The Scottish Government commissioned Iconic to evaluate the development of Public Social Partnerships (PSPs) during Year 1 of the Reducing Reoffending Change Fund (RRCF). The research is the first part of a package of work to evaluate the development and delivery of the RRCF, and focuses solely on how organisations awarded Development Funding have used the funding to develop Public Social Partnerships, and what has been achieved in this initial six-month period.
Aims and Objectives
The evaluation addressed the following questions:
- Why did the organisations choose to get involved with a PSP? What did they hope to get out of this model of working?
- What activities did organisations undertake as part of the PSP development? How successful or unsuccessful do they feel these were?
- Do they feel that the PSP model is having a positive, negative or no impact on the quality of the service that has been/is being developed? What is it about the model that is having this impact, if any?
- What impact has the model had on partnership working? What mechanisms have been put in place to ensure an equal working relationship between partners and are these successful?
- What challenges are they facing through the process?
- Do they feel that the service being developed through the PSP model is likely to be sustained after the Change Fund ends. Why or why not?
- Are they achieving what they wanted to from being part of a PSP model? Would they be part of a PSP model again?
The evaluation comprised a mixed approach. It incorporated a document review covering Reducing Reoffending Change Fund specific and other contextual information; an e-survey of PSP partners; depth interviews with staff from each PSP lead organisation, a cross section of partners, national stakeholders and individuals from bidders not awarded Year 1 Development Funding or organisations involved in mentoring or reducing reoffending that did not bid for Year 1 Development Funding; and observation of PSP meetings. Research tools for all tasks were agreed in advance with the Study Steering Group.
Overall key findings
Lead organisations and leadership
There was significant variation in the size, scale and experience of the third sector organisations that led the Reducing Reoffending Change Fund PSPs.
Lead partners' motivation for applying to the Change Fund focused on the availability of funding to expand or develop services and the opportunity to work in a new collaborative way with the public sector.
The lead organisations undertook a wide range of activities in the development of PSPs and they were generally viewed as successful. Lead partners described their involvement in the PSP process in positive terms, and identified a range of benefits from the experience.
Challenges were also faced by the third sector lead organisations including limited experience, difficulties in assuming the leadership role and issues engaging partners within the timescale. Interviewees identified both advantages and disadvantages of third sector organisations leading PSPs.
Partners were evenly divided between the third and public sectors and generally, interviewees felt the right partners were involved. Public sector partners were predominantly the eight Community Justice Authorities and local authorities. The involvement and the role of key public sector partners - local authorities, Community Justice Authorities, NHS and the Scottish Prison Service - varied significantly between PSPs.
Partnership meetings played a significant part in the PSP development process, the frequency, format, and size of the meetings varied significantly.
Organisations performed a variety of roles as lead, providers, referral, support and strategic partners.
The impact of the PSP model on partnership working was said to be evident in improved relationships, better understanding between partners, the development of trust, and the development of shared values.
Overall there was a sense of equal partnership working although there was a view that this was a challenge in the time available. The main mechanism to ensure equal partnership working was dialogue to address issues. Learning from the experience was also highlighted as an important means of developing equality in the future.
A number of challenges to partnership working were encountered and they involved the limited timescale available to develop PSPs, the competitive nature of the Reducing Reoffending Change Fund, the different approaches of partners, the need for clarity at the outset on some issues, the input of different personnel, and the issues faced in discussing sustainability.
Service user involvement
There was significant involvement of service users in the PSPs using Development Funding in a variety of ways including focus groups, depth interviews and surveys. There were also some innovative approaches including the use of video to capture the views of one hard to reach group.
The third sector led the involvement of service users and public sector partners played an important supporting role in many PSPs. Existing links and an understanding of service users, including hard to reach groups, were identified as key factors in the success of the service user involvement.
Service user involvement mainly consisted of consultation to gather views on existing services and PSP proposals rather than direct engagement in the service design process. PSPs recognised the importance of engagement and most had developed proposals during Year 1 for ongoing engagement.
Service user involvement was viewed as successful as it identified a number of issues and an impact was evident in several PSPs with services redesigned following input from users
In the Reducing Reoffending Change Fund PSPs co-production primarily focused on third and public organisations working together to design interventions with service users' views fed into the process following consultation.
Two approaches to co-production were identified: refinement of an approach proposed by the lead organisations, and a more fundamental approach to the design of a new service from scratch - feedback on involvement in the latter process was positive. Views on the success of the two approaches varied and precluded conclusions about which was more effective.
The co-production process typically involved a number of tasks involving a wide range of partners to identify gaps and evidence need, consider how schemes linked with existing and developing interventions, and define objectives and outcomes. The process varied between PSPs and some challenges were faced.
The process of co-production was one of the elements of PSP development that partners found most valuable, in terms of learning about services, sharing knowledge and experience and fostering a system of close joint working. The majority of partners felt the proposals were co-designed and the process had had a positive impact on the quality of services developed.
Discussions around sustainability occurred in all PSPs and resulted in written commitments from public sector partners to underwrite services in the future in 13 of the 14 PSPs. The commitments were subject to a number of caveats.
Commitments to underwrite services came mainly from Community Justice Authorities (CJAs) and this was welcomed by partners. The CJAs were largely seen as the most appropriate organisation to provide this commitment in the circumstances.
The limited commitment of some public sector partners that could benefit in the long term from savings resulting from a reduction in reoffending was highlighted by interviewees. Partly this was because some public sector partners had not been invited to join the PSPs and partly it was because funding pressure and the 2014/15 spending review meant that some public partners could not provide written commitments to underwrite services at this time.
Interviewees highlighted challenges during sustainability discussions including engaging all public sector partners, the limited timescale, working across administrative borders, and the prevailing funding and policy environment.
The interviewees were unsure about whether the services developed through the PSP model would be sustained after the Change Fund ends mainly because of the caveats attached to the commitments to underwrite services. Despite this partners welcomed the requirement to consider sustainability at the outset as they felt it would allow them to hold public sector partners to account in the future.
A number of other issues were highlighted by interviewees during discussions about sustainability including mixed views about competitive tendering, concerns about best value, intentions to source additional funding, and the importance of non-financial sustainability.
The 14 organisations awarded Development Funding in Year 1 of the Reducing Reoffending Change Fund used the funding to develop Public Social Partnerships and proposals for mentoring services. The Development Funding enabled the lead organisations to undertake a range of activities which were generally viewed as successful.
Overall, interviewees felt that strong partnership working occurred during the PSP development process. They also highlighted that co-production and extensive service user consultation had a positive impact on the quality of mentoring services developed. Constructive discussions on sustainability occurred which led to commitments from some public sector partners to underwrite services in the future subject to caveats.
Interviewees highlighted challenges throughout the PSP development process. The limited time for PSP development was felt to be the main issue as it was highlighted as a challenge to partnership working, service user involvement, co-production and sustainability. The challenges had not generally dissuaded interviewees from future involvement in the PSP model.
Email: Carole Edwards