National Corporate Parenting Training Programme Evaluation

An evaluation of the impact of the National Corporate Parenting Training programme developed and delivered by Who Cares? Scotland.

4 Impact of the Training

4.1 In order to understand the extent to which the training helped to raise awareness of their role in corporate parenting, all respondents participating in the online survey were asked to give a rating for this before and after the training. This was based on a scale of one to ten where one meant 'very little understanding' and ten meant 'complete understanding'.

4.2 The average rating of awareness before the training was 5.69 and this rose to 8.12 after the training. Table 4.1 shows Elected Members are the sub-group with the highest level of change before and after the training. Least levels of change were from frontline staff, which is perhaps not surprising given that these individuals are likely to be working with looked after children and already have an understanding of corporate parenting responsibilities.

Table 4.1 Changes in average awareness of role in relation to corporate parenting before and after the training

Area Elected Member
(Base: 18)
Senior Staff
(Base: 18)
Frontline staff
(Base: 3)
(Base: 15)
Overall average
Before training 5.11 5.94 7.33 5.73 5.69
After training 7.73 8.40 9.00 8.10 8.12
CHANGE +2.62 +2.46 +1.67 +2.37 +2.43

4.3 In terms of the information covered, almost all of the online respondents (48 of 54) said it was just enough; two respondents said it was too much, three said not enough and one did not reply to this question.

4.4 Most of the qualitative respondents felt the training was useful, although the general consensus was that it is most useful for newly elected EMs and other individuals who have little or no knowledge of corporate parenting, their responsibilities as corporate parents and the many issues impacting on looked after children. Some of the non-EMs already working in this area felt the training did not provide enough depth of information, albeit some felt the training was worthwhile, even if its primary role was seen as reinforcing existing knowledge and understanding. One individual in a community planning partnership noted,

"I think their general awareness raising approach was good. They are letting people know about the issues. It was a very powerful presentation."

4.5 One council official also noted that this training helps to reinforce and sustain knowledge of, and involvement in, corporate parenting. In Glasgow, one EM commented "It has been effective in raising awareness and at the time it was useful, but in the committees I'm on it's not been an issue". Nevertheless, all respondents felt that the training was very useful and suggested that it should perhaps be mandatory for new EMs. One commented:

"I think this should be one of the mandatory training things that all Elected Members should have to go to. Because we are responsible for those young people …. perhaps every three years there should be refresher training to bring us up to date with any new legislation, any changes, and also new trains of thought that are possibly coming through, and to get other young people again to come in and speak to us to see if there have been any differences during that time."

Use of looked after children as part of the training

4.6 We have already noted that recall of the looked after children who constituted part of the presentation was universal among qualitative respondents. In Dumfries & Galloway and Glasgow one care leaver had presented part of the training, although in Renfrewshire and Edinburgh, the training had involved a care leaver from Who Cares? Scotland who had experience of care in other local authorities and a looked after young person from their own area.

4.7 This element of the training was praised for bringing a very powerful message and being thought provoking. One EM commented that what particularly stuck in the memory was the presentation and DVD:

"The young man that came and spoke to us, very much from the heart, and was asking us to listen to his experience because he felt that he could reflect the views of many young people that were going through the system. For me that was one of the things, that he was asking 'please listen to what was being said' and that actually the young people that are in our care know better than we do and that we should be listening to them and changing the way that we deliver some of the services to them."

4.8 In Renfrewshire in particular where two looked after children had been involved in the training, this was particularly praised for the debate it raised about the experiences of these two young people and the way in which this provided information on a personal level. As one respondent noted,

"The human element was a key focus for me and the film clips were important. They had a care leaver from Who Cares? Scotland who presented …. and a local young girl who was looked after. They debated with each other. It was good as they were sharing their own experiences in a public arena. It was good having a bit of both. The audience were captivated by that and it generated a lot of discussion."

Use of video / film clips

4.9 Almost all respondents recalled being shown videos or film clips of interviews with looked after children and this was seen as another powerful element of the training session. Some respondents commented that hearing about their experiences directly from the young people themselves brought these points across more strongly. One respondent recalled a care leaver who had moved into new accommodation and was having to take responsibility for managing a household budget, paying bills, understanding household appliances and so on. This respondent commented

"We wouldn't expect our own children to be able to move out of a residential unit and into a home of their own at 16 and be able to cope, so why do we expect it of a looked after child? If anything, they are more vulnerable than some 16 year olds and we need to ensure they are properly prepared for changes and that the support is there to help them".

4.10 An EM commented,

"I remembered the film about the youngsters, and particularly the bit about girls going into housing on their own; taking up tenancies and having to cope with that and being on their own."

4.11 Another EM commented about the sharp disconnect between being considered a child and then suddenly at the age of 16 being told 'you're on your own now'.

4.12 An individual from a community planning partnership noted that they had not been aware of many of the issues facing looked after children today and the level of support they needed: "the fact that you are hearing directly from a looked after child reinforces the awareness raising message that they are bringing to us".

4.13 One senior council official noted that the biggest impact was in dispelling the myth of why young people are in the situation they are in and that there can be diverse reasons for this; as well as the duty that they and colleagues have in protecting, supporting and advocating for young people.

Provision of good practice

4.14 Qualitative respondents were interested in hearing about good practice elsewhere, what works and what does not work and what might be relevant to their own area. Case studies illustrating the good practice are also perceived to be an essential element of the training programme1. Respondents who had attended training sessions in 2011, felt there had been little delivery of good practice, case studies and so on, although this may be partly be due to when the training was delivered as respondents from Renfrewshire had a better recollection of some examples of good practice as part of the training session. One example mentioned by two of the respondents was from Inverclyde Council which has introduced a Children's Champion Scheme that has now been adopted across some other local authorities.

4.15 While some qualitative respondents recollected examples of good practice, some would have liked to have more examples provided. Who Cares? Scotland is seen to be in a good position to provide examples of good practice across local authorities in Scotland because it is a national organisation with contacts across all local authority areas. Additionally, respondents felt that a national organisation should have a good understanding of what is working in other areas and how this might be modified or applied in other local authorities.

4.16 While there were a couple of comments that what works in one local authority will not translate to another, most respondents felt that good practice can work across different areas, albeit that slight changes to its application may be required.

4.17 Where information on good practice is delivered, this is sometimes shared formally with colleagues and sometimes informally with colleagues, although some respondents had not shared this with anyone. A small number of respondents noted that they had run training sessions for colleagues or had informal discussions about good practice and what might work in their organisation. There were also some who were keen for Who Cares? Scotland to deliver further training in their area.

4.18 While there is a degree of formal and informal information sharing within local authorities, there appears to be very little contact with individuals in other local authorities, so there is little sharing of information across different areas. So, Who Cares? Scotland are perceived to be important in that they offer a national perspective and can provide examples of good practice that otherwise would not be readily available.

4.19 A very small number of senior council officials noted that sharing good practice is something that might be discussed with colleagues in other authorities. In Glasgow, EMs thought that good practice is shared amongst staff across various local authorities, and that it would also be useful if this could happen with EMs; there was a suggestion that Who Cares? Scotland could facilitate this. In another area, a respondent noted that senior staff attending the training have shared what was learnt with colleagues, so that for example, their housing department now gives more consideration to looked after children when they are moving into their own accommodation.

4.20 In relation to whether EMs across local authorities should share good practice, one commented: "I think it could and should be. For politicians it's a little bit more tricky. Anything that helps us ask officers awkward questions."

Fit with national policy and national initiatives

4.21 Most qualitative respondents did not recall whether the presentation included information on national policy or national initiatives such as GIRFEC (Getting it Right for Every Child) or the Changing Lives Agenda. However, most qualitative respondents were aware of the fit between national policy and the issues raised in the training session. Certainly all were aware of GIRFEC, and supportive of initiatives that help improve the lives of Scottish people, although some were unaware of the names of other initiatives. So for example, in theory all qualitative respondents were supportive of the Changing Lives Agenda but were not necessarily aware of this by name.

4.22 One EM felt that the balance was good: "I felt it put what we were doing in the national context. It did talk about national initiatives but not overly so. Naturally as local councillors our focus is on the locale but we need to understand that we are working within parameters set by the high heid-yins."

After the training

4.23 For the qualitative respondents who came to the session knowing little or nothing about corporate parenting, this training did (at least to an extent):

  • Increase awareness of the issues and challenges faced by looked after children.
  • Raise awareness of the corporate parenting responsibilities of respondents and their local authority / health board / community partnership / organisation.
  • Help to craft a culture around the need to normalise the experiences for looked after children.

4.24 In Dumfries & Galloway and Glasgow there was less of an impact in terms of highlighting good practice, and some respondents would have liked more of a focus on what is working well in other areas and how this might be applied in their own area. However, some EMs said they have given more consideration to changes in policy as a result of this training, or requested information on looked after children and what was being done in the area to help improve their lives. A senior council official noted that EMs had shown a much higher level of advocacy for these children than they would have done previously.

4.25 One respondent in Dumfries & Galloway noted that they had held a series of discussions with looked after young people to ascertain what help was needed in helping to find employment. A system had then been instigated whereby they were able to help set up interviews for modern apprenticeship applications; another noted that the local police and fire & rescue services had provided work experience for looked after young people.

4.26 Respondents in Glasgow reported that they had introduced an annual award ceremony for looked after children and care leavers. In addition, an EM also commented: "For me it was about the destinations of the children that were in our care and whether, where they were going. As a result of some of the discussions that we had at the committee meeting and then with the leader of the council it was decided that more places on our modern apprentice scheme would be made available to our young people in care, so that those numbers were increased to give them a better opportunity to get into employment. Because some of the statistics that were coming through in relation to the destinations we were quite concerned about."

4.27 Some respondents in Renfrewshire have delivered training sessions internally to colleagues which have been very useful. One noted,

"I have also talked to some colleagues about their role as corporate parents and slowly the message is getting through. The presentation from Who Cares? Scotland did flag up that there are quite a lot of issues and they must be aware of them."

4.28 Respondents in Edinburgh noted the importance of including young people in their work so that their views can be incorporated in any planning. Additionally, existing networks have been utilised to ensure greater involvement across a wide range of partner organisations.

4.29 A respondent from a further education college has identified looked after young people and care leavers within his college so that they can be offered help and support (financial, emotional etc.) when needed.

4.30 Respondents participating in the online survey were asked: 'Since the training, have you put anything that you learned into practice?' As can be seen in table 4.2, 20 said they had, 20 said 'Not yet, but intend to in the next 12 months' and 14 said no. This pattern was the same across all respondent sub-groups.

Table 4.2 Whether put training into practice

Area Elected Member
(Base: 18)
Senior Staff
(Base: 18)
Frontline staff
(Base: 3)
(Base: 15)
Yes 6 7 1 6 20
Not yet 6 8 1 5 20
No 6 3 1 4 14

4.31 Online respondents were given the opportunity to expand on their answer to this question and 25 chose to do so. The main themes to emerge from comments were:

  • Eight commented on changes to, or proposed changes or other impact on, policy, practice or priorities.
  • Six said in-house materials in relation to corporate parenting or further training to be delivered in-house were being developed.
  • Five said the training had raised awareness.
  • Four respondents said they were looking into improvements such as communication channels with looked after children, additional funding, developing local performance indicators.
  • Four commented that they had not yet had a chance to put training into practice.
  • Three commented on involving partners.
  • Two commented on other areas they would like covered or which they intended to explore further.

4.32 Encouragingly, when asked if they had shared their experiences informally with colleagues, a majority of online respondents said this was the case.

Table 4.3 Sharing experiences

Area Elected Member
(Base: 18)
Senior Staff
(Base: 18)
Frontline staff
(Base: 3)
(Base: 15)
Yes formally 3 1 1 2 7
Yes informally 9 13 1 11 34
No 6 4 1 2 13

4.33 In Glasgow, an EM had talked to many other colleagues: "I was actively encouraging others, or would say to other Elected Members, have you been to this training? I think you should go because the training is good. It certainly highlights again to you the difficulties some of our young people face and I was actively encouraging other Elected Members to go along to it".

4.34 The results from the online survey also demonstrate that levels of awareness in relation to a number of aspects of corporate parenting have increased, with only very small numbers claiming that the training sessions had no effect on raising awareness of each of these issues. As Table 4.4 shows, almost all respondents claim their awareness has increased either a lot or a little in relation to:

  • The issues and challenges faced by looked after children in their area
  • Good practice in relation to looked after children
  • The Corporate Parenting responsibility of their organisation
  • Their own role in relation to corporate parenting

Table 4.4 Impact on awareness of ….

Area Increased a lot Increased a little No change
The issues and challenges faced by Looked After Children in your area. 29 22 3
The Corporate Parenting responsibility of your organisation 22 26 6
Your own role in relation to Corporate Parenting 14 34 6
Good practice in relation to Looked After Children 27 25 2

4.35 While the corporate parenting training from Who Cares? Scotland was aimed primarily at EMs, qualitative respondents in other organisations such as NHS or council officials who attended the training felt they benefitted from it; and there were also some spontaneous comments that other individuals could benefit from this training. We have already noted that some of those who attended the training have subsequently shared this with colleagues. In Glasgow, however, the training was seen as of most use to EMs as staff had access to other forms of training.

4.36 Some of the respondents felt that the training is suitable for EMs or individuals with little or no understanding of looked after children, but that it lacks depth for individuals who already work in this area or have a good understanding of the issues they face.

Comparisons with other training on corporate parenting

4.37 None of the EMs had received training on corporate parenting from any other sources, although some other qualitative respondents had. Some staff in Dumfries & Galloway (not EMs) had been to other sessions on corporate parenting, although these were people with looked after children. One of them commented on a previous training session from the Scottish Executive which he remembered as being called "Learning with Care" which he thought had been very good and pitched at his level of experience and involvement with looked after children; offering more depth than the training delivered by Who Cares? Scotland. That said, all the qualitative respondents felt that the training delivered by Who Cares? Scotland was pitched at the right level with the right amount of content for EMs.

4.38 Qualitative respondents in Glasgow commented that anyone who wanted more information had access to specialist staff within the Council. These respondents also felt that an independent organisation was best placed to deliver the training.

"We've got good staff who could do this kind of thing but actually Who Cares? Scotland, because they are so day-in and day-out working as advocates to some extent, I just think they have that level of independence and they can come to us and it was kind of fresh".

4.39 There have also been some other knock-on impacts from the initial training delivered by Who Cares? Scotland. Following on from this training, some respondents in Renfrewshire had joined a Corporate Parenting Group run by the authority in order to obtain further information and become more involved in this area. This group was seen to be different and complementary to the training offered by Who Cares? Scotland in that it provides a platform for meeting others involved in corporate parenting and provides opportunities to work with community partners.

4.40 Online respondents were asked 'Have you received Corporate Parenting training from any other source(s)?' and ten said that they had. Most of these respondents said that the training had been delivered in-house. When asked how this training compared with that provided by Who Cares? Scotland, five said it compared favourably, four said 'about the same' and one said unfavourably.

4.41 One or two respondents commented on meetings they had been to that had been run by CELCIS (Centre of Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland)2. In general, training run by CELCIS was perceived to complement training delivered by Who Cares? Scotland; Who Cares? Scotland provide training from a practical perspective while CELCIS deliver training at a more academic and statistical level. As one respondent noted,

"They (CELCIS) are quite good at giving you some statistics and that's quite useful. CELCIS is more about statistics, they do lots of research and produce lots of statistics … there was too much information there for me at my level …. But it's useful to go along and see what they have to say."

4.42 While not directly related to the training offered by Who Cares? Scotland, some respondents noted initiatives in their area aimed at improving the lives of young people that could be used as examples of good practice that could benefit looked after children. For example, in Renfrewshire there is an initiative called Fire Reach3 which has been aimed at young people who are struggling at school. As one respondent noted, this type of initiative is likely to be used by looked after children as they are more likely to struggle at school.

In summary, the online survey shows that respondents' awareness of their role in corporate parenting increased due to the training; the highest level of increase being among Elected Members. A large majority of these respondents also felt the information covered by the training was just enough. Qualitative respondents also found the training useful and most perceived this to be most useful for Elected Members or individuals with little or no knowledge or experience of corporate parenting.

Key elements of the training were the presentation by a care leaver and the video clips that were shown. Many of the respondents were previously unaware of the issues facing looked after children.

The provision of examples of good practice, illustrated by case studies, is also perceived to be an important element of the training programme. Respondents want to know what works elsewhere and whether it can be applied in their own area. Who Cares? Scotland are seen to be in an ideal position to provide this information as they have a national focus.

The training is perceived to fit with national policy. While not all respondents are au fait with the names of initiatives such as the Changing Lives Agenda, they are aware of - and agree with - the principles on which these are based.

The training is seen to:

  • Increase awareness of the issues and challenges faced by looked after children.
  • Raise awareness of the corporate parenting responsibilities of respondents and their organisation.
  • Help to craft a culture around the need to normalise the experiences for looked after children.

The training has had a number of impacts and these include:

  • Formal and informal sharing of information with colleagues, although there is little sharing of information outwith their own area.
  • Higher levels of advocacy / support for looked after children.
  • Help for looked after children in accessing training / modern apprenticeships.
  • Annual award scheme.
  • Development of in-house materials / training sessions.
  • Involving more partners in corporate parenting.

The online survey shows that some of those who have not yet changed their practice intend to do so.

Some non-Elected Members had received training on corporate parenting from other sources, although this was seen to be complementary to the training delivered by Who Cares? Scotland.


Email: Alison Melville

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