Better outcomes for care leavers
By Andy Smith, Associate at Social Finance & Hannah Jump, Analyst at Social Finance
Leaving Well is a new programme that aims to improve outcomes for the 11,000 young people who leave care every year. At the core of the approach is a digital tool that will put care leavers at the heart of decisions about their future. As well as allowing young people to own their plan to independence, the tool will make it easier for young people to communicate with their case workers (personal adviser), whilst also freeing up personal adviser time. Managers will be able to gain valuable information from the tool, to help them structure the support that their teams can offer.
How did we get here?
Whilst we have done a lot of research into why outcomes for young people leaving care are poor, we wanted a deeper understanding of what happens on the front line. Between May and September 2017 we partnered with Leeds City Council, Southampton City Council and The London Borough of Havering to gain an understanding of the leaving care process for both young people and the staff that support them.
In this phase of work we discovered that there are gaps and weaknesses in the leaving care system which make it difficult for services to support young people to independence. Specifically, there is a lack of data to drive decision-making within leaving care teams. Young people have identified specific areas where they would like more targeted support, particularly when planning for their future, such as owning their care plan and helping them build relationships.
These findings were backed up with evidence from interviews with young people and professionals, analysis of over 50 pathway plans, 903 data, as well as self-assessment reviews from personal advisers across all our local authorities. This meant that whilst none of these findings surprised our partnering authorities, our analysis added even more rigour to their current assumptions.
How will the tool make a difference?
Our findings revealed that young people want to have their ambitions, needs and feelings heard. Local authorities need to be able to understand what works for young people based on real-time outcomes data, so that they can make informed strategic decisions about the support that young people receive
In order for the digital tool to have a real impact, it must:
- Enable young people to create and ‘own’ their plan to independence, with frequent targeted help from their support network.
- Enable personal advisers to provide more frequent, better support and communications to young people, by freeing up their time.
- Provide accurate, timely information to local authorities, so they can target support more effectively on the most vulnerable and needy.
- Support young people to develop and achieve high aspirations
We know that not everyone has a phone or computer, so personal advisers and young people can review and update the plan via any web browser (on phone, tablet or computer). Mini surveys will enable young people to give instant feedback on how they are doing. At the same time, PAs can keep young people updated on their progress automatically, so young people know what is going on.
How do we ensure that this is useful for young people and their personal advisers?
We are developing our tool using an Agile development process. This iterative approach enables us to design something that meets user needs. It puts the user at the centre of the design process, and we can learn from their needs at every step.
1. Building a simple feature in two weeks
2. Testing the feature with some end users (PAs and young people)
3. Updating the tool based on the feedback we hear
To start, we tested ways of collecting information on how well young people were doing, as well as how we could increase accountability between young people and their PA, and free up PA time.
Test 1 — Collecting rich management information using the Outcomes Framework
We have developed an Outcomes Framework to produce outcomes based management information. In order for this to be used in practice, it must be useful. We tested how young people and PAs found using this.
The Outcomes Framework is a hierarchy of needs. Each domain in this hierarchy is scored based on a series of specific questions chosen as good indicators of positive outcomes. The questions in the framework act as an assessment of the young person’s current situation across the key domains: Housing, Health and Wellbeing, Relationships, Positive Activities, Finance and Employment, Education & Training. To test the value of this approach, we asked PAs to work with their young people and complete a spreadsheet based version of the Framework.
From the test we gained valuable insights:
- The data produced from this process provides rich insights to managers about the status of all young people in their team, and where they need the most support
- Young people liked working through the questions with their PA, to chat about what was going well, and where they could use more support.
Test 2 — Using a shared to-do-list to populate a pathway plan
Our second test was designed to get feedback on a pathway plan that was automatically populated from a shared to-do-list. Ultimately, we wanted to see if this would free up PAs time. The to-do-list (see below) enables PAs and young people to add and tag actions with a specific domain, so they could be grouped together on the final plan.
From this feedback we learned:
- Young people and PAs value the accountability that comes with a shared to-do-list
- PAs value a more action focused pathway plan.
- The to-do-list reduces the time taken to type up notes into the case management system.
Our next tests will involve getting more young person feedback on the look and feel of the tool, as well as understanding how useful live status check-ins are for users.
Users in our partner local authorities have taught us an invaluable amount over the past few months. With each test we run we gain new insights that re-shape the tool and direct its future development; it is our users who are determining the direction of the product. At every step we are getting closer to making something which meets the needs of young people leaving care, and supports them to better outcomes. By the end of March our digital tool will be used by young people and their personal advisors in our three partner local authorities.
Our goal is to make a sector wide impact. Therefore, this summer we are looking to partner with an additional five local authorities. This will enable us to extend our reach to even more young people, whilst learning from their experiences in the leaving care system. This would be an opportunity to help shape the tool as we continue to develop it.
If you would be interested in working with us to transform the pathway planning process, please get in touch via: