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Many of the Child Poverty Pilots were not only set up to identify and address gaps in mainstream service provision, but were also expected to provide lessons on alternative ways of working that could be sustained in the longer-term.
This is partly reflected in the extent of partnership and integrated working that has taken place in terms of pilot design, set up, implementation and delivery. Some of the pilots have been driven by the voluntary sector, whilst in others local authorities have been leading. Differences between delivery models largely reflect local differences, both in terms of the socio-economic (demographics, local labour market and educational characteristics) as well as local practice context (existing partnerships, structures and services).
Overall, the pilots reflect an appreciation that improved coordination of services can provide a more client-focused, integrated and holistic approach to service provision. A key thrust behind the Local Authority Innovation Pilots evaluation is that service provision is more effective when it is tailored to the local context and characteristics of the local community. One of the key lessons that has regularly come up is that it takes time to establish new ways of working and develop effective partnerships, and that under-estimating this can lead to problems further down the line. Below are examples of models set up to improve local service delivery.
Co-location was trialled as a delivery model in a number of pilots to engage a wider group of low-income parents as well as facilitate multi-agency working, allowing teams to be more effective by using each others skills and knowledge in a way that would be difficult to achieve with teams based in different locations.
Both the Work-Focused Services and School Gates Employment Support pilots located employment support in Children’s Centres and schools with the aim of engaging parents who do not tend to use traditional employment services. Co-locating services is not without difficulties, and in both these pilots the differing working cultures, e.g. JCP advisers being accustomed to working in a target driven environment, have led to difficulties in the early stages of pilot delivery. However, the emerging evidence base is showing real gains from integrating employment and children's services among those employment advisers with the right mix of skills, possessing flexibility, resilience and strong interpersonal skills. For more information view the Work-focused Services in Children’s Centres reports.
Some of the Co-ordinated Support for Separating Parents pilots have brought employment, mediation and housing services under one roof to provide a more efficient joined up service. In Merton the physical co-location of employment and housing support, together with teams working with young people, has been reported as beneficial in fostering positive inter-agency working.
The Wandsworth Teenage Parent Supported Housing pilot has been working with a number of educational institutions (e.g. Wandsworth City Learning Centre) to ensure childcare facilities were available on site to those teenage parents wishing to continue to study. For more information view the Teenage Parent Supported Housing Pilot evaluation report.
Outreach has been a delivery model used in many of the pilots, with the aim to engage low-income families that do not tend to use mainstream services. For example, those living in isolated rural areas, people from certain ethnic groups and those with low levels of awareness or mistrust in service provision. From a delivery perspective it is key to realise that supporting low-income families to lead independent lives out of poverty not only increases families and children’s well-being, but can also lead to substantial cost savings in the medium to longer-term. Different tools have been used to identify, target and engage these families.
The use of data to identify ‘hard to reach’ families was a key approach in the Islington Pilot, where a database has been developed to bring together data from a range of family and employment services, with housing benefit and council tax data, to target outreach activities in the borough. Often a common frustration in partnership working can be the extent to which data is/can be shared. Creating a joined up database can be a way to overcome this.
In Hammersmith and Fulham, an area with many pockets of extreme deprivation and high unemployment, the pilot has been focusing on supporting people living in particular disadvantaged estates. The three means that have been successful in engaging these families are: post card drops, partner referrals and word of mouth. Relying on referrals from other providers can only be successful where the services on offer are perceived as reliable and useful. Taking time to promote new services to potential referral agencies is therefore important, especially as it can take time to develop good working relationships and trust. For more information view the Local Authority Child Poverty Innovation Pilot evaluation reports.
Word-of-mouth and referrals from partner organisations, such as health workers, charitable support groups and social services, also emerged as two particularly successful routes of engagement in the Work-Focused Services pilot. There is evidence that the pilot has engaged both traditional and non-traditional JCP customers. However, at the interim report stage of the evaluation, many pilot staff and partner organisations acknowledged that more work needed to be done to engage the hardest-to-reach communities (those not in contact with either children’s centre or Jobcentre Plus services). A particular ongoing challenge identified was how to engage those customers whose progress towards employment is constrained by primary childcare responsibilities in the short to medium term. The pilot areas have been working on addressing widening access to new customer groups and the extent to which this has been done will become clear once the final evaluation report is produced.
Blackburn with Darwen has implemented a ‘Passport to Housing model, which seeks to equip young people moving into a new tenancy with independent living skills. Young people are able to demonstrate they are ready to sustain a tenancy and all have been successful to date. As part of this, floating support is provided to assist teenage parents with “talking to the right people”, help with finding appropriate accommodation, setting up household direct debits and, importantly, having someone there for them to discuss any issue they were facing. This support has been delivered in a number of locations, including recipients own homes. For more information view the Teenage Parent Supported Housing Pilot evaluation report.
For tackling child poverty to be a priority locally it is important that local authority staff and their partners are aware of what is actually involved. There needs to be the ability to identify and engage disadvantaged families and understand the consequences of not supporting them, both in terms of the immediate effect on the family and their life chances, as well as the wider cost implications for the area.
Workforce development has taken place across the suite of pilots. This has happened indirectly through the formation of new partnerships and multi-agency working, with staff gaining a better understanding of other services available. For example, the Work-Focused Services pilot, where JCP advisors are placed in children’s centres has increased knowledge, expertise and experiences of staff from both partners about the others services.
The Local Innovation pilots in Cornwall and Islington have specifically been developing staff awareness and knowledge of child poverty by developing workforce training modules for local authority staff and their partners.
In Cornwall, which is predominantly rural with deprived areas scattered between localised neighbourhoods, the Child Poverty Training module aims to raise awareness of, and provide information on, measures to address child poverty. The sessions are delivered in half or full days by members of the local authority to authority staff and their partners, and feature a combination of presentations, guest speakers and practical case studies.
In Islington, where more than 4 in 10 children live in poverty, a Child Poverty programme board takes forward a sustainability agenda. Part of this work includes workforce development and the integration of child poverty objectives across all key service delivery plans, with the aim to achieve a cultural shift in working practices, and encourage staff to think about whole family approaches. The training module focuses on providing training on the range of provision available locally to promote a ‘no wrong door’ approach i.e. any family that comes into any part of the Local Authority will have their needs addressed. For more information view the Local Authority Child Poverty Innovation Pilot evaluation report.
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Department for Work and Pensions evaluation report.
Department for Work and Pensions evaluation.
Information about what is being done locally to tackle child poverty in the Islington area.