Tackling child poverty pathfinders: evaluability assessment

An evaluability assessment of the Child Poverty Pathfinders in Glasgow and Dundee to inform the development of an evaluation plan for the Pathfinder approach. Includes an evaluability assessment report and accompanying theories of change and initial monitoring framework to support evaluation.

Evaluability Assessment findings

What is a Child Poverty Pathfinder?

An important part of the Phase 1 evaluation is to detail exactly what the Pathfinders are and what they set out to achieve. In this section, we provide a summary explanation of the overall Pathfinder programme, and then the Glasgow and Dundee Pathfinder models.

In our programme-level ToC workshop and interviews with Scottish Government staff, no single concise definition of a Pathfinder emerged. However, there was agreement that the Pathfinders are child poverty interventions and approaches which can take on a variety of different forms, but which have several key features which tie them together. These include:

  • A Pathfinder is a developmental process of testing and exploring approaches and of continual improvement. It is keeping true to a set of principles or high-level objectives without pre-defining the solutions, or the end goal.
  • There is flexibility in the implementation of a Pathfinder, such that it has scope to adapt and respond to emergent outcomes and opportunities and to the varied contexts in which it is delivered.
  • Each Pathfinder model should be based on the place in which it operates, ensuring that the right form of support is provided in different areas.
  • The Pathfinder is delivered in partnership with those who have local knowledge, and not implemented top-down by the Scottish Government.
  • The Pathfinders are set up to deliver a more person-centred approach, focussing on each person's and family's needs and being adaptable to address these.
  • Pathfinders aim to address the issue that the current support system for families with multiple needs is disjointed and difficult to navigate by providing holistic support in one place.
  • They aim not only to reduce child poverty, but also to create systems change in the way that this is achieved.
  • A key aspect of the Pathfinder is to draw out learning to inform other work, or Pathfinders, or national policy.
  • The possibility of 'failure' is recognised.

Implicit in the concept of a Pathfinder is the idea that an exploratory, adaptive, and developmental approach is needed when working in complex settings, where seeking to effect change means engaging with the system of service providers, and where change often does not occur in predictable and linear ways. The latest TCPDP, Best Start, Bright Futures describes the newly set up Pathfinders in terms of a "new phased approach to whole system change".[9] The focus is on the Pathfinders trialling different innovative approaches to support changes in the child poverty system, and testing, refining and adapting these approaches in order to learn how best to deliver holistic and person-centred support that meets the specific needs of families.

In the following subsections, we describe what the above means in practice for how the overall Pathfinders programme is set up, and the models applied in Dundee and Glasgow.

Overall Child Poverty Pathfinder programme

The Scottish Government aims to contribute to a reduction in child poverty through the Child Poverty Pathfinder Programme by supporting the design, set-up, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of Local Child Poverty Pathfinders. The Scottish Government is working with people and families in need or at greatest risk of poverty, local Pathfinder teams and their partner organisations to set up, deliver, monitor, evaluate, and adapt the programme and to apply learning from it to national policy and change processes.

Consultation with people and families at risk of poverty takes place throughout the delivery of the programme. Actions identified in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan (2022-2026) are informed by consultation with people and families with lived experience. Consultation with these groups continues through the Pathfinders and learning from the programme feeds back into the development of future TCDPs.

The composition of local Pathfinder teams varies according to locality and Pathfinder approaches but generally comprises the Scottish Government, the Local Authority, the Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), other agencies and partnerships that interact with children and families, and third sector organisations. The Pathfinders develop and grow their partnerships with relevant organisations in the localities as an understanding of their activities emerges and as they seek to implement broader shifts towards more holistic, joined-up and efficient ways of working in the child poverty system.

Glasgow Pathfinder

The basis of the Glasgow Pathfinder is to deliver a No Wrong Door model for tackling child poverty – meaning that regardless of where, how, and why a person or family engages in the system, that interaction then becomes the gateway to receiving holistic, consistent, and comprehensive support. The role of the Pathfinder itself is then to explore how best a No Wrong Door model can be achieved by gathering learning from interventions that are in place which operate under the No Wrong Door approach. At present, the primary intervention through which the Pathfinder is doing this is 'Glasgow Helps'. Glasgow Helps is a collaboration between Glasgow City Council, Scottish Government, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, and the Improvement Service. The delivery model for this intervention takes the form of a telephone helpline which parents are referred to from sources such as key workers, educational staff or health professionals. After an initial call with the Pathfinder, families will have basic information recorded and, if necessary, may receive an immediate intervention, such as a food parcel. This is followed-up with a more detailed holistic needs assessment call, with a trained support officer, who assesses the intensity and frequency of support required depending on their needs and sets up conversations for further referrals. Subsequently, parents will have follow-up touch points through regular phone calls to monitor the situation and reassess their needs.

In order to access this service, all that is required is a Glasgow postcode. As such, this model is able to assist a large number of people across the city, for an array of support needs. For instance, between 9th May 2022 and 1st August 2022, a total of 5,564 contacts were made, and to December 2022, 713 citizens were supported through ongoing case management support. This open approach can facilitate analysis of the types of needs that are most frequently occuring, and geographical variations in the form and intensity of support required.

Dundee Pathfinder

The Dundee model was developed through a collaborative initiative between DWP, Dundee City Council, Scottish Government and other partners such as the Chamber of Commerce, Discovery Works, businesses in Dundee, the Brooksbank Centre, and other third sector and grassroots organisations. A key feature of this Pathfinder is to connect with other services and organisations in Dundee – including local employers – to improve linkages, allowing them to work in a more connected, streamlined and efficient way to provide solutions to families.

The Dundee Pathfinder adopts a key worker model in the Linlathen area of the city and aims to address child poverty through improving families' employment opportunities. Early work indicates that the target families face barriers beyond just employment, such as childcare, transport, and a lack of understanding of available support services and benefits. As such, the Pathfinder has adapted to support people and families in all areas of need to bring them closer not only to employment but to all services and benefits that enhance their wellbeing and maximise their incomes.

In the current phase, key workers have sought to engage families in Linlathen who might benefit from further support as part of the pathfinder approach. Linlathen has been targeted based on a high level of deprivation identified in previous work. Individuals were initially identified as eligible, using council held data, if they were parents who qualified for Housing Benefit and council tax reduction and claimed no income from employment. Because many of these people encounter multiple barriers, they often have not previously accessed any services, or even know they exist, meaning it often requires multiple visits and contacts to encourage people to join the Pathfinder. Once signed up, individuals can visit the Brooksbank community centre which serves as an integrated services drop-in hub. Here, there are representatives from various organisations and support services who can provide bespoke support and advice to people who attend. The key workers will then carry out regular follow-up touch points after the initial visit to monitor and if necessary reassess support needs. In 24 weeks, 217 people have accessed this service.

Although the Dundee Pathfinder originally targeted at the Linlathen area, it has been found that as word spread, people from other parts of the city were attending the drop-in centre. This has led to increased numbers of people arriving and seeking help. While staff do not turn people away, they are aware that the service is being used by those from outside the area. The demand for the one-stop shop model demonstrates the popularity with families of being able to access help for many different areas of their lives in one place.

In both models, there are not fixed lengths of time for which families are enrolled in the Pathfinder, and in general there are not standard criteria to determine when a case has reached closure. This is in part due to the variety of support needs that the Pathfinders are intended to meet, meaning the duration and end point will vary between people. In some cases where there is a clear practical intervention – such as a clothing grant – this can be more easily identified in terms of duration and end point; but this is not possible in all instances. Instead, most people enrolled in either Pathfinder will follow a unique journey, with the duration and closure point being a reflection of their poverty cycle.

A key contrast between the two existing Pathfinder models is that one takes the approach of a lower intensity of intervention but for a large number of people (Glasgow), whereas the other provides more intensive support for a smaller group (Dundee). This difference may be valuable to help learn what works well in Pathfinder models to achieve the shared aims, and to what extent this can be scaled up or applied elsewhere.

Full details of the Glasgow and Dundee Pathfinder ToCs, risks and assumptions, and the monitoring and evaluation frameworks can be found in the accompanying Child Poverty Pathfinder ToC and MEL report. The Glasgow ToC identifies two pathways for reducing child poverty. The first relates to the Glasgow Helps support system providing person-centred case management support to parents, focussing on what matters to them. And the second through building support and partnerships in the Pathfinder across local and national organisations and creating the conditions for systems change. The Dundee ToC includes the same second pathway, while the first pathway relates to the reduction of child poverty through tailored packages of holistic, person-centred support for families at greatest risk of poverty using a key worker model. It also includes a third pathway, relating to the work done with local employers to improve employment opportunities for parents.

For reference, the ToCs are also provided in Appendix 1 of this document.


Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

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