An Evaluation of the Personal Development Partnership

This report reviews the management and outcomes from the Personal Development Partnership programme.

Main findings: Activities and Outputs

1.7 PDP is a project which seeks to identify and address the needs of the target group, namely, 14-19 year olds, disengaged from education, training or employment that are deemed to have a significant risk of offending behaviour, and use the outdoors as a learning environment where appropriate. It has done this through the development and use of a structured programme of activities that started in April 2010. Every young person in PDP devises a continuous, long-term programme of engagement on the courses provided across originally four, and now three, development providers: Venture Trust, Venture Scotland, Princes Trust, and Fairbridge and which merged with Princes Trust in 2011.

1.8 The programme runs in three Scottish cities (Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee) and one semi-rural locality, North Lanarkshire. Although early intentions were to also run a rural hub, following a feasibility study and discussion with Highland Council, the plan to launch a site in the Highlands was not pursued. Instead a hub was launched in April 2012 in North Lanarkshire.

1.9 There are Positive Destination Advisors (PDAs) in each project to: act as a liaison between the four providers and a More Choices More Chances (MCMC) 'lead professional' employed by the local authority Young people are identified through the MCMC partnerships.

1.10 MCMCs, as lead professionals, work with referral co-ordinators to ensure a joined-up process and to co-ordinate and integrate the young person's project activities with additional wider local (statutory and non-statutory) provision. MCMC work through established relationships with relevant organisations and young people to encourage involvement in the project.

1.11 Since the inception of the project there have been a number of changes at the partner level. As noted above, four partners became three and Venture Trust completed an internal reorganisation. Three of the seven partner representatives on PDP have recently left their roles and been replaced within the partnership. The remaining four representatives have been involved throughout.

1.12 The Project Management Structure went through several changes before becoming more established. The Steering Group initially lacked clear roles and allocation of responsibilities, meetings were frequently cancelled and it became difficult to establish a calendar. This resulted in a drifting agenda, duplicating 'discussions' such that people were left unsure as to aims of the group and participation drifted away.

1.13 Partners were from different sizes of organisation, styles of working and resource levels, and experiences of partnership working. With no clear partnership agreement there was a lack of clarity regarding (a) leadership and lines of responsibility, (b) mechanisms to translate learning into practice and (c) monitoring and accountability. There was a lack of attention to partnership working despite agreement at an early evaluation workshop that this would be critical to the success of the project.

1.14 The Project Development Coordinator (PDC) role at the start of the project lacked the authority and experience required to drive the project forward. Different partners seemed to have different expectations of the role. The role itself was split between coordination and case work resulting in the PDC being pulled in different directions. The amount of development work required took the partners by surprise. It was only when the original post-holder left this post in the second half of 2011 that the structure was changed to include a dedicated Development Manager (DM).

1.15 The DM now coordinates a complex project of multi-partner, multi-location, and multi agenda development and this, along with management and governance restructuring has resulted in a much better level of partnership working, clearer identity for the PDP and better monitoring and case management.

1.16 Until recently, a rise in referrals was not accompanied by a rise in front-line PDA resource with one Hub in particular struggling to cope. The PDA in this hub supported almost double the number of young people than the other two hubs. This resulted in the Hub having to cut back the number of new referrals that could be taken on. Recent changes to PDA staffing levels mean that the Hub will be able resume taking on new referrals. It should be noted that during this period, the PDA took a note of the young person's details and made suggestions as to other alternative services in the interim.

1.17 From the outset there was no agreed definition of what an approach using the outdoors as a learning environment meant and each partner interpreted this in their own way. This came to light during an evaluation workshop some nine months into the life of PDP and seemed to take some by surprise. Further, during interviews it became evident that some partners felt that differing and somewhat limited notions of outdoor activities had restricted the engagement of some young people.

1.18 The appointment of the DM has led to agreement on common assessment criteria, and monitoring processes, across the PDP, as well as improved partnership working. During 2012 gains have been made from these initiatives in terms of approaches to engagement, clearer evidence of young people's pathways through the project, and evidence of outcomes.

1.19 From inception in April 2010, 524 young people have been referred to PDP. After a slow start, referrals have risen and exceeded the Scottish Government target for the three year period of the project by 55%. Almost two thirds (65%) of all referrals have occurred over the past year (Sept 2011-Sept 2012).


Email: Ban Cavanagh

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