Thursday, 15 May 2014

Safe and Sound

CRFR has completed an evaluation of a project delivered by Shelter and Relationships Scotland aimed at supporting young runaways. The results of the evaluation of Safe and Sound are being launched at an event in Dundee today by Aileen Campbell, Minister for children and young people 
The evaluation was conducted by Sarah Morton, Linda McKie and Christina McMellon
Here Sarah Morton highlights some of the key findings:
Working on this evaluation of a service that supports young people at risk of homelessness has been an interesting and rewarding experience. I have rarely been involved in evaluating a project which is so warmly endorsed by those using it, both young people and parents, as well as referral agencies and partners. In the report being launched today we set out the successes and challenges that Safe and Sound faces. In this blog I wanted to highlight a particular part of the evaluation involving young people.
We were using an evaluation approach called contribution analysis to understand how and why the project worked and for whom. As well as interviewing young people, their parents (separately), their support worker, mediator and referral agencies (31 interviews in total), we asked a small group of young people to work as ‘consultants’ to the evaluation. Their role was to meet with us near the start of the evaluation to help develop a picture of how the project worked, and associated risks and assumptions. We had already conducted a workshop with staff to explore these issues  - we wanted to sense-check this with young service-users as this would form the basis of our interview questions.
One of the highlights of the work for me was when Christina and I met with these young consultants to get their views on how the project worked, and why.
We used a sticky wall, coloured pens and paper, kept a regular supply of snacks and drinks, and through a mixture of asking the consultants to write their own comments, and scribing for them we explored these questions:
·       Is “Safe and Sound” good at making sure that people who need the project know about it?
·       How does “Safe and Sound” treat young people and families when they come to the project?
·       What does “Safe and Sound” want young people and families to do differently?
·       What does “Safe and Sound” want young people and families to learn?
·       What difference does “Safe and Sound” make for young people and families?

The framework facilitated a fascinating and wide ranging discussion, where our young consultants could talk about the project, and have control over the extent to which they revealed anything about their own personal circumstances. We made it clear that we were not interviewing them, but consulting them on how the project worked, so we wanted their opinions – if they wanted to share any personal details we agreed these would stay within the room.
I think the overwhelming message I took away from the discussion was that if you are a teenager who has ended up on the streets, or feeling you need to get away from home, it is because everyone has failed you – you are totally alone without a single person to stand up for you. The young people describe how hurt they felt when services that they had turned to for support sent them on their way because of their age. Some of them described some of the highly risky situations they had encountered on the streets, or in their own homes. They all described how the Safe and Sound project workers had filled that void and been someone to stand up for them when no-one else would. That act of getting alongside young people when they were so down and vulnerable was the thing that had started to turn their lives around.
So the Safe and sound project is demonstrating success at helping young people reach safer destinations. But for me it is the softer outcomes that are more profound. Young people identified the following positive outcomes:
·       Project workers had stood up for them, restored their trust in people, had cared when they had stopped caring about themselves
·       They had gained confidence about travelling alone, clothes, appearance and being happier “in their own skin”.
·       They had made friends with other young people in the project, felt less shy and less depressed.
The young consultants also wanted many more people to know about the support on offer through Safe and Sound. Some wished it had been around when they were younger to prevent the worst crises they had faced. Others thought that there were many more young people, at college and in schools, who should know about the project so they could access it when needed. One young service user gave us a specific instruction about reporting on this evaluation:
“You know, this project is, like, literally so amazing. You know they could have saved my life to be honest. So I don't think they get the recognition and the, I don't know, the respect or the rewards that they should. So that's what you people writing the report need to heed.” (Rebecca – a young service user)
We made a short film to provide feedback to all of the young people who had helped with the evaluation, either as interviewees or consultants.
Read the full evaluation report here

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