No One Left Behind and the Young Person's Guarantee: implementation evaluation

The evaluation explores how effectively No One Left Behind and the Young Person’s Guarantee had been implemented, the experiences of service providers and service users, and lessons from early delivery. The evaluation took place between May and December 2022.

6. Conclusions and recommendations

The aim of the implementation evaluation was to assess progress and learning to date from the development and early delivery of No One Left Behind and the element of the Young Person's Guarantee that was invested in local authorities (via Local Employability Partnerships) and delivered within the framework of the No One Left Behind approach. It explored how effectively No One Left Behind and this element of the Young Person's Guarantee had been implemented, the experiences of service providers and service users and lessons from early design and delivery.

There was mixed feedback from local stakeholders on how well No One Left Behind had been implemented locally, although most perceived this positively. It was said to have facilitated better partnership working between employability stakeholders at the local level, including bringing greater focus and purpose to existing partnerships structures, and most agreed that it had contributed to further development and enhancement of services. Most local stakeholders also thought that the element of the Young Person's Guarantee that was distributed via LEPs had been implemented well and was an appropriate response to mitigating the impact of the pandemic on young people's progression in learning and work.

Most employability staff agreed that the services they delivered aligned with No One Left Behind principles, even when they were not fully aware of the details of the strategy, and most thought that it had made a positive difference to service delivery in their area. Examples of positive changes resulting from No One Left Behind included: greater local decision-making; increased partnership working; development of new services; less duplication of service delivery; and increased communication between the local authority and service providers.

Most service users found it easy to access employment support services. The small number who found services difficult to access referenced the services not been well advertised or well-known and challenges faced in making contact. Service users reported high levels of satisfaction with the support they received due to the holistic, tailored and person-centred nature of this and how open, supportive and encouraging the staff delivering the services were. Most service users agreed that the support was delivered by knowledgeable staff, tailored to their needs and recognised their existing experience and current situation.

The evaluation identified some potential areas for improvement in relation to ongoing implementation of No One Left Behind and future employment support programmes. These are set out in the next section as a series of recommendations for discussion and consideration by local and national stakeholders and partners involved in the design and delivery of employment services in Scotland.

6.1 Recommendations relating to ongoing implementation of No One Left Behind

Targeted awareness raising

Recommendation 1: Increase knowledge and understanding amongst service providers of No One Left Behind principles and supporting tools.

The evaluation found limited awareness of the detail of the No One Left Behind strategy beyond local authority management staff, as well as low levels of awareness of the Customer Charter and Service Standards amongst those working directly with service users.

Potential measures to address this include restating the key aims, objectives and principles of No One Left Behind through local and national communications; providing frontline staff with physical copies of the Customer Charter and Service Standards so they are clear on expectations for the service; and ensuring adequate training is in place for all new staff.

Recommendation 2: Increase promotion and awareness of the services on offer to potential and current service users, particularly those who may be facing barriers to engagement.

A significant portion of service users who participated in the evaluation had found out about the support through friends and family and had previously been unaware the of the support that was available to them. This suggests that more could be done to raise awareness of employment support services amongst those who could potentially benefit from them, including those furthest from the labour market.

Consideration should be given as to how national and local communication approaches and measures could be improved to increase awareness of employability support and engagement with this, particularly amongst those who may be facing barriers. Engaging key partners, including third sector organisations working with people with protected characteristics, or agencies working in other policy areas (such as health or criminal justice), to make them aware of the services and how to refer into them could also help reach those who could benefit from the support.

Making best use of data and evidence

Recommendation 3: Increase effectiveness of data use to better tailor service provision, particularly for services aimed at those facing additional barriers to employment.

The evaluation found that service users in older age groups do not always feel that services are suitably tailored to their needs, which can include support for digital inclusion or to retrain or upskill to access available opportunities. Disabled people or those with long term health conditions are also less likely to feel that services are suitably tailored to their needs.

Consideration should be given as to how services could be better tailored to meet the needs of these potentially marginalised groups. This should be informed by feedback on their needs and the extent to which these are or are not being met (see Recommendation 6), as well as advice and guidance from specialist organisations working directly with priority groups.

Recommendation 4: Provide additional support and resources for data collection and reporting processes associated with No One Left Behind.

The national monitoring and reporting requirements for No One Left Behind were said by local authorities to be time consuming and resource intensive, which was contributing to frontline staff feeling under time pressure. This has been exacerbated by multiple changes to the reporting requirements since the launch of the strategy. Local authorities did not always directly see the value of these reporting requirements and the changes being made to them.

Any future changes to the reporting requirements should be carefully considered given the level of resource required to implement them and be designed to minimise burden on frontline staff. Also, consideration could be given as to whether LEPs could use some of their funding to appoint dedicated staff to work on this, which would free up frontline staff to focus on service delivery. These staff could also have a role in analysing local data to generate insights to inform and support continuous improvement.

Recommendation 5: Increase opportunities for service users to provide feedback on their experiences.

The evaluation found that relatively few service users had been asked to provide feedback on the services they received. Feedback is critical for informing continuous improvement of services, ensuring they are suitably tailored to the needs of all users.

In accordance with the No One Left Behind Customer Charter and Service Standards, all service users should have the opportunity to provide feedback on services and be clear on how to complain if they are not happy with the support received.

6.2 Implementation of future programmes

Learning from Young Person's Guarantee

Recommendation 6: Use learning from the Young Persons' Guarantee to inform future employment support for young people.

The Young Person's Guarantee was introduced to mitigate the potentially damaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people's transitions from education to employment. The economic and labour market context for young people has changed considerably since the introduction of the Guarantee, although many young people continue to face barriers to education, training and work with employment rates much lower amongst those who are care experienced, disabled or from a minority ethnic background. The evaluation also found that the barriers faced by young people and the support they need to progress are different to those faced by older age groups.

Learning from implementation of the Guarantee should be used to inform future employment support for young people, including the types of barriers they face in progressing to employment and associated support needs. Consideration should be given as to whether it remains appropriate for ERIs to be available to all young people or whether they should be targeted at those facing particular barriers.

Mental health provision and support

Recommendation 7: Improve access to mental health support for service users.

A high proportion of service users are experiencing mental health or wellbeing issues at first engagement with services. Service providers also stated that the prevalence and severity of these issues has increased since the pandemic and they are now acting as a key barrier to progression for many people.

Further research into what works in addressing mental health and wellbeing issues in the context of employment support would help develop the evidence base to inform future provision. This could potentially include better integration with local mental health services or additional training and support for Key Workers to identify these issues and refer to appropriate support.

Confirmation of available funding

Recommendation 8: Communicate funding for time-limited interventions as early and widely as possible.

A key challenge in implementing the Guarantee was that funding from the UK Government was only made available in November 2020. Local stakeholders understand that this was due to the time required to develop the Guarantee and scope, however it resulted in short timescales to design, develop and deliver services. Out-with the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 Pandemic, future time-limited interventions should be planned as early as possible with wider communication and partner engagement to allow for better planning and preparation and to ensure maximum impact and value for services.

Recommendation 9: Provide more certainty as early as possible on likely future funding to enable longer term planning.

Funding for employment services is confirmed on an annual basis in line with the public sector budgeting cycle. This effects the ability of LEPs to plan longer term and creating pressure to allocate funding at pace. It is also impacting on staff retention and the ability of LEPs to enter into long-term agreements with key delivery partners and other stakeholders, the latter being a key principle of the No One Left Behind approach.

Local stakeholders appreciate that it is not always possible to confirm medium- or longer-term funding, but if an indicative level of annual funding could be confirmed as early as possible (with appropriate caveats) this would help with workforce planning, commissioning of services and engagement and communication with key partners and stakeholders.

6.3 Future research

The implementation evaluation has captured learning from the development and early delivery of No One Left Behind. Future research should consider establishing a baseline of service user views and experiences of employment support against which future progress can be measured. Ideally this should be administered independently, which would require appropriate permissions to be in place to enable contact details of service users to be shared for this purpose.

There would be value in conducting a process evaluation to explore in more detail how services are being designed and delivered locally to identify what is working well, less well and why. This should include assessment of the effectiveness of processes involved in the promotion of services and engagement of service users and how well services are integrated with other local services to enable the provision of 'wraparound' support. Consideration should also be given to a future impact evaluation of No One Left Behind to assess the difference made by services to the education, employment and training outcomes of users.



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