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Report of the ATC Task Force Strategic Planning Day


On August 24th, the Task Force of the Association of Therapeutic Communities held a strategic planning day facilitated by an external consultant, Sue Tibballs. This is a report of the day.


Roland Woodward, Chair, David Lynes, Rex Haigh, Jan Lees, Simon McCardle, Jane Barnard, John Cross, John Gale, Sunita Patel, Jan Birtles, Sarah Paget


The Task Force of the Association of Therapeutic Communities was set up to^(^:

  • Raise the national profile of therapeutic communities and the work they do
  • Market and promote the purpose and importance of TCs to potential referrers and to commissioners
  • Convince commissioners of their value

Having met three times since June 2004, members felt that some decisions needed to be made about how the Task Force could take its work forward. The Strategic Planning day was designed to give members an opportunity to scope out the future work of the Task Force, the resources required to take this forward, and to design a short-term plan of action. The day was structured around the GROW model, standing for: Goals, Realities, Opportunities, Wrap-up (or next steps)

Goals In order to scope expectations, and to check the degree to which task Force members have similar expectations, participants were asked to individually identify three success criteria for the Task Force. This gave us the following list of goals (organised under general headings by facilitator): Profile

  • Greater general awareness of TCs
  • To have a range of products of interest to the outside world
  • Body of literature available from Task Force
  • Invitations to speak at events and conferences
  • Build recognition of international reputation
  • Encourage greater debate about ideas – about philosophy and practice of TCs


  • Lose dinosaur image
  • The image problem – TCs thought of and known to be an effective, modern treatment.
  • Acceptance of research findings – for TCs to be seen as credible
  • For TCs to appear in commissioning policies and national recommendations (NICE)
  • Inclusion in training of clinicians - all psychiatrists to know what a TC is
  • Residential TCs seen as exemplar of treatment


  • Organisations within the Task Force and the TC have a better understanding of each other
  • Better understanding of external views of TCs – and of the language used
  • Better collation and use of existing data
  • Research into effectiveness of TC approaches
  • Clearer understanding of potential client base


  • Task Force to act as a mediator in supporting promotional work
  • An organised and effective resource would exist to service requests for information
  • Unifying policies and goals to enable effective communication with Govt. and other agencies
  • Centralised ability to respond to policy – e.g. issuing press releases
  • Stronger mutual support between TCs, including joint training and marketing/advertising
  • Less fragmented time scratching around for resources
  • Capacity for crisis response – e.g. threat of closure
  • Well resourced – e.g. employed staff
  • Membership of ATC to double
  • Money available to carry out research

Brighter future

  • Patients/clients view TC as the treatment of choice
  • A natural option – becomes the status quo for treatment
  • Greater demand for TCs - more TCs commissioned
  • New forms of TCs emerging

The group agreed that, taken together, this list described far-reaching and ambitious goals. In order to make next step decisions more manageable, the group were asked to discuss which of these were short-term priorities, which were medium term priorities, and which were longer-term goals.

Short-term (1-2 years)

  • ATC better resourced to undertake promotional work
  • Set of promotional materials, including clear definition of TC approach (linked to Community of Communities accreditation work)
  • More visible – e.g. have a presence at conferences
  • Stronger reputation with clients and clinicians leading to increased referral rates
  • Better collation and use of existing data
  • Research into effectiveness of TC approaches
  • A better understanding of how TCs are currently perceived – differentiated by sector and location

Medium-term (3-5 years)

  • Clear system of accreditation
  • Established Task Force resource
  • Expanded role in clinical training and inclusion in NICE guidelines
  • More debate about TC approach

Long-term (5 – 15 years)

  • More TCs commissioned
  • New forms of TC emerging
  • TCs seen as the treatment of choice by clinicians
  • Higher public awareness of TCs
  • Rational, integrated commissioning across all sectors

Before considering whether these short-term goals are realistic and achievable, and will work towards longer-term objectives, the group were asked to consider the current climate that the Task Force, and individual TCs are operating within.


The following general barriers to the sector as a whole were identified:

  • The commissioning landscape is complex and fast-changing. Keeping track of the influencers and decision-makers is a constant challenge. Having the capacity to reach all of them is problematic.
  • Those bodies who are influencing policy do not have a fully informed or positive view of TCs. This audience is itself diverse.
  • Clinicians and nurses similarly have varied levels of awareness, and it is difficult to know how best to reach them.
  • Individual TCs can be very different to each other because of their sector and client base. Individual profiles and relationships with commissioners and others also vary substantially. Building a common approach could be difficult.
  • Resources to undertake the work of the Task Force are limited. (Current resources are time of Task Force members and access to office facilities at CoC. The ATC might be able to fund small one-off projects, but larger amounts of money would have to be raised.)

The group was then asked to re-visit goals in the light of these realities. Recognising the breadth and diversity of audiences, the group was divided into three and asked to consider what the main challenges would be in reaching each of the following audiences:


  • Would need to give evidence of the efficacy of TC approaches, and show both \'added value\' and \'value for money\'.
  • Would be important to \'use their language\' when talking to commissioners
  • Would need to conduct a mapping exercise to identify the key influencers
  • Could do this by asking individual TCs to identify their commissioners
  • Also write to PCTs (NSGAG has contacts)

Policy makers and opinion formers

  • Would need to map audience and audit current contact within TC field
  • Would need literature to support communication
  • Prime target would be NIME – would aim to join this group


  • A large, disparate group – often talking about specific diagnoses
  • Can there be a generic response?
  • Need an accepted definition of TC – and an acceptable evidence base
  • How should we influence those who are looking for simple solutions and who are not comfortable with the TC model?
  • TC clinicians should seek publication in mainstream journals

After this exercise, the group could see that achieving even one of the short-term goals (building profile) represents a sizeable task. To consider whether pursuing these goals is feasible, the group then assessed current opportunities.


  • Community of Communities research and insight
  • Policy knowledge and relationships
  • Some training materials
  • Have made real progress with NHS
  • Some TCs very strong profile and positive relationships

It was felt that the knowledge and many of the skills required to meet objectives do exist in the sector, and that important new resources are being developed – notably the Community of Communities accreditation work. However, the major obstacle to harnessing these resources was the lack of capacity within the Task Force itself to undertake work. It was recognised that without additional resources, the Task Force would not be able to deliver any of its objectives.

A conversation about possible funding followed. Money could be raised from charitable Trusts or the Lottery, but identifying suitable Trusts and preparing applications would itself require resources. It was also suggested that a member of staff could be seconded from Government. This was recognised to be a strong idea but again not one that would enable the Task Force to move forward in the short-term.

The group then discussed whether individual members of the ATC could be asked to contribute. The general view here was that it was not appropriate to ask individuals to fund the work of a Task Force that would be working on behalf of the organisations in the sector, rather than directly on behalf of the individuals that work in them. The conclusion was that the only viable source of funds in the short-term was from the TCs themselves, as per the Community of Communities model.


The group made the following decisions:

It was agreed that the Task Force would not be able to deliver its objectives without additional resources.

The group believe the only short-term source of funds is from the communities themselves.

It was agreed that a presentation would be made at the forthcoming ATC AGM at which the case for funding the Task Force would be made, and responses gauged.

It was felt that funding of twenty to thirty thousand pounds would be needed to enable the Task Force to begin its work – equal to around five hundred pounds per community. (This could be weighted according to size of TC as per the CoC model.)

The presentation should set out what activities the Task Force would undertake with such funding as follows:

1. Work on behalf of the sector to promote TCs at a senior level

  • Build our understanding of our own sector and the external environment by:
    • Auditing all sixty (+) communities to better understand their existing commissioning and influencer relationships
    • Mapping the external landscape of commissioners, policy-makers and opinion formers
    • Building on the C of C research to better understand current perceptions of TCs
  • Develop an influencing strategy that identifies who we need to be speaking to, and in what language
  • Produce researched and targeted promotional materials that can be used on behalf of the sector
  • Actively seek opportunities to promote the sector through meetings, presence at conferences (including our own)

2. Work as a resource to build the capacity of TCs to promote themselves

  • The Task Force would be a resource all TCs could call on for promotional support
  • Regular report backs on research, new developments or new resources would be circulated to all communities
  • Opportunities for TC practitioners to develop new skills in this area by working with the Task Force

3. Commission a specialist fundraiser to scope longer-term funding opportunities, and possibly work on bids

ATC Task Force Report

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