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Evaluation of the Implementation of Local Area Co-ordination in Scotland



Literature and Policy Review

To identify material, systematic searches were carried out of a number of databases, including ISI Web of Knowledge, Social Care Online, CSA Illumina (Sociological Abstracts), scottishresearch.com and Psychinfo. Abstracts were obtained for relevant publications, or where more information was needed in order to decide whether or not to include the material. Overall, very little research was found. In addition, the LAC network in Scotland was asked to supply copies of any completed local evaluations.

Meetings with key stakeholders

During the early stages of the research, informal meetings took place with a number of key stakeholders to inform them about the study and/or seek their advice. These were Lisa Curtice (Director of the Scottish Consortium of Learning Disability), the LAC Network Evaluation Sub-group and the ADSW Learning Disability Committee. The research team also attended two days of Action Learning Sets for local area co-ordinators run by SCLD in December 2005.

Information-gathering Sheets

Information sheets (see Annex Two) were distributed to all local area co-ordinators in Scotland, seeking basic background information about their post. Forty-four completed forms (from 24 authorities) were returned. Data were analysed using SPSS.

Interviews with local area co-ordinators and managers

Drawing on the literature review and advice from local area co-ordinators, interview schedules for local area co-ordinators were designed (see Annex Three) and piloted in one authority in December 2005. (Data from this interview were later included in the analysis). At the time of writing, 25 authorities have LAC, one of which declined to take part in the study. Interviews were conducted with local area co-ordinators in the other 24 authorities. In those areas where more than one person wished to take part, joint interviews were held, the highest number of respondents being three. A total of 35 local area co-ordinators were interviewed. Most interviews lasted between an hour and an hour and a half. With respondents' permission, interviews were tape recorded and fully transcribed.

An interview schedule for managers (see Annex Four) was piloted in the same area as the LAC interview. Data from this interview are included in the full sample. We then interviewed managers in half the remaining authorities that have local area co-ordinators. In all, including one authority with two separate projects (and thus two managers), and excluding the authority which did not take part, this amounts to 14 managers in 13 authorities. These authorities were selected on a random (alphabetical) basis and comprise a mixture (again, randomly selected) of local area co-ordinators' line managers and those with responsibility for making major decisions about LAC in the authority. Most interviews with managers lasted about an hour.

At the time of writing, seven authorities do not have LAC, all of whom agreed to participate in the study. A shorter schedule was developed and piloted with one (see Annex Five). It was e-mailed or posted in advance to all respondents and an arrangement made to phone them at a mutually convenient time when the interview could be tape recorded using telephone audio recording equipment. Interviews lasted between 20 and 30 minutes.

Case studies

The aims of the case study visits were to explore the views and experiences of service users and their families about LAC; in each area, to explore the implementation of LAC in relation to the criterion for which it was selected (see below); and to gather evidence about the outcomes of LAC for individuals, families and communities. Drawing on 'desired outcomes' in the Queensland LAC programme (Chenowith and Stehlik, 2002) and those identified by Curtice (2003) as likely to show if LAC has been successful in Scotland, the aim was to seek examples of the following:

In relation to individual service users and families:

  • More people having access to support and services
  • More people knowing where to go to get information and support when needed
  • People having more choice in relation to where, when and how their support is purchased and delivered
  • People having more social activity, friendships and relationships
  • Increase in availability of flexible supports such as holidays, day and leisure opportunities.

In relation to communities:

  • LAC raising awareness of disability issues in the community
  • Leadership development among service users, families or their allies
  • Development of support groups
  • Developing links and networks across disability agencies and groups.

Case studies were conducted in four areas, selected on the following criteria:

  • A rural setting
  • An urban setting, preferably where local area co-ordinators are working with some people from black and minority ethnic communities
  • A voluntary sector employer
  • The range of people local area co-ordinators work with, in terms of service users and age groups (the key here being that local area co-ordinators should work across traditional boundaries)

Each case study also explored community capacity building. Data about these various aspects of LAC had been collected through the Information Sheets and interviews. Where more than one authority met a criterion, we invited one of our colleagues to randomly select one, on an unseen basis.

Each case study area was visited by at least two members of the research team for two to three days. Our approach was based on that used in a review of day opportunities for people with learning disabilities (Cole et al, 2006). This involved a mixture of observation and interviewing. Topic guides were developed for local area co-ordinators, managers, service users, parents/families and community groups, along with consent forms and a framework for analysis.