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 6: Perceived impact on families to date
This chapter discusses the perceived impact that the Pathfinders have made during the early implementation phase, from the perspectives of partners and stakeholders that have been involved to date. The chapter begins in section 6.1 by exploring parents/carers experiences of seeking support. Section 6.2 discusses family's perspectives of the support they have received via the Pathfinders and how this may have differed from previous experiences of seeking support. Section 6.3 explores the extent to which the system is considered to have become easier to navigate since the start of Pathfinder implementation. Section 6.3 also explores the barriers that family members describe having experienced, and the extent to which the Pathfinder has made a difference to them.
Chapter summary: impact on families
What are the experiences of the families who engaged in the Pathfinder so far?
Parents/carers expressed that the support they had received was different from previous experiences of seeking support. What appeared to be different was that they received support for more than what they'd originally sought support for and the support offered was seen as helpful.
Parents/carers particularly valued the approach taken by the staff they had spoken to who took time, listened fully and expressed empathy, identifying needs and possible services/solutions in non-judgemental ways. There was evidence of person-centred, holistic support being provided within both Pathfinders.
The non-judgemental attitude of the staff they spoke with was also important, and differed from previous times when they had sought support and where they described feeling vulnerable, stigmatised and ashamed.
The ability to provide routes and assistance to access multiple forms of support appeared to be reducing the experience of stigma that had often been felt by families due to long processes and a lack of information having been provided to them in the past. Not having to tell their stories multiple times to different people to obtain different types of support also seemed to be contributing to a positive experience for many parents/carers.
Are users of the services able to navigate 'the system'? What are the barriers and how can navigation be improved for people?
Parents/carers found that a triage approach was helping them to navigate 'the system' more easily.
In Dundee, many parents/carers praised the drop-in hub approach and appreciated the local knowledge and trusted support on offer, but some accessibility issues were noted including specific access issued for disabled parents, limited opening times and worries around stigma and privacy when discussing personal issues in such a busy environment.
In Glasgow, parents/carers appreciated the benefits of having a single access point to support for multiple needs in a single appointment but felt that awareness of the service might be low and that more could be done to promote the service.
What have been the effects so far on the lives of parents/carers?
Most parents/carers had received multiple forms of support (including income maximisation, housing related support, food vouchers, support to access employment and education and access to counselling), and had appreciated being able to obtain this broad range of support through one single interaction, rather than having to go to several different places and work out eligibility criteria.
Most reported feeling better about things, and being more able to manage. Others also valued knowing that there was a service out there that could help if things began to feel overwhelming in the future.
6.1 Parent/carers experiences of seeking support
This section explores the perspectives of parents/carers who have sought and received support through the Pathfinders. Readers of this section should note that in the main, parents/carers were aware that the support they had received was different from other experiences of seeking support. Most, however, had not heard of the term 'Pathfinder' and although they knew that something had changed, most did not know about the work going on, in the background, to create new access routes and systems change.
This section of the report explores the experiences of parents/carers receiving support from the Pathfinders, including how they accessed the Pathfinders and found out about them; what expectations they had of the Pathfinders and whether the Pathfinder service feels 'new' or different to them from previous support they might have received and the identification of any barriers or enabling factors.
Parents/carers tended to hear about Pathfinder-related activities in a variety of ways, suggesting that multiple access routes were beginning to be established. Some examples of how people were referred into services, and how they heard about new initiatives, are provided below.
- Out of the 20 Dundee parents/carers who took part in the interviews:
- 12 found out about Linlathen Works through the team's door-knocking,
- 5 through word-of-mouth (friends, neighbours, or colleagues),
- 1 saw a notice at the local library,
- 1 was referred from a key service (Jobcentre Plus), and
- 1 was handed a leaflet at a local centre.
- Nine participants, who found out about Linlathen Works through word of mouth and door-knocking, highlighted being given and/or referring to the Pathfinder leaflets. This demonstrates that the combination of door-knocking and receiving a leaflet was effective in engaging with targeted families. While it is not possible to infer that receiving a leaflet was effective in encouraging parents/carers to attend the drop-in hub, it is of note, that parents/carers mentioned receiving a leaflet when asked about how they heard about the drop-in hub, months later.
- Of 17 Glasgow parents/carers that were interviewed who had accessed Glasgow Helps:
- most were referred to Glasgow Helps by housing officers, the local authority, or other local services (n=9).
- some found out about Glasgow Helps through adverts on social media, TV, or at school or nursery (n=4), or through word of mouth (n=3).
- one respondent skipped this question.
This finding suggests that engaging people requires multiple methods of communication, for example a combination of in-person door knocking with official information in the form of a leaflet to back it up. In addition, Pathfinders need to be adequately resourced to communicate, and raise awareness with parents/carers.
Accessing services via one entry point, rather than multiple, was something that many parents/carers described as being different from other experiences of seeking support. The ability to access support via a school app had also been considered helpful, as the quote below outlines.
"It was on my son's school app, and it just came up as a notification and it came up as 'if you need help with your council tax'. I was lucky to catch this on there. ... I phoned the number that was provided and spoke to them. I explained my situation to her. I talked to her about my debt and housing situation. The person was really empathetic and passed me on to everyone. They listened and understood. Everyone that I have dealt with has been helpful and considerate. You feel vulnerable asking for help and they never felt like they were judging me or making me feel like I was a bad person or mother for asking for support." (parent/carer seeking support)
The quote above demonstrates the value of there being multiple ways of getting information to families in need. The quote also shows that for many, seeking support brings with it a sense of vulnerability and a fear of judgement or stigma. The ability to connect to someone who listened, was empathetic, helpful and considerate was also valued, and appeared to differ from some of the previous experiences that family members described having had. We heard several examples from parents/carers and families who had described that what made a difference when they were seeking support was not being passed on to a variety of services, but rather, receiving support, advice and help from one person.
Therefore, the way that parents/carers heard about support seemed to be making a difference, and then the positive experience of their initial conversation with the Pathfinder employee had also been viewed as being positive. In the quote below, another parent/carer describes an access route that had been unexpected but valuable.
"When filling out the form for my wee girl to go to nursery, I ticked a box about asking for help. Then they called me from that, I hadn't heard of them before they don't advertise or anything.... They need to advertise more – I'd not heard of them at all. There should be things on social media and adverts in the area about them." (parent/carer seeking support).
The participant above described feeling surprised about the support that was available. The route to access support described above relates to the Early Years Initiative that had been established to ensure that the Glasgow Pathfinder was reaching the target population. This participant went on to say that after ticking a box requesting help during the process of registering her child for a nursery place, she received a call from the Glasgow Helps telephone line. She described her experience of receiving support in this way as being very positive. After receiving the call and engaging with the support offered, she was provided with support to move house to more suitable accommodation for her and her child. This parent, like several others, however, wondered why the service had not been promoted more widely.
This finding suggests that there may be a need to review and enhance the marketing and communication strategy for Glasgow to ensure that there is a higher level of awareness about the support being made available.
Parents/carers that we spoke with as part of this early process evaluation were not expected to know about the Pathfinder activity, and so no direct questions were asked about the Pathfinder itself. The focus of the interviews was on parents/carers' experiences of seeking and receiving support. Because parents/carers were recruited to take part in the interviews via the Dundee drop-in hub and Glasgow Helps telephone line staff, many of the responses and insights referred to these two services specifically.
Parents/carers described having received a wide variety of different types of support, and most felt that this had been tailored to meet their individual needs, suggesting that person-centred approaches were being used. For example, at Linlathen Works in Dundee, the most common form of assistance received was help with immediate, or crisis, support. For example:
- fifteen people who took part in the interviews in Dundee told us that they had been able to obtain gas and electricity grants,
- seven interviewees reported having received support with accessing benefits,
- a further seven reported having been given help with housing. This included support with housing applications, moving house and/or house repairs,
- a further three interviewees had received referrals to food banks and/or food parcels,
- another three had received support to access education,
- two had received support with Christmas gifts for their children,
- one interviewee had received support booking health appointments, and
- one had received employment related support.
Of the 20 parents/carers we interviewed in Dundee, only five had received a single form of support. Ten had received two forms of support and five had received three or more forms of support. Alongside financial assistance, many parents/carers reported receiving help with budgeting and household energy management advice. This suggests that a holistic approach is a successful way of ensuring that people get a wide range of support through the one interaction, rather than having to go to several places.
This holistic approach also appeared to be occurring in Glasgow. Of the 17 interviews that took place with parents/carers in Glasgow:
- ten had received help to secure gas and electricity grants,
- nine had received referrals and support to make appointments with other services,
- five had received food vouchers.
Other support included benefit checks, Christmas gift vouchers, laptop grants, help securing free school meals, help switching to a credit meter, funding for winter clothes, and free bus passes.
Out of 17 interviewees, five reported receiving one form of support only (energy vouchers or benefit support), seven had received two forms of support, and five received three or more kinds of support. One parent/carer receiving support through Glasgow Helps also reported help for fuel bills, which was the reason for her contacting the helpline, but they also added her to a waiting list for counselling because she suffers with poor mental health. Again, this shows evidence that a holistic, tailored and person-centred approach was occurring, suggesting that both Pathfinders were showing evidence of this holistic approach where people were now able to access a wide range of support through one interaction, rather than having to go to several different places. Despite these findings, a waiting list is known to have been in place, which raises some questions about whether services can be accessed more rapidly, and the extent to which they are available for people at the right time.
Furthermore, crisis support, or brief interventions, are an effective way to build a relationship with parents/carers, which may be successful in keeping them engaged with longer term support.
We now present some key quotes that highlight the difference this holistic approach has made to parents/carers, drawing from their own words.
"They helped me budget my money. I suffer from depression, and sometimes I go on blow-outs where I buy everything. But now I have my budget, and it helps me. And I come each week – come in for a blether or whatever." (Parent/carer accessing Dundee drop-in hub).
This highlights that alongside the immediate assistance, or crisis support, needed by some families accessing the Dundee drop-in hub, support to establish healthy long-term habits is also provided. This may support long-term changes in people's behaviour around topics such as good financial health. The ability to drop-in for support with long-standing issues when things began to feel overwhelming was also valued by some. Support offered tended to vary and there is some evidence that this was being tailored to individual need, as discussed by the parent/carer in the quote below.
"They also referred me onto somebody else, who's put me through to counselling. I'm on the list for that now. They weren't just like here's a voucher and that's it. They really listened." (parent/carer accessing Glasgow Helps).
As the quote above suggests, parents/carers tended to very much appreciate the way that support was provided. Many felt listened to and cared about while they navigated systems, seeking multiple forms of support. This suggests that for these families, the training of staff was appropriate and helpful. Some limitations must be considered in the interpretation of these findings, however. It was only possible to recruit parents/carers who had engaged with support via the Pathfinders. It was not possible to engage those who made initial calls or visits who did not take up offers of support in the early process evaluation, so their perspectives or reasons for not engaging cannot be known. What is clear, however, is that parents/carers appeared to be benefiting from being offered multiple forms of support from one interaction, rather than many.
Most parents/carers stated that the support had met or exceeded their expectations. A few parents/carers reported not knowing what to expect or not having had any expectations from the services.
"I didn't expect it to be like that, it's really good what they do for people." (Dundee parent/carer)
One parent/carer accessing Glasgow Helps spoke about contacting the telephone line to seek help for fuel payments and receiving help with food vouchers, as well as cost of living support. They said,
"I wasn't expecting any of that, so that was really helpful." (Parent/carer accessing Glasgow Helps)
The parents/carers findings demonstrate that holistic, person-centred care is being delivered by the Pathfinders. The above interviewee went on to say that they have since called Glasgow Helps on other occasions when they have realised that they need further support, now that they realise the breadth of help that the telephone line can provide. This parent/carer stated that they really appreciated being given a keyworker. For this parent/carer, one factor that has made a big difference is being able to ask for help without feeling judged, as well as being able to get support for more than the original reason for getting in contact.
Several parents/carers explored the reasons why they thought the support offered was able to be holistic, and person-centred. Many put this down to the way that initial contact had been made. For example, one parent/carer who had been accessing support via the Dundee drop-in hub described how a keyworker had knocked on her door. She stated that she had been struggling with limited space in her house as she was living in a 2-bedroomed house with 4 children, and was struggling to cope with fuel bills. She told us that she had not heard about the drop-in hub before the keyworker had knocked on her door. After engaging with the offer of support, she received help with fuel and had been placed on a waiting list for a larger home, which she had not known was possible prior to attending the drop-in hub. She also received advice about going back to work and college. This is another example of person-centred support being delivered by the Dundee drop-in hub. As well as receiving immediate support with housing and fuel bills, this parent/carer was now considering longer term changes to her life which she would not have done without accessing the drop-in hub.
These examples show that while parents/carers may access the Dundee drop-in hub or Glasgow Helps for one issue, they receive help for other areas of their lives as a result of the holistic conversations staff they engage with are having with them. Some of these 'other' areas of support may effect long-term change in their lives and include support with returning to work, moving to a larger property, counselling and healthy financial habits. This indicates that at this early implementation stage, the Pathfinder is beginning to show evidence of progress being made toward providing holistic person-centred support. Support received is reported to have included crisis or immediate support, as well as longer term support, for example addressing both mental and physical health needs, and support to access housing, welfare support, education and/or employment.
6.2 Extent to which the system has become easier to navigate
In this section, we provide some insights from the interviews conducted with parents/carers who have accessed support via the Dundee drop-in hub or Glasgow Helps. These findings must be read in conjunction with the limitations posed by the sampling approach taken during this early process evaluation of the developmental phase of the Pathfinders. Parent/carers were recruited to take part in the interviews via a member of staff at Glasgow Helps. It is therefore possible that there was some sampling bias as it may be the case that only those who had had a positive experience were selected for interview. In Dundee, however, a researcher spent two full days on site in the Dundee hub, where they approached individuals who came in to introduce themselves and ask whether they would be willing to participate in an interview.
Most of the parents/carers we interviewed stated that they did not experience any uncertainty when accessing the services. Some participants in each site, however, reported feeling some initial anxiety, including a fear of being judged at first. Some described feeling shame and/or embarrassment about needing help and felt that they were experiencing stigma that had come from previous negative experiences of seeking support. Some also reported other barriers to accessing support, which included language barriers and/or feeling as though they would not meet the criteria to be eligible for any support. One parent/carer describes this below.
"It did feel difficult to ask for help. I always thought I would be independent. It takes a lot for someone to turn around and ask for help. You feel embarrassed because you think you should be able to do it yourself." (Parent/carer accessing Glasgow Helps)
It is worth acknowledging also that shame and embarrassment can be harder to communicate for some, including but not limited to people for whom English is a second language. Therefore, the theme of experiencing shame when seeking support may be stronger than it is indicated in the current data. Of those who articulated feeling anxious and uncertain when accessing support, several praised the people they had received support from via the Pathfinders. Several parents/carers described the 'human-ness' and the connections they had experienced, and some concluded that this was due to individual staff member's professionalism. Some stated that the barrier to accessing support that they had initially encountered was a fear of anyone knowing that they were struggling, as described by a parent/carer in the quote below.
"For me it was my own barriers that stopped me using it sooner. Saying I'm fine I'm fine. You don't want to admit to anybody that you're struggling. But it was more the unknown, once I was here it was fine." (Parent/carer accessing Dundee drop-in hub)
The findings in this section align with some of the reflections shared by partners and stakeholders in both sites, but particularly in Dundee, where people had begun to share stories about the way they had been treated at the local drop-in hub and the holistic support they had received. This had led to people travelling long distances to try to access support at the drop-in hub. The word of mouth spreading of knowledge about the new approaches had seemed to reduce the 'fear of the unknown' described by many. While word of mouth seemed to be increasing awareness of the new approaches being taken, the perspectives shared by parents/carers involved in the interviews suggest that perhaps further awareness raising could be beneficial, particularly for people who had had negative experiences when seeking support before, or who had internalised stigma-based messages about their situations or need for support.
6.3 Making a difference to families
This section extends the findings presented above by exploring further what it has been about the support received via the Pathfinders that has made a difference to families.
In both Pathfinders, parents/carers were unanimous in reporting the positive, welcoming atmosphere created by Pathfinder staff. Parents/carers often used the following phrases to describe their experience: "really listened to", "really good to speak to", "understanding", "empathetic", "made you feel at ease", "lovely people", "relaxed, informal atmosphere", "easy to engage", "easy to talk to", "not judgmental", and "treated like a normal person".
The informality of the interactions, and the lack of judgement experienced was valued by many, as indicated in the quotes below.
"They treated me like a normal person. It's informal here. If you go to the council, they speak to you like it's an interview." (Dundee parent/carer)
"They were supportive. They didn't judge you for being in that position." (Glasgow parent/carer)
Parents/carers also highlighted the efficiency of the services, often reporting speedier results than they had expected.
"Linlathen Works speeds everything up. And now the council says no more delays." (Dundee parent/carer)
One parent/carer accessing support through Glasgow Helps said,
"If Glasgow Helps say that they'll phone you back the next day, they'll phone you back the next day" (Parent/carer accessing Glasgow Helps)
While another parent/carer commented:
"I have been turned away for help by other places so was trying this. I was not aware of how much they could help me" (Parent/carer accessing Glasgow Helps)
The speed and consistency of support received was reported by parents/carers at both sites and contributed towards building trust between parents/carers accessing support and Glasgow Helps and those staffing the drop-in hub in Dundee.
Parent/carers accessing support from the drop-in hub in Dundee and Glasgow Helps spoke of valuing the way that they were treated by staff, who were described as being knowledgeable, responsive, quick and efficient. Several interviewees noted that they also appreciated having that one, consistent person to speak to. Parent/carers also reported valuing the care with which Pathfinder staff explained processes and paperwork to them, which helped them feel more at ease and in control of their support. One Dundee parent/carer spoke about the reassurance she felt that the staff helped her to do things properly.
"I wouldn't think of coming to a place like this. I'm not a money grabber or anything, but it's good to know that I'm doing everything correctly. And they helped me do that. Even did a better off calculation about Universal Credit." (Parent/carer accessing Dundee drop-in hub)
The above parent/carer described the process of receiving support to review benefits, to ensure that the family was claiming all that they were entitled to. The quote above indicates a theme that came through from the data where many parents/carers described valuing the professionalism and non-judgemental support they had received. This is a good example of providing support in a trauma-informed way.
Parent/carer experiences specific to the Dundee drop-in hub include highly valuing the local, face-to-face, immediate response, and "one-stop-shop" format of the service, reporting that it reduced a range of barriers to access. Parents/carers also valued getting immediate help, and being seen in the here and now, rather than having to book appointments for another time.
"You only have to say things once – everything is in one place, cutting out all the roundabouts and getting to the point of what needs to happen." (Parent/carer accessing Dundee drop-in hub)
As the quote above indicates, having all issues tended to at once meant that people did not have to share their story multiple times, with multiple services. Linked to this is the convenience of not having to make multiple calls or visit multiple offices – so the logistics of the approach reduce barriers to access. These quotes suggest that progress is being made when it comes to offering joined-up support. This also demonstrates that multi-agency support is appreciated by parents/carers.
Some parents/carers also valued that the services in both Pathfinder areas were mostly staffed and accessed by local people, making the service more relatable, though it was also mentioned that the lack of anonymity may discourage others from accessing the service.
"You're speaking to folk who are like you, not who are looking down on you." (Parent/carer accessing Dundee drop-in hub)
This quote demonstrates the value and importance of incorporating local knowledge, locally known people and local voices within local drop-in hubs and/or telephone line provision while taking families' potential need for anonymity into account.
Parents/carers who accessed the Dundee drop-in hub, which was an in-person service, and Glasgow Helps, which was a telephone line, were similarly of the view that they valued the fast referrals, "one-stop-shop" format for information about different services. This suggests that it was the person-centred approach that people liked most, whether it was in-person or on the telephone, and that the person-centred, non-judgemental approach is valued, irrespective of the method of accessing support. However, one parent/carer accessing Glasgow Helps reported that,
"It's better on the phone because you don't feel ashamed like you would face-to-face" (Parent/carer accessing Glasgow Helps)
Not all parents/carers preferred the telephone line format, however, and some reported having experienced issues getting through. For example, one parent/carer reported being held in a queue for almost an hour with a poor-quality phone line and being hung-up on, although staff did later call back. The parent/carer reported that they considered giving up on the service but also reported that the staff member called her back and was very apologetic. She stated that this made her feel valued and she continued with the call and received a satisfactory outcome, which involved receiving help for her fuel bills.
This example suggests that the staff of Glasgow Helps may often be able to restore confidence in the service through conveying empathy and showing understanding of the parent/carer's frustration, despite encountering some technical difficulties with the call. As other examples have shown, this indicates that many members of staff who are involved in direct service delivery have the right skills and values to reassure people accessing the services while providing holistic assessments of need.
Most parents/carers who participated in an interview and accessed support via Glasgow Helps reported being pleased with the telephone line format. We did not have the opportunity to speak to people who had accessed the Glasgow Pathfinder via other access routes and may have preferred to engage in a face-to-face model, and so further research may be required to test the suitability of a drop-in hub approach in Glasgow.
Several Glasgow Pathfinder partners and stakeholders, however, expressed that an in-person drop-in hub may not work well in Glasgow, due to the size of the city and the potential costs involved for people having to travel from one part of the city to another seeking support, particularly those experiencing existing poverty. The findings suggest that the provision of advice via telephone line in Glasgow was experienced in positive ways, and that it was the person-centred, holistic, non-judgemental nature of the interactions that was valued. Most parents/carers did not report any issues getting through to the telephone line.
6.4 Early perceived impacts and improvements on families' lives
This section explores some of the early perceived impacts of the Pathfinders on the lives of families who are experiencing poverty. This section should be understood as reporting the views of parents/carers who participated in interviews, and the perceived impacts they felt they had received from the Pathfinders. As part of the early implementation process evaluation, however, it is important to note that some parents/carers were keen to discuss 'early impacts' of the Pathfinders on their lives. Where parents/carers speak about impacts, the comments should be considered in the context of that individual, although it may be that these 'early impacts' are not yet fixed, but rather, are an early indication of future impacts perceived by participants that may stabilise over time.
As stated in previous sections of this chapter, parents/carers who engaged in the interviews from both Pathfinder sites were able to articulate what it was about the support received that felt different when compared to other experiences of seeking support.
Parents/carers who had received support via the Dundee Pathfinder described how waiting times had been reduced. Several parents/carers made comparisons with previous experiences of seeking support, where they had not only had to wait longer, but had often experienced a lack of follow-through, where referrals would have been made but no service would have ever materialised. Some told us that in the past, they had not always felt as though they had been taken seriously when they had sought help and discussed issues.
In some services, the feeling of being embarrassed about seeking support had been compounded by feeling unwelcome, and/or looked down upon. Some described not being kept informed, and not being talked through processes or paperwork. Many hadn't previously understood the paperwork they were asked to complete and, in some cases, they described being sent to different services, having to travel to different parts of town. In each of these cases, parents/carers described having to tell their story over and over to different people before reaching the right person or service, often having to do so in unpleasant or hostile atmospheres. The new approaches being taken in Glasgow and Dundee were considered to be having a positive effect on people's experiences of accessing services, and had reduced the stigma that people described experiencing, as well as streamlining their experiences.
Another effect worthy of note is that parents/carers were reporting being able to access the right support quicker. Many described this as being a higher quality offer of assistance than they had experienced before. Some of this related to being an efficient, responsive, prompt service that could help parents/carers to obtain appointments that they had previously struggled to secure.
Across both Pathfinders, parents/carers reported finding the services and their provision clear, well-explained, and easy to understand. Most parents/carers accessing Glasgow Helps reported valuing the clarity around what the service could and could not provide, and their commitment to helping each person to secure the right support if it could not be provided directly.
Parents/carers accessing Linlathen Works via the Dundee Pathfinder unanimously reported the effective 'onboarding' skills of one staff member, who presented the service to them and invited them to come to the drop-in hub for their first chat. While there are other staff members at the drop-in hub, there is one member of the team who is particularly well-known in the area and is popular with the parents/carers. While a local, friendly face has undoubtedly encouraged engagement in the Dundee drop-in hub, it presents challenges to replicability. The popularity of one key member of staff is a benefit yet also presents risks and challenges when thinking about scale-up of the model. Furthermore, it might be difficult to judge if the success of the model in the Dundee drop-in hub is down to one popular member of staff or down to the model of person-centred, place-based support.
This points to the importance of having skilled staff who parents/carers feel comfortable engaging with, but this is also created by strong partnership working, where staff can share their knowledge and help colleagues to build these skills and capacities.
Most parents/carers reported a positive impact on their life from having access to Linlathen Works, the Dundee drop-in hub. Beneficial impacts perceived by parents/carers so far include being able to put the heating on in winter, an increased ability to take care of one's health, particularly where health issues such as arthritis or fibromyalgia made a cold home a health risk, learning to manage energy consumption, reducing and preventing debt, "getting back on track" with their finances, having more disposable income from the energy vouchers to spend on their children which they felt had a positive impact on their children's quality of life, reducing stress, and feeling more in control.
"I'm not stressed now, with that £500 from the Home Heating Fund. I put my heating on now and don't have to worry. I know that I'm getting back on track now." (Parent/carer accessing Dundee drop-in hub)
The budgeting and energy management advice provided by the Dundee drop-in hub was also mentioned by most parents/carers, leading to parents/carers feeling better informed and more in control of their spending.
"I'm saving a lot on gas and electric – reducing my usage, not leaving so many lights on, knowing when to put the washer on and on what temperatures. It's good because I can do more with my son. I can take him out swimming, I can do more with his tea. Before I was struggling with money. And he has to get out because he has his ADHD and his ASD and all that, so it helps a lot." (Dundee parent/carer)
Most parents/carers also reported feeling more supported, more positive, and more confident asking for support simply knowing that the Pathfinder exists and is available to them.
"…before I never would have asked for help. It makes me feel positive for the future, just knowing that people are there." (Dundee parent/carer)
The above quotes show that parents/carers received support for immediate crises. However, as the immediacy of their need is managed, through help with fuel bills for example, it is hoped that the parents/carers can start to think about longer term changes to their lives such as employment, childcare and returning to education or training.
The quotes also show that parents/carers are learning that they can get good quality, effective help and support from the Dundee drop-in hub. Parents/carers return weekly to seek support and bring friends and relatives from outside the area. This indicates a change in behaviour that might be seen as the start of system change among the target families. It may also, however, denote a capacity issue if families continue to return weekly, while also increasing the numbers of people engaged. These findings, however, should be considered alongside the data limitations, which are outlined at the start of this section.
However, not all parents/carers reported positive outcomes, at this stage. Several parents/carers reported seeing limited or not seeing any impact on their life from using the service, either due to their claim still being processed or due to the scale and/or structural nature of their needs exceeding the remit of the Dundee drop-in hub.
"Eventually [when our home is fixed] we'll be able to live our lives." (Dundee parent/carer)
This should not be considered as a negative finding at this stage, but rather be considered as part of the potential time-lag in being able to see impacts.
Likely partly due to the city-wide scope of the service, the impact of Glasgow Helps is more varied. Benefits experienced by parents/carers after accessing Glasgow Helps included reducing or preventing debt, successfully moving house, reducing stress, and access to free digital technology for home administration.
"They let me get back on my feet. If they weren't there, I'd have had to borrow a lot of money and got in a lot of trouble. It let me get on my feet and prevented getting behind on payments." (Glasgow parent/carer)
As with the Dundee drop-in hub, some parents/carers reported they felt there had been little or no change in their lives since using the Glasgow Helps service. When asked why this was, they reported that this was because either their claims were still being processed or their needs exceeded the remit of the service. This finding, to some extent, may reflect the early stage families are at in accessing and experiencing Pathfinder support and the length of time we might expect it to take for impacts on household finances to be fully realised.
Most parents/carers, however, reported feeling less worried, less stressed, more informed, and more positive about the future having accessed Glasgow Helps and knowing that the service is available to them.
"They have made me feel better about the future. My position has not changed much but they helped it not get worse. They made me feel like people are out there that they will help me, like reaching out for help is normal." (Glasgow parent/carer)
This quote demonstrates that at this early stage in the process of implementation, the Pathfinders were starting to show some early signs of having positive impacts. Key among these impacts was the normalisation of seeking help.
6.5 Effects on community capacity
One of the research sub-questions that this early process evaluation sought to explore was the effect that the Pathfinders were having on community capacity, meaning supporting people to develop skills and competencies to take greater control of their own lives. Due to the early stage of implementation, the effects on community capacity were not yet clear and there was limited data available to examine effects on community capacity at this stage. What was clear, however, from the findings was that both Pathfinders were providing holistic, targeted, person-centred support to families who were experiencing multiple complex needs.
As explored above, the Dundee Pathfinder had initially sought to reduce child poverty by supporting more parents/carers into work. While some parents/carers had been provided with employment support, there had been a gradual realisation that most parents/carers had underlying health, social, welfare and housing needs that would have to be addressed before employment could begin to be considered. Both Pathfinders appeared to be supporting community capacity in terms of providing access to services that could address the needs that sit beneath the capacities required to secure longer term outcomes such as employment, education and/or skills training.
The early stage of development that the Pathfinders were at during this early process evaluation should be considered in the reading of this section of the report. Again, despite the early stage, one of the key capacities that there were signs of improvement on was the ability to seek support, advocate for needs and to do so in a way that appeared to be reducing the stigma that people had previously experienced. In this way, it is possible to conclude that the Pathfinders were supporting the development of some individuals' capacities to self-advocate.
6.6 Learning from project delivery so far
This section extrapolates key learning from the perspectives shared by parents/carers who have received support through the Pathfinders. It was not possible to obtain the views of people who made initial contact with the Pathfinders and disengaged, so reasons for disengagement cannot be known, and these views must be considered as the views of those who engaged in the support offered only. Another point to consider when reading this section is that the views expressed may not be shared by or representative of all families eligible for Pathfinder support.
In both Glasgow and Dundee, most parents/carers who took part in the interviews reported being very satisfied with and grateful for the services provided by the Pathfinders, seeing no obvious areas for improvements.
"I can only praise them. If somebody said to me tomorrow, I'm in a bit of a bad space, I'd say 'phone Glasgow Helps'. They're really good." (Glasgow parent/carer)
"The way they dealt with me was fabulous, there's no way they could have done better." (Dundee parent/carer)
The two quotes above illustrate a broader theme that came through in the parent/carer interviews, where many felt that trust and good relationships that had been established between the staff and the parents/carers accessing the Pathfinders.
The most commonly mentioned improvements for Linlathen Works relate to accessibility. Several parents/carers mentioned that the centre where the Dundee drop-in hub is based was a good, accessible location, particularly for people with mobility impairments. One parent/carer, however, felt that the service could benefit the community by offering home visits for disabled people in circumstances where getting out in the community was challenging. Another parent/carer mentioned that the drop-in hub only being open one day per week meant that it was not accessible to all, and felt that diversifying opening days and times could make it easier for people who had other commitments such as childcare, employment, health appointments, social work appointments, social security appointments to access the drop-in hub.
Another learning point mentioned by several parents/carers was that as word had spread about the drop-in hub, it had begun to get busier. The holistic nature of the support offered meant that people were often asked questions that felt personal, or had to discuss their circumstances. The busyness of the setting meant that often there were several people waiting to be seen. Several parents/carers told us that the location, in a local centre's large room, meant that the drop-in hub could get very loud and there was very little privacy due to tables being placed very close together.
"When busy, it's really loud. Some may not cope with this well or not want to disclose information in front of others, especially other locals." (Dundee parent/carer).
When asked what additional services parents/carers would like to see at the Dundee drop-in hub, people most often mentioned mental health services and healthcare appointments. One parent/carer mentioned needing practical support to move house, and another mentioned advice with financially accessible nutrition for children. The discussions held suggest that many of the parents/carers we spoke to felt comfortable being at the centre and were beginning to see it as somewhere that other services could become co-located, as a community health, social care and welfare oriented hub.
When asked about how the support they'd received could be improved, the parents/carers we spoke to in Glasgow most commonly stated that they had very much appreciated the support they had received but they felt that there needed to be more awareness of what was available so that others could access it. Most felt that there should be advertising campaigns to promote the support available, particularly the support offered by Glasgow Helps. Most mentioned that they had heard about the service by chance, and that many more could benefit from the support offered if there was greater awareness.
"It would be better if it was more out there – that people knew it was there. I didn't know about all this help. Get it out there. So, people know. I've given people the heads-up about it." (Glasgow parent/carer)
Some parents/carers who had received support via Glasgow Helps expressed that they would have liked the support they'd received to have been longer term. Others expressed that they would have liked support with housing-related issues, and a few said that more help with council tax would be beneficial. When it came to the telephone line itself, some parents/carers expressed that waiting times were too long, and could be improved, and suggested that knowing your position in the queue would also be helpful. Some had experienced issues related to call quality and suggested that this could be improved. Most parents/carers, however, reported positive experiences and expressed their gratitude for the support received.
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