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 4: Pathfinder design and development
This chapter explores how the Pathfinder has been developing so far. The chapter begins, in section 4.1, by discussing partner and stakeholder's understanding of the concept of 'person-centred' support, and explores the extent to which this has informed the design and development of the Pathfinders. Section 4.2 explores the extent to which partners and stakeholders believe that the Pathfinders have been informed by existing evidence. The mechanisms in place to gather and share learning are then discussed in section 4.3. In sections 4.4 and 4.5, insights into the development of effective partnerships are discussed. Section 4.6 describes progress being made toward developing trust within the partnerships. The final section, section 4.7, presents partner and stakeholder views related to the effectiveness of communication within the Pathfinders.
Chapter summary: pathfinder design and development
How are partners and stakeholders understanding the concepts of 'person-centred support' and how is this influencing service design and delivery?
Most partners and stakeholders demonstrated a good understanding of the concept of 'person-centred' support. For most, this term was understood to mean working in partnership with other organisations to create holistic approaches to providing services where a range of needs could be met through a unified interaction. Many stakeholders who were involved in delivering services expressed that the 'person-centred' approach meant taking time to get to know families, to assess their needs, and to work with other services to address multiple needs.
Some partners and stakeholders, however, discussed the challenges of delivering place-based, person-centred support in a policy environment built around a culture of inflexible funding pots and rigid reporting structures.
How are eligible families being identified as being in need of support? How, and why, are these groups being targeted?
Many partners stated that through partnership meetings, it had been identified that some partners held data that could be used to identify those who fit into the six priority family groups outlined in the Scottish Government Tackling Child Poverty Plan and are at higher risk of experiencing child poverty..
It had not yet been possible though to put in place robust data sharing mechanisms to allow data to be shared and used for targeting purposes, and partners and stakeholders were actively attempting to work through these issues.
How, and to what extent, have the Pathfinders been informed by existing evidence on what works to create system change and tackle child poverty?
Most partners and stakeholders considered that the most important evidence was locally collated data, and practitioner knowledge related to what could work, why and in what circumstances rather than existing empirical academic evidence. For most, this was about ensuring that the evidence used to inform the Pathfinder was informed by local knowledge and a high level of understanding of the challenges faced by people within the local context.
What mechanisms are in place to learn from what is being delivered? How is learning being shared within and across places?
Partners and stakeholders in both Pathfinder areas expressed the view that, to date, not enough monitoring data had been collected, although monitoring processes were decribed as being under development at the time when the interviews took place
Most felt that during the next phase of development, more data should be collected at a local level and fed into strategic discussions. Examples of data required but not yet shared on a regular basis was details regarding how many people had been supported and the outcomes each family had achieved.
What data do partners collect and share? Is this used to evaluate, inform and learn across the Pathfinder?
Although several partners and stakeholders expressed concern about a lack of monitoring data and data sharing, some described having set up informal meetings between themselves and people within the other Pathfinder area. This appeared to be creating opportunities for sharing learning across the Pathfinder sites.
4.1 Person-centred support
Developing person-centred approaches to service delivery is a current priority for the Scottish Government, as outlined in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2022-2026. In this section, we discuss partner and stakeholder's conceptualisations of what person-centred support means to them, and how this concept has been used to inform the development and delivery of the Pathfinders.
Partners and stakeholders in both Pathfinder sites tended to have a well-developed understanding of the concept of person-centred support. Most described 'person-centred' service delivery as being where all staff had a shared commitment to working together to develop solutions to people's individual needs. Many spoke eloquently about their understandings of person-centred approaches, and most expressed feeling confident that these concepts were driving change and shaping service design and delivery.
"We most certainly deliver a person-centred approach and probably also place-based. There is a conception that if you are city wide, you can't be place-based…but we feel through our outreach work, we are place-based. It is both, both are implemented." (Glasgow Stakeholder).
The above comment related to the complexity of Glasgow's geography, where some stakeholders felt that it wasn't possible to classify a service as being 'place-based' when it was city wide because Glasgow comprises many different local communities that are all very distinct across its geography. Most stakeholders felt that the approach being taken in Glasgow was person-centred and informed by the local context and evidence of what has worked well previously in the area, but that it wouldn't quite be accurate to call it 'place-based'.
A few stakeholders in each site were less clear on how the concepts of person-centred support were being defined and how they should be understood in relation to the Pathfinder. However, even those who expressed feeling uncertain tended to demonstrate a more developed understanding than they were giving themselves credit for, as the quote below indicates.
"I mean, my understanding isn't great if I'm honest. Just in some of the papers that have come in and that we are involved in. Realistically I'd be hoping it would shape services in a different way that allows more people to get the right support at the right time and that it does affect the lives of children in poverty across Glasgow." (Glasgow stakeholder).
One stakeholder in Dundee described the impact of the person-centred support on the services they were delivering as part of the Pathfinder.
"Person-centred is it's up to the person what they get. I give them their options…every person is different. They might have different job goals; they might need different things. I think what is being delivered is in sync with that approach." (Dundee stakeholder).
This quote aligns with a theme that came through strongly in the interviews, where stakeholders and partners alike described the importance of staff embedding person-centred approaches into their daily role. Many told us that for person-centred approaches to be embedded in service delivery, local delivery stakeholders needed to have had time to engage with people, get to know them, and develop a holistic picture of their needs.
Several told us that this type of person-centred service delivery required local delivery staff to have some autonomy and flexibility in how they deliver services, and how they interact with people accessing their service. While all stakeholders described a commitment to creating a person-centred approach to service delivery, some found it more challenging than others to deliver. This was related to the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that several organisations had to evidence as part of their funding arrangements. This tended to affect third sector organisations and charities who had become involved in the Pathfinder activity when it had been recognised that they were already delivering services related to the aims of the Pathfinder.
The KPIs discussed by these stakeholders related to their own funding arrangements, rather than the Pathfinder itself, which was not KPI driven. However, stakeholders told us that they were obligated to demonstrate staff time against KPIs achieved, which was challenging when delivering holistic support and while helping people to access other services, which often took them away from their core business. While this finding was only relevant to a few stakeholders within the Dundee Pathfinder, it is worthy of note, particularly because both Pathfinders expressed that they were aiming to maximise participation of third sector organisations within the future development of the Pathfinder partnerships.
The concept of place-based support, where support was integrated and responsive to local community needs had also been considered important within Pathfinder development. During interviews partner and stakeholders were asked about their understanding of this concept and how it fitted with the person-centred approach. When asked to expand on what factors enabled a place-based approach to be adopted, a Dundee stakeholder spoke about the link between the importance of local knowledge and a place-based approach.
"Place-based is about really truly understanding the needs of that community as a whole – we need that intelligence, that additional information because there's no point saying, 'we have a great new service' that is actually based on what we think rather than what the community thinks." (Dundee stakeholder)
In this quote, the participant describes a need to gather local monitoring data and evidence and use it to inform the ongoing development of the Pathfinder. For this participant, and others, a place-based approach was one that was informed by the knowledge held by practitioners who were delivering services locally, and by the perspectives of people who use services. Partners and stakeholders discussed the challenges of delivering place-based, person-centred support in a policy environment built around a culture of inflexible funding pots and rigid reporting structures. One Dundee partner noted,
"All governments are very place-based and holistic. That is said over and over again – while they all pump out policies, funding pots and reporting structures that don't align." (Dundee partner)
Several partners and stakeholders in both Pathfinders discussed the barriers they had experienced when it came to operating in person-centred ways to provide holistic support. They expressed that in the beginning, people and organisations had tended to be quite protective over their roles and the roles of their organisations. Doing things differently meant that there had to be some flexibility in terms of which organisation took on which work to address the multiple complex needs being faced by families living in poverty. Some partners and stakeholders felt that competitive funding across the sector encouraged people to feel the need to 'guard' what they saw as their organisation's territory. One Glasgow stakeholder commented on what the challenges were to delivering person-centred and place-based support.
"Challenges? Funding is the main thing - there are lots of projects doing the same thing – if your project is only measured on the number of outputs without looking at where the referral came from – eventually people will say why am I giving a referral to Glasgow Helps instead of to me? The funding cycle – people need to spend budgets – not underspend. The way around that is to not make it needs-based." (Glasgow stakeholder).
Both the quotes above identify funding systems, and KPIs in particular, as a barrier to delivering person-centred and place-based support. Several partners told us that these barriers were gradually being overcome by the establishment of relationships between organisations, which had enabled people to let their guards down a little. This and people's commitment to creating systems change had begun to create some changes. Funding challenges, however, remained for many third sector organisations and several suggested that lasting systems change would only be possible if core funding was to be provided to offer freedom from working to KPIs, which constrained the time available to operate in person-centred ways. Resourcing is discussed further in chapter 5, section 5.4 which explores perspectives related to the sustainability of the Pathfinders.
A brief discussion on funding is also required here because some participants described person-centred approaches as being resource heavy insofar as it takes time to engage with, and support people as they journey through a system to address multiple complex needs.
Most respondents within Dundee and Glasgow City Councils reported that they felt both Pathfinders had been resourced well in terms of staff and budgets. However, some expressed concern about what would happen when the funding ended. They were all aware of the cost of the Pathfinders, with many describing the Dundee Pathfinder as 'resource-intensive' and 'expensive'. People spoke about 'pots not being bottomless', indicating an anxiety around sustainability and replicability of the Pathfinder models. The resource implications appeared to be highest among third sector delivery stakeholders, and at a delivery level more generally.
"I think it's quite expensive to run this. and it's resource intensive… very expensive." (Dundee partner)
Concerns about funding were also discussed by Glasgow Pathfinder stakeholders.
"There needs to be a lot more investment if it is to work in the longer term. Having something for a short time is okay if it's a pilot, but long-term there needs to be a longer-term funding structure." (Glasgow stakeholder)
A point of key learning specific to Dundee emerged, and is worthy of note when planning how replicable the models may be in other areas. Many partners and stakeholders in the Dundee Pathfinder told us that although the Pathfinder was targeted at families living in the Linlathen area, gradually word spread about the type of holistic support that was being offered. We learned that this had resulted in people from other parts of the city starting to turn up at the Linlathen drop-in hub, seeking their services and keyworker support. Several local stakeholders told us that they were not turning people away on the basis of their postcode, but they had become increasingly concerned about the numbers of people travelling to use the service from outside the area. The demand for the one-stop shop model demonstrates the perceived benefits of the approach, from a partners/carers perspective, as well as demonstrating the importance of word of mouth as a communications method. Concerns about increasing use of the Dundee drop-in hub were of concern due to the in-person provision. Findings suggest that there may be a need to ensure that settings have suitable infrastructure to support in-person support if the Pathfinder expands significantly. This issue is explored further in chapter 6, which provides lessons learned from the perspectives of parents/carers.
Some partners who were involved at a strategic level described the early development phase as being beneficial, as it gave an opportunity to envision systems change and then work out how to deliver change at a local service delivery level. Often those at a less senior level of leadership described feeling uncomfortable with the lack of clarity at the start concerning how 'person-centred' services would be delivered. Some stated that more direct guidance at the beginning would have been helpful. Of those that felt this way, however, many described now being clearer about the direction of travel.
Some stakeholders, like the person quoted above, suggested that clearer communication with stakeholders at the beginning of Pathfinders, about the concept of person-centred approaches, may have been beneficial. This suggests that if Pathfinders are being developed in other areas, definitions of key concepts should be provided from the outset.
4.2 The extent to which Pathfinders are considered to have been informed by existing evidence
This section explores partner and stakeholder perspectives on the extent to which existing evidence has been used to inform the design and deliver of the Pathfinders. Overall, most partners and stakeholders were of the view that the most important evidence to use to inform Pathfinder development was context-specific, and informed by data, rather than empirical or academic evidence on what works to address child poverty.
Partners and stakeholders were asked to what extent they felt the design of the Pathfinders had been influenced by existing evidence on what works to address child poverty. A few participants queried whether robust empirical or academic evidence on what works to address child poverty exists. Most Glasgow Pathfinder partners expressed that existing local data had influenced the design of Pathfinder activities to date. Most participants expressed the view that local data was more important to understand than overarching empirical evidence drawn from other national contexts.
These participants praised the use of local data within the design of the Pathfinder.
Many partners and stakeholders in both sites described a tension between the Pathfinder's aim to try and test innovative approaches, while using evidence informed practice, since the local evidence base on what works is not yet fully established. Many participants suggested that a core function of each Pathfinder was to explore what works, where and why. Many told us, however, that to date there was not enough data being collected at a local level to be able to say what was working so far. This finding was consistent across both sites, and it relates to some of the data sharing issues that are explored in more detail in chapter 4.
Several partners and stakeholders felt that the issue of child poverty could be conceptualised as having reached crisis level, stimulating a need for the Pathfinders. As the partner in the quote below outlines, some partners and stakeholders felt that one of the aims of the Pathfinder was to try and test new approaches to develop the evidence base for what would work in each locality.
"I don't get a strong sense of an evidence background – it has been more of an evolution – it has been more of a crisis response rather than one that has set out to base itself on an evidence base – recently it is starting to use its data and to drill down into the data now." (Glasgow partner).
We heard from many partners in the Glasgow Pathfinder that while the Pathfinder was distinct, it also fitted in with existing priorities and workstreams in Glasgow City Council that had been set up to reduce child poverty. Some of the existing data in Glasgow that had come out of these other initiatives had been able to be used to inform the development of the Pathfinder. One Dundee Pathfinder partner, quoted below, told us that one of the key benefits of the Pathfinder's activity had been the ability to identify the numbers of people who were eligible for welfare benefits, who had not been claiming them due to not being aware they could. This data had been used as part of the decision to move away from an employment focus in Dundee toward an income maximization focus, which included making sure that families were accessing the right benefits.
The qualitative findings were echoed in the Partnership Scorecard data. For example, when asked about evidence collected via the Pathfinder, eight respondents indicated the view that partners collect and share some data to build an evidence base about what is working within the Pathfinder. A further five felt that partners were collecting some data, but not sharing it to build an evidence base. Three, however, agreed that partners were collecting and sharing relevant data to build an evidence base. As such, the qualitative and scorecard data both suggest that there have been some potential challenges and ambiguities surrounding how data is used to inform the Pathfinder, and how ongoing monitoring data is used to inform the ongoing development of the Pathfinder.
4.3 The extent to which Pathfinders are reaching the targeted population
The Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan indicates that key priority groups for policies in the plan, including the Pathfinders, include lone parents/carers; ethnic minority families; families with a disabled adult or child; families with a young mother (under 25); families with a child under 1; larger families (3+ children). In this section, we discuss partner and stakeholder perspectives on the priority groups that they are aware of, and the mechanisms in place to target these groups. We also discuss the barriers described in reaching these groups. Further information about the activities the Pathfinders were engaging in with priority groups can be found in chapter 5, which describes the design and development of the Pathfinders. Further information about how priority groups experienced this support is provided in chapter 6, which presents perspectives in relation to the impact on families to date.
Partners and stakeholders in both Pathfinders conveyed that they had identified sources of data that could be used to make targeted offers of support to groups that had been identified as priorities due to being at a higher risk of experiencing child poverty. Several partners and stakeholders, in both sites, told us that it had been challenging to identify and effectively target these priority groups because although there were organisations involved in both Pathfinders that held data, it had not yet been possible to establish a legal basis for data to be shared for the purposes of providing targeted support. Some participants told us that although data sharing remained a contentious issue that they were working through, they had developed new strategies to reach priority groups. One example given was that a campaign had been established to reach the targeted population by engaging with early years establishments such as nurseries and also schools to make universal offers of support. Many expressed that the aim of these campaigns was to encourage families struggling with poverty to come forward, thereby enabling support to be provided.
In Dundee, however, some partners and stakeholders described progress having been made in terms of data sharing and told us that they had been able to use data related to council tax reductions and housing benefits to identify families who may benefit from a targeted offer of additional support. Several partners involved in the Glasgow Pathfinder told us that they now also had sufficient data sharing agreements in place to allow them to use Glasgow City Council data such as council tax reduction data to identify families in greatest need.
Across both Pathfinder sites, partners and stakeholders spoke about their frustrations with delays to data sharing agreements. Many felt that certain organisations, like DWP held information about household income and numbers of people claiming certain benefits, which could be used to target support and make data-driven decisions, informed by existing data. Others felt that data sharing would allow them to demonstrate the impact that the Pathfinder was having on those who had accessed support. Another Glasgow Pathfinder partner describes how they had been able to identify the numbers of people who were eligible for fuel grants who had not claimed them. This partner was of the view that the Pathfinders could help to maximise the number of people claiming the benefits they were entitled to, but also their contact with people accessing services would contain insights to explain why so many benefits were unclaimed when there were families who were experiencing poverty.
The fuel grants described above were to help people to manage the increase in cost of electricity and gas. These were described by partners in both Pathfinders and considered to be acutely required in the area of Linlathen, Dundee because the houses had been designed in such a way that they had insulation problems. Most partners and stakeholders in both Pathfinders discussed the use of data to inform learning, and also to understand the barriers that people were facing. Many also felt that data sharing agreements were required to enable more targeted support to be offered to those experiencing the most acute levels of poverty.
Often, when asked to describe the extent to which the Pathfinders had been informed by existing evidence on 'what works' to address child poverty, partners who were involved at a strategic level tended to talk about data sharing, and the importance of establishing data sharing agreements to build the evidence base and inform the future development of the Pathfinder.
"We haven't got these systems in place yet – we are working with data, Social Security Scotland and Department of Work and Pensions colleagues – we can't share data at the moment. A client presents that needs Social Security help, we take the client to the Social Security Scotland table – we are looking at a data sharing protocol – we are looking at a system – but can't do this until we have data sharing signed." (Dundee partner).
Although the above example comes from the Dundee Pathfinder, this finding was consistent across both Pathfinder sites. Another Dundee partner, however, reported that they had identified a potential solution.
"We are developing a tool called Huddle that all three agencies think will be able to use it for data sharing. We think if we can get this through it'll be a massive win". (Dundee partner).
This quote demonstrates that solutions are being sought and found, which it is hoped might resolve some of the challenges posed by data sharing.
In both Pathfinders, several partners and stakeholders expressed that they were currently actively working with partner organisations through the Pathfinder via a new workstream dedicated to establishing data sharing agreements to ensure that the targeted population could be more effectively reached. In Glasgow, there were early indicators of progress within the data, where several partners and stakeholders noted that a Data Sharing Framework Agreement had been developed that could be used by third sector organisations. This framework was described as being used to identify and target priority groups, and it was also being used to provide more rapid access to services.
4.4 Mechanisms to gather and share learning
This section explores the views of partners and stakeholders in both sites in relation to the mechanisms that have been put in place to gather and share learning. The section also discusses the data being collected by partners, and the extent to which this is being used to evaluate, inform and learn across the Pathfinder(s).
We begin this section by contextualising the more detailed points that will follow with a brief discussion on the partnership scorecard results. As previously noted, the scorecards received a low response rate, and so some caution is required in interpreting the results. However, the 16 responses provide some insights that align with the more detailed qualitative findings. When asked to scale their response to a series of questions about gathering and sharing learning across the Pathfinders, most of the 16 scorecard respondents agreed that partners have had some opportunities to learn from one another and agreed that a learning culture was beginning to develop. This suggests that for some partners and stakeholders there have been opportunities for collaboration and coproduction. Findings were mixed, however, and three scorecard respondents felt that partners had experienced limited opportunities to learn from each other, with limited opportunities for collaboration and coproduction.
Many respondents suggested that the Pathfinder teams were sometimes taking the time to reflect on progress, achievements and lessons. Six respondents described this as 'rarely' occurring and three described this as happening 'often'. Responses to questions related to using learning to refine the approach were mixed, with six respondents stating that the Pathfinder team was sometimes drawing from lessons from the past in developing new initiatives and its programme of work, and a further five describing this as occurring often.
We now present the findings of the qualitative interviews that explore in more detail the mechanisms in place to gather and share learning. Gathering and sharing learning was described as being challenging at the beginning of both Pathfinders. Some partners and stakeholders, in both sites, suggested that there had been an initial reluctance to share monitoring data between partners, where it was being collected. Several partners and stakeholders stated that there had been a gradual willingness from all sides to consider what could be done to facilitate information sharing so that learning could be shared between organisations. When asked what had helped, two partners from the Dundee Pathfinder expressed that establishing a fortnightly meeting to discuss and share learning had been helpful.
"The fortnightly working group set up - oversight board as well – capturing frontline staff attend the fortnightly working group as well as senior managers." (Dundee partner)
For many, the regular meetings had helped partners to feel more willing to share learning, and several reported feeling less guarded when discussing progress. When prompted to explain what was it about the meetings that was useful, several partners mentioned having a space that captured feedback from the frontline and having a safe space to share experiences of things that had been a success, as well as those that had not worked so well. In both Pathfinder sites though, some partners indicated that the meetings had not always felt like a safe space. Several told us that they had only recently started to feel free enough to share their views and progress, particularly in circumstances where their views didn't fit with some of the more dominant voices in the meetings. What appeared to have made a difference was that people had started to get to know each other and were then able to read when what they were about to say would upset someone, and could be mindful about how their views and experiences came across. Understanding each other, and the demands of the organisations people were attached to, appeared to be helping in both sites. Several partners stated that as their role in the Pathfinder had become clearer, they had developed a better picture of their contribution and value, which had helped them to feel more confident and able to share views, which had contributed to learning, and a willingness to discuss lessons learned.
Several partners and stakeholders discussed how learning would be used to shape the future development of the Pathfinders. Many felt that there had not been enough time allocated to develop relationships between organisations and between the people who were involved from each organisation. For these partners, it was relationships between people that would be the conduit to doing things differently. They expressed that the ability to openly share perspectives, without fear of recriminations or conflict, was what would bring about lasting systems change.
Several partners and stakeholders told us that if Pathfinders are to be considered for other areas, it would be crucial to understand that relationship building is a core factor, and that time must be built in for this. Although several partners and stakeholders expressed concern about a lack of monitoring data and data sharing, some described having established informal meetings between themselves and people within the other Pathfinder area. This appeared to be giving informal opportunities for sharing learning across the Pathfinder sites. It is recommended that more formal mechanisms are developed to ensure that learning is consistently shared between Pathfinders.
4.5 The effectiveness of partnership working
In this section, we discuss the perspectives of partners and stakeholders on the effectiveness of partnership working. This includes a discussion on what is considered to be going well, barriers and facilitators to effective partnership working and lessons learned to date.
Most partners and stakeholders, in both Pathfinder sites, discussed that it had taken a long time to get partnerships established to the point that they were beginning to work well. Most felt that although they were on a positive trajectory, they weren't quite working optimally. In Dundee, several partners felt that there had been pressure to deliver something overnight, which had led to the establishment of actions that were decided too quickly, and which had not given scope to identify the right people to engage at the start, leading to some initial resentment that had to later be overcome. In Glasgow, several partners told us that it had been difficult to maintain the motivation of talented staff during the period where they were less certain about workstreams and tasks, and more engaged in envisioning what change would look like.
The pace of change, therefore, seemed very different across the sites, but had presented some challenges related to engagement in partnership working, in both sites. The pace of change, however different, had been a factor that inhibited engagement of partners in both sites, where it was difficult to engage people in Pathfinder partnerships before a clear outline of aims and objectives had been decided.
This is illustrated by a Glasgow Pathfinder partner in the quote below.
"It was difficult to get the right people and keep them motivated because sometimes people would ask about what the Pathfinder is, and not everyone could understand or run with the concept of – it is what we make it, and you can help shape that." (Glasgow partner).
This demonstrates the importance of defining aims early in the development of the Pathfinder and deciding how overarching aims translate into local activities. Reflecting this, several partners and stakeholders used the word 'journey' to describe the partnership's development. They referenced not only the time spent, but also the discussions engaged in at partnership level. Some partners across both sites mentioned that the journey had been painful at times, but that the partner's ability to work effectively in meaningful collaboration had grown over time. For some, the ability to work through barriers to effective partnership working was a key benefit of the Pathfinder, as described in the quote below.
"That's a benefit of Pathfinder that's hard to capture – culture and process shift. Each organisation has a different reputation. Although we were a partnership, initially people kept doing what they've always done. Over time, the benefits and wins of collaborative working has been clearer. It has evolved now. Relationships and trust took time to build, but we are getting there now." (Dundee stakeholder)
As illustrated in the quote below, some partners felt that unclear roles at the very start had had a negative impact on the partnerships.
"I think it has been a bit hokey cokey, but we didn't have all the necessary skills and resources. So do you get the right people in the room and then develop, or do you develop something and then bring the people? It's tricky when people are unclear on their roles, particularly as we are working it out as we go. Feels a bit start-stop". (Glasgow partner)
This quote illustrates the 'tricky' balance that the Pathfinders faced when starting up. The tension between needing clear aims to get buy-in, balanced with the innovative approach of the Pathfinders seems to have resulted in a 'stop-start' development. This highlights the need mentioned before to allow time for development of clear aims and objectives. This would then lead to buy-in from partners and the development of a clear communications plan.
Across both sites, partners and stakeholders expressed the view that partnerships were evolving and becoming stronger. This is described by a Glasgow Pathfinder partner in the quote below.
"Norming, storming, forming - in that order. I would reflect that the importance of personal relationships – I hadn't taken on board enough.. But if you know each other, you understand how each other works ...Our teams are coming together, challenging each other.. (Name) is helping us come together, makes sure we are clear on our roles, who does what". (Glasgow partner)
Some of the tensions experienced in both sites appeared to relate to not necessarily having all the right people around the table at the very beginning of Pathfinder development. This finding came across in the perspectives of partners and stakeholders from both sites. When asked if any organisations were missing from the partnership, several respondents from both sites mentioned that they had been expecting the third sector to be more involved.
One Dundee Pathfinder partner reflects that there has been a need to engage people with lived experience of accessing services within the Pathfinders at a strategic level.
"They are not part of the institutional partnership - more of that lived experience and there is no lived experience at board level." (Dundee partner).
Several partners involved in the Pathfinders, at both sites, stated that people with lived experience of accessing services should have been involved in Pathfinder development to date, and that they should be invited to join the partnerships from now. Some partners in the Glasgow Pathfinder felt that Glasgow City Council were over-represented within the partnership, as discussed in the quote below.
"It's no good council and public sector talking to themselves because citizens are engaging with the third sector. … Council colleagues don't seem to understand that the most marginalised families don't trust the council." (Glasgow partner)
Some partners in Dundee discussed not being aware of the involvement of NHS partners and discussed that the NHS and especially mental health colleagues should be on board and involved in the Pathfinders. In Dundee, one partner said:
"There has been a KeepWell Nurse who comes occasionally – we need health support to be able to support these clients – how can we support these clients to manage their health – or even access routes into MH services? We are starting to have chats with health" (Dundee partner).
A Dundee stakeholder also highlighted the need for more engagement with mental health colleagues and explained some of the reasons why they had not been engaged.
"I think we could have done with engaging more of the local mental health organisations who could have been there to explain more fully the services they offer – the problem was that the first place we ran the drop-in sessions was that it was very small. The second venue was much better – but still would have been crowded. Perhaps it would have been better to do more days... Split the sessions up eg, 1 day for housing, 2nd day for employability etc... local organisations are all so busy. - that is the only way that it could work better than it did. Needed everybody to be present for whole session." (Dundee stakeholder).
There was no discussion on the need to engage NHS colleagues in the Glasgow Pathfinder, which suggests that partners involved in the Glasgow Pathfinder were more aware of there being representation from health services on the board in that area. The above quotes from Dundee partners and stakeholders link to an overall finding about there being a need to understand who should be around the table in the partnership and making sure that all the voices needed to support families holistically are there and able to contribute.
This also highlights a challenge when delivering in-person services of estates and venues that are suitable. For the drop-in hub model to work, the venue needs to be big enough to accommodate all services who need to all be present on the same day. In the Dundee Pathfinder, many stakeholders who were operating at a service delivery level told us that the drop-in hub was playing a key role in strengthening partnership work. Co-location appeared to be assisting with the alignment of services, which was strengthened by developing ease with which they were able to speak to people from other organisations to request help and advice. These stakeholders noted the importance of being able to 'walk someone round to the DWP' to 'hand them over, there and then' and ensure that people received the help they needed immediately via integrated working practices.
Several front line staff in Dundee stated that at first they didn't know people from other organisations very well and were unclear on their roles. They noted that after a few weeks of being co-located at the drop-in hub, this had changed, and they reported feeling that they were working as a team. Unity of purpose was often mentioned as defining the collaborative way they worked on-site, and many felt that the shared aim of improving the lives of families who were experiencing poverty and multiple complex needs was motivating them to work together to reduce barriers to accessing support.
Despite many positive reflections, some stakeholders who were delivering services in Dundee felt that there were still some barriers to work through. As one put it,
"I'm here as an employee of a particular agency" (Dundee stakeholder).
The above stakeholder went on to say that improvements to partnership working had been accomplished because of mindset shifts, where each person had begun to embrace a mindset of collaboration and team working, much of which was enabled by working together on the same site on specific days of the week. One stakeholder summarises their perspective on the growing strengths of partnership work in the quote below.
"we're working to deliver what that person needs now…. We all have the same goal now." (Dundee Stakeholder)
The Dundee drop-in hub was considered to be a good example of the benefits of co-location and working in partnership to align services. To provide some insight into how this was operating, several stakeholder and partners involved in the Dundee drop-in hub spoke about how they managed the triage of parents/carers. They had recently appointed a member of staff who welcomed people as they arrived and spoke to them about what they needed for that visit. The parent/carer was then directed to the various desks of the relevant services they would need to access on that visit. When asked what made the partnerships that sat beneath this triage approach work, interviewees mentioned the in-person element. Good team working appeared to be made possible because colleagues from other organisations were present, and frontline staff were able to ask informally whether they could offer help or support with cases.
When prompted to identify what facilitated the good team working several stakeholders described the importance of informal moments between colleagues that allowed them to chat and get to know each other. For example, clearing away after a session enabled the staff to get to know the person from Jobcentre Plus. It was only when they chatted that they realised she could help with issues they had not known about. They reported that since then, they sent people to their Jobcentre Plus colleague all the time. They mentioned they all worked together and helped each other.
"At the end of the day we pack everything up when we're finished – everyone has a chat about the day – and that's a place for informal learning" (Dundee stakeholder).
In the next section, we explore the evolution of the partnerships and the extent to which trust has formed at a strategic and operational level.
4.6 The development of trust between partners
This section provides a short summary of the key themes noted in the previous section in relation to how trust has been developing through the early implementation of the Pathfinders. Findings suggest that establishing enough trust to enable stakeholders to try and test new things, to innovate and to work together across several organisations has taken time.
In both sites, establishing relationships from which trust could form was described as being a core part of the earliest phase of Pathfinder development. Most partners felt that not enough time had been allocated to navigating the difficulties of establishing relationships of trust. It was suggested that this should be at the core of early activity, as most partners felt that relationships of trust were the foundation from which lasting change would gradually grow.
Partnership scorecard responses suggest that of the sixteen respondents (largely Glasgow-based), most felt that they could trust the partners involved in the Pathfinder on most issues. Some expressed that they only felt able to trust partners on some issues. In the interviews, partners discussed that there had initially been some confusion about each other's roles. Some partners mentioned that not fully understanding the role they would play, and the role that others would play in the development of the Pathfinder had created barriers to trust in the very initial stages. Some of this was reflected in the partnership scorecard data too, where most of the sixteen respondents agreed with the statement 'partners try to understand each other's role, focus and needs'.
This finding, when considered alongside the interview data, suggests that gradually trust was beginning to develop between partners as relationships formed, which was making effective partnership work feel more achievable to many partners and stakeholders. Despite the sense of optimism however that came through in the interview findings, five out of the sixteen partnership scorecard respondents agreed with the statement 'partners display patchy understanding of each other's role, focus and needs'.
This mixture of findings suggests that while progress is being made toward understanding each other's roles and developing trust, there may still be some distance left to travel. This points to a finding noted above where partners conveyed that more time was needed to work through barriers to effective partnership working, as part of a commitment to creating systems change. Most partners and stakeholders who took part in the interviews, across both sites, described trust as something that was continually building.
Many described the development of trust between partners as an evolving journey. Multiple people in both Pathfinders used the phrase 'we are getting there now' when discussing the gradual development of trust and partnership working. Most interviews reflected a sense of hope and optimism about the future of the partnership, and this appeared to relate to having worked through the initial phase of partnership formation, to the point where trust was now developing. For many, this had been an important part of the early implementation and development process.
4.7 The effectiveness of communication
The qualitative findings presented in sections 4.4, 4.5 and 4.6 have shown that the relationships between the partners appears to have developed to a point where people feel more comfortable sharing lessons learned, progress to date and recommendations for the next steps of Pathfinder development. In each of these sections, trust and relationships have emerged as key themes that relate to the effectiveness of communication. As a result, this section is relatively short.
As previous sections have indicated, most partners and stakeholders were of the view that communication and partnership work had started to become more effective as time went on. An early part of the implementation had been about creating the right foundations for effective partnership work, and this had led to enhanced communication. In both Pathfinders, several partners told us that a dedicated project manager had recently been appointed and this appointment appeared to be valued by many because the project manager had been able to communicate workplans, risk registers and timelines effectively.
Many described this as a key turning point moment where communication and clarity of purpose simultaneously improved. Some participants felt that communication within the Pathfinder was clear. Others felt that there was not always enough time between receiving updates, and meetings taking place, which led to some people feeling unclear about the purposes of meetings when they occurred. These findings are mirrored within the scorecard data where there were mixed responses concerning the extent to which people felt that internal communication within the Pathfinder was clear.
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