Get into Summer 2021: qualitative evaluation

Get into Summer 2021 qualitative evaluation.

3. Participation and reach

Key points

  • Combining data on participation from monitoring reports can only be used to give a very approximate indication of numbers of participants. However, the funding clearly enabled partners to reach large numbers of children and young people overall and to include children and young people from every local authority and from across key target groups.
  • Monitoring reports most frequently discussed efforts to engage low-income families and children and young people with disabilities or ASN, followed by young people with care experience, young carers, and families from minority ethnic backgrounds.
  • Children from families that have been shielding, children in need of protection, children with a child's plan, large families, families with children under one, and families with younger mothers were less commonly discussed across the monitoring reports and interviews. This does not necessarily mean they were not reached by Get into Summer, but that there is less evidence of specific efforts to target them.
  • For low-income families, reducing or removing financial barriers was viewed as key to increasing reach. Considering the precise location for activities and addressing barriers around digital exclusion was also important.
  • Partners had offered a combination of bespoke activities, direct funding, and tailoring of universal activities to ensure children and young people with disabilities or ASN were included. However, some partners and parents identified ongoing barriers around staff resources and transport, impacting on inclusivity of activities.
  • There was relatively less discussion of specific barriers and enablers for other groups. It was noted that holding activities in locations already used by minority ethnic communities could help encourage their participation, while for kinship care families, providing activities through groups that already worked with them helped to ensure barriers around accessibility and stigma were minimised. Providing transport was particularly helpful for young carers, though their caring responsibilities remained a barrier for some. Allowing all siblings or whole families to attend activities together was seen as particularly helpful for those with very young children and for larger families.
  • Cross-cutting barriers to participation that affected families in different target groups included: safety concerns around COVID-19; a lack of confidence and anxiety; and problems affording transport or having suitable transport options available.

This chapter assesses the reach of the Get into Summer programme. In particular, it considers whether, as envisaged by the logic model, it reached children across all the specific target groups identified in the Scottish Government's vision for the programme (see Chapter 1). It starts by discussing evidence from the monitoring reports on the level of participation in Get into Summer, including the limitations of what can be concluded from this data. It then considers evidence on how successful Get into Summer was in reaching various specific target groups. Learning about barriers to participation and how these might be overcome is discussed, drawing on interviews with children, young people, parents and carers, as well as the views of partners from interviews and monitoring reports.

Estimating participation in Get into Summer

The monitoring reports submitted by local authorities and national partners asked them to indicate approximately how many children and young people had participated in activities, including numbers reached within the key target groups. This data can only be used to provide a very rough indication of reach – figures are approximate, rather than exact. Moreover, the level of detail provided varied widely – for example, some provided an indication of overall numbers attending, but did not include a breakdown for all of the target groups. The base for figures also varied – some were able to estimate numbers of unique participants, while others included numbers of attendances (which might include repeat attendees), or numbers of bookings (not all of whom may have attended). Finally, monitoring reports do not include information on how many children and young people were either invited or eligible to attend activities; it is not therefore possible to estimate the percentage uptake or how many decided not to take part.

However, taking these limitations into account, data from the local authority monitoring reports available at the time of writing that gave an estimate of participants (rather than bookings or attendances) provide evidence that in excess of 130,000 children and young people accessed their Get into Summer provision. In addition, a further five local authorities reported in excess of 100,000 bookings or recorded attendances at their activities. Unsurprisingly, given variations in population size, the numbers of participants reported varied very widely across local authorities, ranging from 137 to 15,750. This also reflects the fact that some local authorities – due to their relative size and funding allocation – were asked by the Scottish Government to take a very targeted approach, focusing on specific groups of children and young people who were less well served by existing activities, and for whom the impact of additional funding was therefore felt likely to be greatest.

In addition to the local authority figures, there is evidence that over 200,000 children and young people accessed Get into Summer provision through national partners (based on national partner monitoring reports that included overall participant figures). Numbers again varied significantly across organisations – again, unsurprisingly, given variations in target groups and levels of Get into Summer funding – from 24 to 145,061.

Figures from Young Scot, Early Learning Scotland (ELS) and the Care and Learning Alliance (CALA) were not included in this analysis, as they do not cover unique participants, but these indicate that:

  • Young people used their Young Scot Rewards points to claim or enter to win rewards as part of the Get into Summer campaign 1,262 times.
  • ELS and CALA made 241 payments to baby and toddler groups with using Get into Summer funding.

This data indicates that Get into Summer did indeed reach large numbers of children and young people and included children in every local authority. However, interpreting the figures in terms of what can be robustly concluded about overall reach is difficult, given the issues noted above. The Scottish Government took a deliberate decision not to require very detailed quantitative information on participation for Get into Summer, reflecting the fact that the aim of the programme was to encourage innovation and learn from what works, rather than to maximise numbers of participants. However, a potential consideration for future schemes might be whether to provide more detailed guidance on how participation and reach should be measured and reported. This would enable a more robust assessment of reach (and any limitations to this) and facilitiate comparisons of take-up over time.

Reaching key target groups

There was even more variation across monitoring reports in the level of detail included about the extent to which activities reached key target groups. Local authorities and national partners did not always include numerical breakdowns of participants from each target group. In some cases, there was no mention of particular key target groups in the reports. Even among those who did have more detailed information on who had attended their events, providers highlighted the difficulties in knowing who they had missed out or who had not attended as "you don't know what you don't know".

However, in spite of gaps in quantitative data on participation across target groups, there was considerable discussion across the monitoring reports and interviews with partners and providers of the efforts they had made to reach particular diverse groups of children and young people. Overall, across the monitoring reports reviewed for this report, there was relatively more discussion of efforts to reach families on low incomes and families with children with disabilities or ASN. Around half mentioned efforts to engage children and young people with care experience, young carers, and those from minority ethnic families. Children from families that have been shielding, children in need of protection, children with a children's plan, large families, families with children under one, and families with younger mothers were less commonly discussed across the monitoring reports and interviews. This does not mean that these groups were not reached by Get into Summer, but there is less evidence of efforts to target them specifically.

In the remainder of this chapter, we focus on what was seen (by partners and by children, young people, parents and carers) to have helped facilitate participation in Get into Summer, and on the barriers encountered in including particular groups.

Low-income families

A focus on removing financial barriers to participation in Get into Summer was a strong theme across monitoring reports and interviews with partners. Free provision of activities, food, transport and (less commonly) clothes or equipment was viewed as extending the accessibility of activities by partners, while the impact in extending reach was confirmed in interviews with parents on lower incomes:

"Well, it sounds like a great thing to go along to that he would enjoy and especially being free, because children's classes cost an absolute fortune. So yes, that was quite a big factor as well."

(Parent interviewee 3, child in early years)

"Usually, what barrier I face is the financial barrier, and because we were fortunate not needing to pay for these activities that was really good."

(Parent interviewee 29, low-income family, parent of child with ASN)

In addition to being able to provide activities free of charge, one provider commented on the impact of having been able to provide many more locally-based activities this year, rather than a 'centralised' summer programme that families had to travel into the town or city centre to attend. They suggested that providing more local activities had extended their reach to families who were in long-term poverty, for whom the fear of potential stigma could be a barrier to attending activities held outside of their communities.

"It becomes a way of life, and they don't travel outwith that community... if we do things on their doorstep, they are more confident, there is no shame"

(Partner interviewee, local authority 12)

Some providers mentioned challenges engaging with low-income families who were digitally excluded. Having hard copies of application forms (which tended to be online) or paying for mobile phone data had helped to address this (although where activities had included a 'virtual' element, young people who could only take part using mobile phones were still seen as being at a disadvantage, since these are not the optimal device to use for these types of activities). Digital exclusion was also seen as a barrier to finding out about Get into Summer in the first place, as a lot of promotion around the summer offer was shared online. The Scottish Government had taken steps to ensure Get into Summer was advertised at a national level to those who might not be online – including using radio adverts. However, it was commented (by a local authority partner) that an over-reliance (at local or national level) on digital promotion could be a particular barrier to engaging some of their minority ethnic families, among whom digital exclusion was seen as more prevalent.

Families with a disabled child or child with ASN

Local authorities and national partners gave many examples of the actions they had taken to try and ensure Get into Summer activities were accessible to those with disabilities or ASN. These fell into three main categories:

  • Running targeted, tailored activities and events specifically for children with disabilities or ASN, often delivered by specialist coaches or staff. Examples included football sessions for children with disabilities, sessions with a gymnastics coach that specialised in coaching disabled people, ASN friendly cinema screenings, surfing lessons delivered to a group of young people with autism, and an animation course, again, delivered specifically for a group for young people with autism.
  • Providing funding or resources directly to families, to enable them to access play or other activities themselves. For example, grants funded through Get into Summer to families of disabled children were used to purchase specialist equipment to overcome barriers to play, whether in the community or at home. Providing direct financial support to families to allow them to go on trips or holidays was seen as particularly important for children with very complex needs, who find it more difficult to attend group activities and might otherwise have missed out on benefiting from Get into Summer.
  • Adapting universal activities to make them more inclusive / accessible. Examples included: offering shuttle buses or taxis to enable children with ASN to attend; limiting numbers at certain activities to make it easier for those that struggle with bigger groups to take part; and ensuring sites for outdoor activities were fully accessible.

However, although there were many positive examples of partners tailoring or adapting activities to ensure that children with disabilities were included in Get into Summer, local authorities also reported a number of barriers to ensuring their programme was fully inclusive of families with disabled children. In particular, a lack of availability over the summer of skilled staff to support children with disabilities to attend activities was reported to have been a major barrier in some areas. One local authority reported that, as a result, they had to ask parents to attend activities if their child required a higher level of care, but many were unable to do so. The level of skills and training required for staff to offer appropriate support was also viewed as a barrier to fully including all children with disabilities.

A related challenge was the need for children and young people with ASN to be supported by staff who know them, understand their needs, and can provide continuity and consistency. In some cases, this was facilitated by offering activities through schools (including special schools), where the environment would also be familiar, or through an existing group that children and young people were already engaged with. This was confirmed by families interviewed for this project, who had participated in activities offered through their schools or existing support groups and were very positive about this, noting that it had helped to put them at ease about attending.

Finally, in spite of the significant efforts reported by many partners (and reflected in interviews with families) to address barriers to inclusion, interviews with some families also highlighted the challenges of removing such barriers completely for families with a child with ASN. For example, the difficulty of overcoming transport issues, even when there is no financial barrier, was highlighted by a parent of a child with anxiety, who said that her son could not get to all the available Get into Summer activities as they were too spread out and he was not comfortable using a bus. There was also a perception (among providers) that some families with children with disabilities may have been more hesitant about attending in person events due to being potentially at higher risk from COVID-19. Offering 'home activity packs' as part of Get into Summer was identified as one way of including these families.

Overall, however, it was clear from both the monitoring data and interviews with partners and families that efforts to ensure Get into Summer was inclusive of children and young people with ASN had a significant positive impact on experiences of Get into Summer among this group (impacts are discussed in more detail in Chapters 4 and 5). Parents of children and young people with ASN interviewed for this study contrasted the activities they had participated in this summer with what they felt was a general dearth of suitable holiday and out of school activities for their children, particularly when they hit teenage years. This gap in provision had been exacerbated by the pandemic, when the clubs and activities their children had previously taken part in had stopped and, in some cases, had not yet restarted by summer 2021. In this context, the targeted, tailored activities Get into Summer had provided were particularly appreciated by these families. There was a very strong appetite for more investment in similar provision in the future, particularly given a perception that young people with ASN were not generally well catered for in terms of out-of-school and holiday provision.

"It's definitely been a really positive experience … It's definitely been the highlight of his summer, and the best, if you can call it respite, the best respite opportunity that he has had ever … So, if there is funding made available for young people like that going forward, these activities are really positive and rewarding."

(Parent interviewee 2, parent of young person with ASN)

"I think that sort of high school age I don't know whether people are just kind of let go of at that point or what, but like I say, he is S5 now, I think he was let go from child services probably early S4, late S3, and there has been nothing apart from our fortunate foot in the door at [national partner] we have had no offer of anything at all."

(Parent interviewee 4, parent of young person with ASN)

Children and young people with care experience

The two national partners that focused on engaging children and young people with care experience had worked with a range of partners to reach this group, including social work teams, throughcare teams, residential child-care providers, kinship carers, foster carers, and groups that support children and young people with care experience. Get into Summer funding was viewed as having enabled an "incredible offer" to this group of children and young people right across Scotland, in comparison with normal years when they would have largely been dependent on small sums of money funding activities in particular local areas. It was reported that over 1,000 young people with care experience had participated in activities organised nationally by the time of the monitoring report – an uptake that had "exceeded our expectations".

Local authorities had also been able to use the additional funding to target activities at children and young people with care experience, including funding activities through new delivery partners, funding trips and activities for groups and individual young people with care experience, and providing direct payments to foster carers to support trips and activities with the young people they looked after. It was suggested that being able to offer much more in the way of summer activities to young people in residential care had helped prevent placement breakdown:

"Some young people were offered holidays at points of crisis in their care journey. Being able to take time away, one to one, with care staff had a significant impact in helping them to regain a sense of composure and to re-engage proactively with available supports. These opportunities definitely helped to prevent placement breakdown and keep the young people living in [local authority] close to their families."

(Monitoring report, local authority 12)

A delivery partner catering specifically for children and young people in kinship care (and their families) felt that providing funding through groups that specifically support these families had been key in overcoming barriers they typically face to accessing holiday provision, including barriers relating to the physical health of (older) carers, and fear of stigma from being different to other families:

"[Kinship families face] financial barriers, medical barriers and health barriers. Mental health barriers. Stigmatisation, which isn't as bad now, but that's one of the reasons that it's so vital that the group is there. We've got a couple of people with severe walking difficulties, and they were catered for."

(Interview, local authority 5)

Young carers

Among those local authorities that reported having engaged young carers in their activities, this appeared to be largely through partnering with voluntary groups or other organisations (like schools) that could help them to identify and engage young carers. A lack of lead-time to develop links with young carers in advance of the summer was identified as a barrier to including them more effectively.

One local authority reported that funding taxis for young carers to attend activities had helped remove the pressure on families to juggle their care needs with supporting their child to attend. However, another authority commented that even when transport was covered, it had still been difficult for some young carers to attend because of the young people's caring responsibilities.

Minority ethnic families

Partners also discussed working with specific organisations or groups to ensure that children from minority ethnic backgrounds, including those with English as a second language, were included in Get into Summer. Examples included refugee resettlement schemes, schools with high populations from minority ethnic backgrounds, a multi-cultural family centre, and organisations working with Gypsy/Traveller families or young people.

However, monitoring reports and interviews indicated some concern among local authorities and national partners that they had not engaged as many minority ethnic families as they hoped. There was relatively little direct discussion of the barriers that might prevent minority ethnic families engaging with summer activities across monitoring reports and interviews. It was suggested that holding activities in locations known to be well used by minority ethnic families would help to facilitate participation by making it more likely that a diverse set of families would attend – something supported by a participant who was herself from a minority ethnic background, and noted that it can be easier to interact with other families from a similar background. However, where minority ethnic families were smaller in number and geographically dispersed, it was suggested that local authorities had found it harder to find a 'way in' to engage them.

Families with children under one and larger families

Although overall there was less discussion of successes in reaching families with children under one specifically, the national partners who focused on the early years reported particularly high uptake among families with children under two. They thought this may be linked to a lack of access to support for new parents during the pandemic, which meant that Get into Summer provision had filled a real gap for these parents.

In terms of barriers to attendance, it was suggested that the logistics of participation could be more difficult where children had very young siblings, or were from bigger families, since families would not necessarily be able to access the same activities with all their children. A national partner noted that although their focus was on 11-18 year-olds, they got better attendance if they allowed younger children to join too so that families avoided issues with childcare. A number of other local authority and national partners also mentioned providing childcare to support families' participation in Get into Summer. While the Get into Summer programme was focused on opportunities for children, rather than providing support around childcare, a number of monitoring reports and interviews with families for this evaluation indicated that it had nonetheless made a significant contribution to childcare and/or respite opportunities for families.

There was a perception among both providers and parents that larger families had particularly benefited from the removal of financial barriers to participation through Get into Summer, since paying for multiple children to attend holiday activities can be very expensive.

Other target groups

As noted above, it was less common for monitoring reports to explicitly discuss efforts to reach children from families that had been shielding, children in need of protection, children with a child's plan, large families, families with children under one, and families with younger mothers. As noted above, this does not necessarily imply they were not included – it may simply be that information was not collected to enable monitoring of take-up among these specific groups. Indeed, it was noted with respect to children from families that were shielding that it was hard for providers to identify these families to target them in the first place.

Reaching other groups

Monitoring reports and partners interviews identified a number of other groups of children and families, beyond the specific target groups identified by the Scottish Government, that had been reached or prioritised through Get into Summer activities, including:

  • Children transitioning to primary or secondary school
  • LGBT young people
  • Children from one parent families
  • Travelling communities
  • Girls (via girls only events, for example a girls football club)
  • Families affected by bereavement
  • Families that were socially isolated
  • Children affected by incarceration
  • Children affected by domestic abuse
  • Children affected by parental substance misuse
  • Children affected by parental mental health issues
  • Children affected by homelessness.

Meanwhile, a group that a number of partners mentioned finding more challenging to engage with Get into Summer activities was secondary age children and young people. There was no consensus on the reasons for this – one view (from a local authority) was that they needed to refine their offer to include more 'teen-oriented' activities, as well as reviewing their venues (a number of activities were hosted in primary schools). Another view was that requiring advance booking might deter teenagers. There was a perception that teenagers were more able to 'make their own fun' and may have wanted to spend more time socialising outside formal activities as COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed (a view that found some support from teenagers interviewed for this evaluation, discussed in Chapter 4). It was suggested that partners might need to spend more time consulting with teenagers in advance of future holiday provision.

Cross-cutting enablers and barriers

In addition to discussing enablers and barriers to specific groups participating in Get into Summer, a number of cross-cutting enablers and barriers were also identified by both partners and parents.

Cross-cutting enablers

Key enablers that encouraged participation that cut across all the target groups and the universal offer included:

  • Being able to offer activities free of charge, including free food and transport. Partners reported that they believed offering attendees food as standard had both increased attendance and contributed to addressing 'holiday hunger' in a non-stigmatising way. Similarly, being able to use funding to pay for transport was also seen as an important mechanism for removing barriers to attendance – one rural local authority reported that they had provided over 5,000 journeys to Get into Summer activities. There were also examples of free taxis or buses being provided to ferry families to activities.
  • Basing activities on evidence of what children and families wanted. As discussed in Chapter 2, the short timeframe for planning Get into Summer meant that some partners had not been able to involve children, young people and families in planning activities as much as they would have liked, or as much as envisaged in the Scottish Government's specification for the scheme. However, where partners had been able to involve them, they felt that this had real benefits in terms of families' subsequent engagement with activities.

"Consultation with children and young people across [local authority] allowed for activities to be built around what mattered to them leading to feedback showing high levels of engagement."

(Monitoring report, local authority 8)

  • Connecting with children and families through schools, the third sector, and other organisations working with them was viewed as key to reaching target groups within the time frame:

"The opportunity to engage with and involve the Third Sector and partners in the delivery of the Enhanced Summer Programme has proven to be a tremendous success, supporting delivery within local communities, which has encouraged a wider participation, resulting in greater numbers benefitting from the provision."

(Monitoring report, local authority 7)

  • The national marketing strategy, which was viewed as having effectively complimented and supported local outreach. The Get into Summer branding and hashtag were felt to have promoted wider awareness of the offer.
  • Combining social media and offline promotion. Several providers commented on the high level of engagement they experienced on social media. One local authority developed and shared content on platforms including TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat which they reported had been very successful. However, there was also an appreciation that a variety of communication routes – including, for example, personal invitations from known staff and hard copy information via schools – are important in order to reach as many children and young people as possible and to avoid digital exclusion.

Other facilitators of effective delivery (such as partnership working and being able to utilise, or quickly establish, effective planning groups), which in turn may have supported participation, are discussed in more detail in Chapter 6.

Cross-cutting barriers

Barriers to taking part in Get into Summer that cut across the various target groups included:

  • Safety concerns around COVID-19. Although providers reported following the guidelines at the time and putting in place various protective measures to ensure children were safe, they nonetheless felt that general anxiety about COVID-safety in attending and travelling to activities may have deterred some families.
  • Lack of confidence / anxiety. This was mentioned by partners as a general barrier for some children, but which may have been exacerbated by the pandemic. One view (among partners) was that some children and families had simply felt too overwhelmed to attend summer activities in 2021, highlighting a potential need to provide additional reassurance to those children, young people and families who may be more anxious about attending, either because of COVID-19 or in general.
  • Transport issues. Although Get into Summer funding had a significant impact in reducing transport barriers, it had not completely eliminated them. This was particularly the case in some rural areas, since bus routes did not necessarily cover all communities, and offering alternatives for every family was described as prohibitively expensive, even with Get into Summer funding. Issues around a lack of drivers for minibuses, contractual issues, and restrictions on maximum capacity on buses as a result of COVID-19 were also mentioned as barriers to partners being able to offer as much support with transport as they would have liked.
  • Stigma. In general, partners felt that the decision to offer both universal and targeted provision had been effective in helping address any perceived stigma around attending Get into Summer activities. An exception to this was a local authority that reported low take-up of leisure memberships among those on free school meals, which they felt may have reflected embarrassment at having to show staff members a letter stating this in order to claim the benefit. This highlights the importance of partners identifying non-stigmatising routes for those in key target groups to be able to access benefits directed at them.



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