innovation programme where I was placed at a carer’s centre. There, I was exposed to the challenges and pain points experienced by unpaid carers and the staff supporting them. Shortly afterwards, I became an unpaid carer for my mum and I could relate to these struggles.
This was where the idea for Just Once was born.
Unpaid carers — vital but often forgotten
On average, it takes two years for an unpaid carer to see themselves as such, rather than a helpful friend or family member. By the time they realise the full extent of their role, it’s usually because they’re at a crisis point and desperate for support. Currently, there’s a backlog of 245,000 people in England waiting for help — that’s a lot of people left feeling unsupported and unrecognised.
The drawn out process of finding support is draining and demoralising. Unpaid carers wait up to six months for an hour long telephone assessment. They then wait again for a letter signposting them to organisations that can help, before completing multiple forms to apply for support. This needs to change.
The problem is, change isn’t that simple when it’s so difficult to recruit and retain staff in the social care sector. It’s impossible to help everyone when there’s an increased workload and demand on a shrinking cohort of care workers.
So how can this systematic Rubix cube be solved? I wondered how different things would be if there was a system for carers to bypass the long wait and multiple forms. There was only one way to find out… So I built one!
Just Once is a paperless carer’s assessment that only has to be completed once to gain access to all the services and support to which unpaid carers are entitled.
Making change happen with the Future Leaders programme
TPXimpact’s Future Leaders programme seeks out diverse founders to support underrepresented entrepreneurs. As an unpaid carer with dyslexia, this goal really resonated with me. Joining the programme seemed like the natural next step to help me get Just Once off the ground and meet others who are passionate about digitally transforming the public sector.
After only a few weeks on the programme, I’d already been able to network with and learn from a diverse range of experienced experts in the public sector. TPXimpact works closely with not for profit organisations, healthcare and local government, and has lots of experience and connections in this area.
I’m looking forward to finding ways for Just Once to connect with innovative local authorities to explore unpaid carers’ problems further and secure a pilot for the platform.
I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without my mentor, Sean, who is an expert in digital transformation. We meet monthly to identify barriers, question my assumptions and ideate plans to push forward and achieve goals. Sean’s experience has given me the confidence to put myself forward and support others the way he has supported me (I channel my inner Sean Phelan!)
Meet the mentor
Sean Phelan is a Product Manager at TPXimpact. His role includes helping people understand why they should focus more on outcomes than output, balancing quantitative and qualitative research, and helping teams collaborate to deliver great products.
"MJ’s business has identified a real problem — the business that MJ is offering really makes it easier for both the unpaid carer needing an assessment and those within the local authority providing the assessment," Sean says.
"Unpaid carers are often in positions where their lives have been thrown upside down and the support that a Local Authority assessment can unlock is so important to make the carers (and those they care for) better."