An Evaluation of the Personal Development Partnership

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

Changes in Behaviour and Practice

1.60 The goal of the project was to help young people towards positive destinations defined as education, training and employment but it could be argued that getting on to a partner course is a positive destination in its own right. Getting back to school was added as a positive destination as the project progressed especially in recognition of the younger than anticipated age of the client group.

1.61 However, the recording of attendance as a proxy for participation can offer a partial story. Genuine engagement and progression requires commitment and depth in participation. Progress is rarely liner and recording this requires a fuller appreciation of the ebbs and flows in a young person's, as well as a range of methods in any evaluation to gain views and experiences. As Crabbe et al. (2006) note, it is problematic to use attendance on a course or activity as a metaphor for engagement.

1.62 However a wide range of 'soft' outcomes were evidenced for many young people. PDP's own report on performance suggests that most young people improve across all core life skills. It has been increasingly important to acknowledge these, especially in the context of increased challenges of reaching positive destinations in the climate of the recession as competition for jobs and college places increases.

1.63 PDP works with a goal-setting system, that is, the young person with the help of the PDA sets the goals they want to achieve while at PDP. These goals are focused on improving the young person's life and employment skills. Three hundred and twenty nine young people have set goals with 85% (281) fully achieving the goal set and a further 9% (31) partially achieving the goal set.

1.64 The most common 'core' goals set were those relating to improving the young person's confidence and those encouraging better engagement with other people. In working on core life skills PDP was most successful with changing behaviour/offending and positive relationships. Overall PDP returned a 72% success rate for improving core life skills.

Table 6: Core skills achieved by young people

Yes Partial No TOTAL
Confidence 109 (79%) 17 12 138
Behaviour/Offending 26 (84%) 7 7 40
Relationships 54 (82%) 6 6 66
Motivation/Self Challenge 40 (64%) 9 13 62
Engagement 93 (67%) 30 16 139
TOTAL 322 69 54 445

1.65 The most common employment goals set were those relating to improving the young person's detailed employability skills and qualifications, communication and improving their team/group working abilities. In working on core employment skills PDP was most successful with changing the ability of young people to work in teams/groups. Overall PDP returned a 72% success rate for improving core employment skills.

Table 7: Achievement of Core Employment Skills

Yes Partial No TOTAL
Team/Group Work 25 (83%) 2 3 30
Living Skills 14 (74%) 2 3 19
Communication 26 (70%) 6 5 37
Routine/Timekeeping 12 (71%) 2 3 17
Progression/Qualification 26 (65%) 7 7 40
TOTAL 103 19 21 143

1.66 In addition to PDAs noting changed behaviour, so too did parents. In the case of both Iona and Skye their respective mothers noted enhanced negotiation and communication skills. The outcomes was described by Iona's mother as moving from 'she used to put me through hell as well, ….I couldna cope' to at the end of PDP, 'we're getting on great now.'

Case study: Skye

Seventeen year-old Skye was referred to PDP by her school guidance teacher. She had achieved 7 standard grades and wanted to work with animals and/or join the police, but she was emotionally insecure, with low self-esteem and self-confidence. Skye said that she had hoped that PDP would help her with "my confidence, getting me ready for work. I was confident with my pals, but with other people I was really, really, really shy, I didn't like meeting new people".

Skye's relationship with her PDA has been of key importance throughout her PDP journey, maybe more so that her participation in PDA partner courses. Skye said of this relationship "(my PDA) helps me see that I can make changes in my life, like showing me I actually do these things…she asks me what I want to do with my life and that….and doesn't put me down or say that I'm stupid, or like worthless or anything." This relationship also extended to Skye's mother who said that the PDA has "been a support for all of us as well because it's like a third person there, a neutral person that I can speak to".

Skye's specific needs were centred on her confidence and her relationships with her peers. Her PDA said of her involvement in the project, "Skye is work orientated and therefore struggles to see how going canoeing is going to help. She is an interesting case in the PDP, because I have done quite a lot of work with her but in terms of the PDP courses it looks like she has not done very much. I think it speaks to the need to be flexible".

Skye started a Princes Trust Team Programme and was doing well but, on the course residential, was involved in an incident that she was asked to leave the programme. Her mother said "(Skye) felt that she was unfairly dealt with". Skye's PDA felt that this incident had a negative impact on her broader involvement in PDP

She has subsequently taken part in two courses focused upon employability. She feels that the courses have been valuable in terms of work experience but has also at times found them boring because it is "a bit like being at school". Her PDA commented that "the difficulty is that these courses are mainly designed for young people that have left school without a full set of qualifications… she doesn't really need help with literacy or numeracy … she is quite capable". Skye's aspirations appear to have changed over the course of her involvement in the PDP. At the end of the case study period she was looking at two possible future opportunities, a Princes Trust programme to get into retail work and an office based internship with Venture Trust. Her PDA expressed uncertainty about whether this change away from her original career plans indicated an increased maturity or suggested that her aspirations had been "squashed" as a result of taking part in employability courses that had a short-term focus on getting people into any available jobs.

In summary, Skye feels that she has become more responsible during her time with PDP. This view is corroborated by her mother who says that she is better at managing relationship conflict within her family. Skye says that she has become better at managing her anxieties, that she can travel places on her own.

Case Study: Stuart

Stuart wasn't coping academically at school, there were concerns about his behaviour and attendance and he was on the verge of being asked to leave. It was suggested that these problems could be related to the death of a close family member some years earlier. Stuart's mum said that he was "very poor in study…and all the time shy". Stuart was referred to PDP by his school guidance teacher when he was nearly 17.

Stuart said that, as a result of his involvement in PDP he hoped to "build my confidence…and just get me into a course and hopefully get a career off the course I'm doing".

After initial meetings with his PDA, Stuart's PDP journey began with the Princes Trust's Team programme. Stuart's mother was initially unsure about his involvement in the programme. She worried whether the courses were worthwhile and was unhappy with Stuart attending the residential aspect of the programme. However, after encouragement and reassurance from the PDA and Activity Provider she agreed to let her son attend the whole programme. Stuart said that the residential was his favourite part of the programme.

Stuart's PDP journey includes both individual work with the PDA and working in a group on the Princes Trust programme. His PDA said that "it's the opposite of actually quite a lot of my young people who need a lot of one to one support and maybe struggle a bit in the early stages with the group. Stuart was the opposite, I could barely get two words out of him and then as soon as he was in a group he was just out of his shell and the life and soul of the party".

By all accounts, Stuart proved to be a popular member of the Princes Trust Team and made impressive progress in his confidence and independence. A member of staff from the programme said that "at first (he was) very shy, quiet, but then became the joker of the pack, and very well liked, very, very popular. He was just such a nice, charming young boy, who done really well, from being so quiet to coming out and being more confident." Many of the positive outcomes that Stuart identified from the Princes Trust Programme related to having an opportunity to become more independent and to learn about himself and about what he wanted to do. He felt a sense of achievement in finishing the programme and was confident that it would benefit him in the future through building his CV.

Both Stuart's PDA and his Activity Provider commented that his family underestimated Stuart's abilities and maturity. His PDA expressed the hope that his family would value the achievements that he had made on the Princes Trust Team Programme and continue to support his involvement with PDP rather than pushing him to get a job immediately.

After completing the Princes Trust Programme, Stuart's PDA had referred Stuart to Youth Build, a six-month training course leading to full-time employment, but he was unable to attend the interview because of illness. Stuart is still involved with PDP and his PDA is exploring other external options


Email: Ban Cavanagh

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