Child poverty pathfinders - early implementation process: evaluation

This report explores the early set-up and implementation of the Child Poverty Pathfinders. The research uses in-depth qualitative findings to understand what has been working well and what has been working less well during the development stage.

Chapter 3: Partner and stakeholder perspectives on the context and background of the Pathfinders

This chapter explores the perspectives of partners and stakeholders in relation to the context and background of the Pathfinders. The first section, section 3.1 discusses the partners and stakeholders who have been involved to date, and provides some definitions related to how the terms 'partner' and 'stakeholder' are used throughout the report. Section 3.2 explores what partners and stakeholders conceptualise to be the main aims of the Pathfinder(s).

Chapter summary: Partner and stakeholder perspectives the Pathfinders

Who are the partners and stakeholders in the Pathfinder? What roles do they play?

The term partner refers to individuals who have involvement in the Pathfinders at a strategic level, either locally, nationally or both. Both Pathfinders have representation from those in strategic leadership roles within several local authority departments, National Health Service (NHS), Health and Social Care Partnerships, Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and Social Security Scotland. Partners tend to have been involved in making some of the earliest decisions about the aims of the Pathfinder and how these will be achieved

The term stakeholder refers to people who have involvement in the Pathfinders at a local level, and includes those holding key operational roles and responsibilities for service delivery. Stakeholders vary within each locality, but include representatives from statutory and third sector organisations. Stakeholders tended to have been brought in later, to consult on how the aims might be achieved in each locality.

Decisions regarding operationalising the aims, and deciding workflows appear to have been made by partners as well as stakeholders via meetings and consultative processes.

What are the current aims and priorities of the Pathfinder from the perspectives of partners and stakeholders?

Almost all partners and stakeholders were clear that the overarching aim of Pathfinder activity was to work together to reduce child poverty. Several expressed that within this, the aim was to create partnerships that would create a more 'joined-up' system to reduce the barriers that families may face when trying to access services.

What activities do the Pathfinders engage in?

Both Pathfinders are operating slightly different models of delivery so far, but are both beginning to demonstrate a commitment to delivering person-centred holistic support. In both Pathfinders, this was described as a 'no wrong door' approach and involved some form of triage or keyworker model.

The partners that we spoke to in both Pathfinders tended to focus more on the strategic developments that the Pathfinders were seeking to achieve, to support integration of services and departments, to facilitate enhanced partnership working and create systems level change.

3.1 The partners and stakeholders involved

As discussed in chapter 2, the research team met with the Scottish Government to identify a list of partners and stakeholders to include in the evaluation. The term 'partner' was defined at that time and taken to mean people who are involved in the Pathfinder at a strategic level, either locally, nationally or both. 'Stakeholders' were defined as being people who are involved in the delivery of the Pathfinder at a local level. In conducting the research, however, it became evident that several people were involved in Pathfinder development at local and national levels, which meant that they fit the descriptor of both 'partner' and 'stakeholder'. Throughout this report, we refer to 'partners and stakeholders' together and rarely distinguish between the two groups. This way of presenting the data recognises that many individuals were occupying dual roles, where they could be defined as both a partner and stakeholder, as they had strategic involvement at national or local levels and were also involved in overseeing the delivery of the Pathfinders at local levels.

Both Pathfinder sites, Dundee and Glasgow, have national strategic level involvement from within the Scottish Government. Several partners expressed that this has been valuable because it is lending weight to Pathfinder activity, and people are generally keen to be involved due to the high profile nature of the strategic partnerships. Several Scottish Government department leads are involved, including social justice and public sector reform divisions. People occupying senior leadership roles within several departments of Glasgow City Council and Dundee City Council are also involved, as are senior leadership staff within several National Health Service (NHS) departments. Several leaders from within each of the Health and Social Care Partnerships (HSCP) are also involved at a strategic planning level. The development of partnerships, including barriers and enablers to effective partnership working, is explored further in chapter 4, section 5.

3.2 Perspectives on the aims and priorities of the Pathfinders

In this section, we discuss the perspectives of partners and stakeholders concerning the aims and priorities of the Pathfinders. Almost all partners and stakeholders demonstrated a good understanding of the main aim of the Pathfinders and described this as being to work together to reduce child poverty. While there was a good level of understanding about the overarching aim of the Pathfinders, the interviews suggest that it has not always been clear to partners and stakeholders how their day-to-day activities contribute to achieving this aim.

This finding was not consistent across all interviews, but rather, applied in only a few cases which tended to relate to uncertainty within the Dundee Pathfinder at a service delivery level. For example, in Dundee, a few stakeholders who were involved in delivering services mentioned that at the start of the Pathfinder, most of the activity was geared towards increasing household income by supporting parents/carers into work. This focus appeared to have changed following a period of consultation with the local community.

The consultation and feedback led to a realisation that many parents/carers would need support to address social, housing, welfare and health needs before employment or education could be considered. Because of this, activities moved toward maximising household income via benefits reviews to ensure that parents/carers were claiming all the benefits that they were entitled to. Income maximisation in this way was used to support parents/carers while they worked through needs related to housing, health and social circumstances. However, the shift in focus and activity appeared to have led to some confusion at a local level for some stakeholders, who queried whether the aims of the Pathfinder had changed. Even those who described being confused, however, remained fairly consistent in their conviction that the aim of all Pathfinder activity was to reduce child poverty.

Another aim described by most partners and stakeholders was to work together to achieve system level change. For most, what this meant was working together to create new access routes into services, and to work out how to reduce the barriers that people were facing to accessing services. A related aim discussed by several was to create a more joined-up approach, thereby enabling a holistic approach to addressing the needs of people experiencing poverty.

In Glasgow, these efforts and aims appeared to be aligning well with existing work being done within Glasgow City Council, where there were efforts being made to introduce strategies and cross-departmental partnerships to begin to address child poverty. When it came to the Pathfinder, several stakeholders and partners suggested that the aim to create a more joined-up system was evident within the 'no wrong door' approach that had been rolled out, which meant that people could be supported to access the services they need no matter where in the system they entered. Several Glasgow Pathfinder partners described this as being an integrated, whole-system, holistic approach. Furthermore, one Glasgow Pathfinder partner described this as being consistent with the Christie Commission principles on the future of integrated public services in Scotland.

Similarly, in Dundee, most partners and stakeholders felt that the aim of the Pathfinders was to address child poverty by introducing holistic, person-centred support that was tailored to individual need. Several stakeholders in Dundee stated that the establishment of a keyworker model was fundamentally important to being able to support parents/carers with multiple complex needs and was a key part of an aim of the Pathfinder, which was, in their view, to create a more joined-up system. Several partners and stakeholders suggested that the aim to reduce child poverty would be delivered by reducing the barriers people were experiencing to accessing services.

Most stakeholders in Dundee also discussed an aim to reduce child poverty by maximising household income. There were mixed views about how this could, and should, be achieved. Some Dundee Pathfinder stakeholders considered that household income would be improved via welfare benefit checks and income maximisation support, and acknowledged that many parent/carers had a long way to go before they might be in a position to access employment. Others believed that family's primary routes out of poverty should come from parents/carers being supported into paid employment. Most, however, acknowledged that employment would only be possible once people's health, housing and social care needs had been addressed.

Some of the uncertainty about the aims of the Pathfinder and how they would be achieved in Dundee appeared to be because activity had begun rapidly at the start of the Pathfinder development phase. Several partners and stakeholders in the Dundee Pathfinder expressed views that suggested that not enough time had been taken at the start to identify how aims would translate into activities and workstreams. Several told us that they felt as though they had swung into action before they had a clear workplan linked to the Pathfinders aims. For some, this was due to feeling pressure to deliver results.

"….in Dundee we hadn't really defined the problem. …there was a real focus on a quick win and what can we do? The intention was 'we shouldn't feel restricted by our current organisations' - we should feel empowered to do things differently but the specific problem beyond poverty? – that was not really defined." (Dundee partner).

Several partners and stakeholders in both Pathfinder locations expressed the view that the aims of the Pathfinder(s) would not be achieved without having the courage to question the status quo, to innovate, and to do things differently.

The 'rush to deliver' change theme that had come through strongly in the Dundee partner and stakeholder interviews was not present in the Glasgow interviews. Instead, many Glasgow Pathfinder partners and stakeholders expressed frustration concerning a lack of initial early activity and a lot of discussion at the beginning. The scale of the problem of child poverty in Glasgow appeared to feed into this, and several partners described a disconnect between the overarching aim of tackling child poverty and the reality of delivering meaningful change on the ground.

"The aims articulated at a very high level are about making a difference to child poverty. I don't know if that's feasible, to really make a difference, so the second unspoken aim is identifying the barriers to addressing child poverty. The reality is that it's still low level. That big picture is way at the top. Operationally, there are early project priorities still, well… we are now a long way into the project, but it still feels very early stage. It's about navigating what's different being in the council compared to third sector. What each agency thinks about each other. So the day to day priorities are much lower down than that bigger picture of tackling child poverty." (Glasgow partner).

The quote above reflects the complexity of the task of addressing child poverty that was discussed by many partners and stakeholders. The quote also points to the challenges that those involved in both Pathfinders described facing when it came to translating the overarching aim of addressing child poverty into practical workstreams, services and tasks that could be delivered locally. When asked what could enable change to happen, many partners and stakeholders in both Pathfinders emphasised the importance of having enough time at the beginning to envision what change could look like and how it would be achieved. Many described the complexity of system level change but considered that a key aim was to change how services were operating to create new access points, reduce barriers to accessing services and provide enhanced, person-centred, holistic support.

3.3 What activities do the Pathfinders engage in?

The findings of this early evaluation of the process of implementing the Pathfinders suggests that both Pathfinders are operating slightly different models of delivery so far, but that both are beginning to demonstrate a commitment to delivering person-centred holistic support.

The Glasgow Pathfinder delivers a 'no wrong door' model for tackling child poverty – meaning that regardless of where, how, and why a person or family engages in the system, that interaction then becomes the gateway to receiving holistic, consistent, and comprehensive support. The role of the Pathfinder itself is then to explore how best a 'no wrong door' model can be achieved by gathering learning from interventions that are in place which operate under the 'no wrong door' approach. In Glasgow, several stakeholders described the Glasgow Helps telephone line as being a good example of the 'no wrong door' approach.

The Dundee Pathfinder adopts a keyworker model in the Linlathen area of the city and initially aimed to address child poverty through improving families' employment opportunities. Early work indicated that the target families face many complex barriers beyond just employment, such as childcare, transport, health barriers and a lack of understanding of available support services and benefits. As a result, the Pathfinder adapted to support people and families in all areas of need, to bring them closer not only to employment but to all services and benefits that enhance their wellbeing and maximise their incomes. In Dundee, several stakeholders described the Linlathen Works drop-in hub as being a good example of co-working to create a 'no wrong door' approach. In both Pathfinders, formal and informal mechanisms were beginning to create a 'no wrong door' approach, where parents/carers would receive support from whoever received their initial enquiry, regardless of what service the staff member belonged to was evident. In both Pathfinders, there was evidence of an emerging cultural shift where partners and stakeholders described feeling able to work together across agencies to create new pathways for families. Many described recognising the importance of sticking with the parent/carer until they began engaging with services they had introduced them to. The developing relationships between staff from different agencies (in both Pathfinders) appeared to be starting to facilitate this new way of working. Notably, however, this came across more strongly in the Dundee data, which may relate to the smaller size of the locality. The findings of this early process evaluation suggest that a triage and keyworker approach has begun to emerge in both Pathfinders (formally and informally) via new ways of working. Here the terms 'triage and keyworker' are used to refer to circumstances where the same person would remain with the family until either their needs had been met, or they had begun to engage with the right service to meet their needs.

In both Pathfinders, parents/carers received a diverse range of crisis support, or minor interventions, and examples of these include recieving gas and electricity grants, food vouchers and food bank referrals, Christmas gift vouchers for their children, funding for winter clothes for their children, laptop grants, help securing free school meals, help switching to a credit meter, and free bus passes. Most parents/carers had received multiple forms of support. Often parents/carers would engage with longer term support, such as benefit reviews and income maximisation, housing-related support, support to access employment and education, and assistance to access counselling.

The partners that we spoke to in both Pathfinders tended to focus more on the strategic developments that the Pathfinders were seeking to achieve, to support integration of services and departments, to facilitate enhanced partnership working and to create system level change. Partners and stakeholders wanted to create new access routes into services that could be created by individuals from multiple organisations working together to make the system easier to navigate.

Pathfinder partners and stakeholders told us that some progress was being made toward systems change. This activity included taking time to build effective partnerships between services and organisations. Partners and stakeholders, in both sites, felt the process of embedding change had been difficult so far, however, despite some challenges most partners and stakeholders felt there were early signs that systems change was beginning to occur.

This related to new ways of working, shifting from operating as single organisations to being part of a multi-agency team, and working towards a shared aim. Much of the systems change described by partners and stakeholders related to a growing awareness of other organisations, and the people working within them. Some partners and stakeholders felt that now that they could see the benefits of working in partnership as
a way to share resources and create new access routes for people, they could not see themselves returning to previous ways of working, suggesting that some culture change
is beginning to occur.



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