Monday, June 2, 2014

A programme for the NEET generation

As an expression it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but the media trend of describing those born between the late eighties and early noughties as “The Millennials” suggests that the generational shorthand begun with the “Baby Boomers” and continued with “Generation X” is a practice that’s here to stay.

There is however another less contrived and more familiar term which would do an equally good job of capturing the collective identity of today’s young people: NEETs.

Latest Government figures show that over 1 million 16-24 year olds in Britain remain out of employment, education and training and thus defined by the dreaded acronym. Elsewhere in Europe the picture is even bleaker with over half of the same age group in Greece and Spain out of work.

In an effort to help young NEETS facing challenging circumstances to improve their life choices, the charity vInspired runs a structured volunteering and social action intervention scheme. The 24/24 programme, which OPM began evaluating in 2011, provides young people with a qualification, work experience and the opportunity to volunteer, with the intention of raising participants’ confidence and aspirations and facilitating the journey into education, employment or training.

In our evaluation of the programme we found that the young people involved acquired a range of hard and soft skills designed to help them both professionally and socially as they enter adult life. These included: enhanced well being, confidence and self-esteem; improved time keeping, increased responsibility and a sense of active citizenship; and the opportunity to gain a Level 2 qualification and workplace experience.

A hugely impressive 98.6 percent of participants rated the overall impact of the programme on them as either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.

One such participant, 19 year old Liz, said she felt her involvement with the 24/24 scheme was “a good experience” because it helped her to focus on possible future career:

“I didn’t really know what I was doing when I left school. I applied for hairdressing at college and painting and decorating, and then applied for accounting, and they were all three completely different things. People were always saying to me do you actually know what you want to do? And I didn’t. So coming here’s made me think. I want to make my daughter proud, so I don’t want her to look at me like with no job, just sat at home.”

Another, 24 year old Tanya, praised the volunteering aspect of the programme saying: “Volunteering has been a great way for me to meet different people. Working in an office environment has helped – it’s been an eye opener and I’ve learnt different things and skills for life.”

As we have written about previously, at a time when the level of youth unemployment remains high and circumstances tough, schemes like the 24/24 programme that ensure that young people continue to have opportunities for personal development and progression, become more important than ever.

With a growing body of evidence suggesting that these schemes can deliver positive results, the next challenge will be to scale up delivery and offer more young people the support, experience and learning they need. A failure to do so could leave us referring to another lost generation.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Removing barriers, raising disabled people’s living standards

This report contains the findings from a research programme aimed at understanding disabled people’s priorities for change. The research was commissioned by the disability charity Scope, and conducted by OPM (focus groups and qualitative interviews) and Ipsos MORI (national survey).

This research contributes to the evidence base and to the case for action to work with disabled people to improve living standards.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

vInspired 24/24 Programme Evaluation

In August 2011 vInspired commissioned OPM to conduct an evaluation of the 24/24 programme. This report presents the findings from three strands of the evaluation including the initial scoping phase, three waves of qualitative fieldwork held at four provider sites from October 2011 to February 2013, and analysis of Life Choice survey data conducted at four points over a participant’s journey through the programme.

The 24/24, managed by vInspired and funded by the Department of Education (DfE) and the Jack Petchey Foundation, is a structured volunteering and social action intervention programme, designed to help young people facing challenging circumstances to improve their life choices.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Evaluation of the Proactive Grants Programme in Autism

In April 2013, the Clothworkers’ Foundation commissioned OPM and independent consultant Linda Redford to evaluate the Proactive Grants Programme in Autism (PGPA).

The PGPA was established in 2008, with £1.25 million allocated over five years. The programme’s aims were to: improve the lives of people with autism and their families/carers; improve awareness, knowledge and understanding of the condition; and contribute to raising the profile of the sector at a local and national level.

The evaluation considered the impacts of the six funded projects, and generated learning around the proactive grants process. It included interviews with the Clothworkers’ Foundation, recipients of proactive and open grants, beneficiaries of the funded projects and stakeholders in the wider autism sector, as well as online surveys and a review of project documentation.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Evaluating the Impact of Islington Giving, Cripplegate Foundation


Islington Giving is a campaign of local and national philanthropic organisations that work together to tackle the most pressing local issues facing the poorest residents in Islington. The campaign formally launched in 2010 after a preparatory period where it identified the key areas of focus, core activities, structure and constitution. It is working to meet ambitious targets relating to fundraising, volunteering and grant-giving over a five year timescale.

This evaluation occurred just after the mid point of the campaign’s delivery and was designed with the following aims:

What we did

Our first exercise was to identify Islington Giving’s key objectives during an initial scoping period. Through this process we identified three hypotheses to explore through the evaluation. These are that Islington Giving is:

These objectives formed the basis of the evaluation framework and helped us identify who we wanted to speak to and the questions we wanted to ask. The methodology was purely qualitative: we asked participants to describe the ways in which they have engaged with Islington Giving, the added value offered through this engagement and the impact this has had upon themselves and their wider community.

We spoke with 46 people including board members, strategic stakeholders, volunteers and donors, grant recipient staff members and grant recipient beneficiaries themselves – the people that attend Islington Giving-funded projects.


Islington Giving achieved a great deal in the eighteen months between its launch and this evaluation. It has managed to simultaneously bring together a range of local funders to work together as strategic partners, whilst also delivering effective activity to tackle the specific local need facing some of Islington’s poorest residents.

This innovative approach attracted attention from funders and councils from other areas who are keep achieving similar goals. OPM worked with Islington Giving to identify ‘top tips’ for those looking to replicate a place-based multi-funder model. In summary these are:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tackling hate crime against people with learning disabilities


Mencap were planning to launch a three year Stand by Me campaign the aim of which in the first year was to encourage the police to do more to tackle hate crimes against people with learning disabilities. Mencap were keen to take an evidence based approach to campaigning and whereas they felt they had some knowledge of the issues that make tackling hate crime difficult, they knew further research was needed in order for the campaign to be received positively by the public and the police. They felt that having an independent organisation such as OPM conduct the research would lend their campaign greater credibility.

Mencap were initially keen to work specifically with us on this project because they had been impressed by our work on disabled people’s experiences of targeted violence and hostility for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which helped trigger a Formal Inquiry.

What we did

Mencap initially wanted to run a large scale survey with all police services. However, we felt that given their aims and objectives a smaller, more in-depth qualitative study with a sample of police services would be more suitable and a better use of their resources, and they were happy to follow our lead. We therefore conducted research with 14 police services across England.

We reviewed key documents from each police service, including hate crime strategies and procedures for reporting and recording hate crime. We also conducted in-depth interviews with representatives from each police service which asked them to reflect on the incidence of hate crime against disabled people, the services’ structural and organisational set-up for tackling disability hate crime and implementation and delivery ‘on the ground’.

We also conducted one focus group with people with a learning disability where participants reflected on their personal experiences of reporting hate crime and key expectations in terms of how victims should be treated and hate crime tackled. Mencap were very happy with the report we produced, in particular the rich and varied evidence that had been captured from a small sample. We also helped disseminate the research by writing a series of blogs during Learning Disability week and an article for Learning Disability Today.


Mencap used the final output from the research to launch the Stand by Me campaign which resulted in 22 out of 43 police services in England and Wales ‘signing up’ to the changes suggested, which for Mencap was a resounding success. Many others are also in the process of signing up.  They also received good feedback from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) about the balanced evidence presented in the report and this has led to an ongoing relationship and further conversations about how police services can improve their practice.

The research has also raised Mencap’s profile in the sector and has given them the evidence base they needed to play a role in influencing change. For example, they are now part of an advisory group for the Metropolitan Police and are in discussions with the EHRC about how they can better support their work.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Supporting speech, language and communication in early years


The Early Talk 0-3 programme was designed to complement and consolidate learning and practice from a range of speech, language and communication (SLC) development and awareness raising initiatives, including the Bercow Review and Better Communication Action Plan, the Every Child A Talker (ECAT) programme and the SLCN Commissioning Pathfinders programme.

Because of our extensive knowledge of children’s services and our experience as a leading partner in the Commissioning Support Programme, OPM was asked to carry out an independent evaluation of the programme. We aimed to identify its strengths, highlight areas for development, consider the impact on services, practitioners and families in the pilot areas and investigate causal links between the programme and improved communication skills.

What we did

We spoke with I CAN and staff in the pilot sites to understand the approaches being adopted and the rationales behind them, then developed a logic model, which showed how the Early Talk 0-3 inputs, activities and outputs were intended to contribute to interim and longer-term outcomes.

We consulted people working in the pilot sites via an online survey of leads and practitioners from across children’s trust partners. We also facilitated three action learning sets using bespoke tools to match the sites’ context. We listened to users, ran focus groups with parents and carers in each pilot site and did in-depth interviews near the end of the evaluation to assess impact over time.

We learned that piloting new approaches in small areas enables impact to be assessed, while minimising the resources needed to develop new approaches. In one pilot area we found that new approaches proved effective in reducing waiting times and referrals for speech and language therapists. We also discovered that using the existing children’s workforce differently led to cost savings.


There are examples of pilot sites sustaining the most successful aspects of their local work programmes, particularly where they were able to integrate Early Talk 0-3 activities with other workstreams. For example, in one pilot site, an early intervention strategy is being developed using the principles of intervention before birth to help parents learn about normal child development. The site is using the strategy across a range of service areas, but focusing on priority wards.

In addition, I CAN used our evaluation findings to help shape the Early Language Development Programme recently commissioned by the Department for Education. We are the evaluation partner for this initiative, building on our relationship with I CAN and our in-depth understanding of the success factors and challenges in early intervention SLC development, to inform the roll-out of this large-scale training programme.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Building the capacity of the voluntary and community sector


TreeHouse (renamed Ambitious about Autism) was delivering the Parent Support Project (PSP), funded by the then Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), and needed an evaluation to assess its impact. PSP aimed to encourage professionals, parents and local government to work together to develop appropriate services for children with autism.

PSP exemplified two of the key planks of the Government’s support for the third sector, which were supporting the third sector in community action and campaigning, and improving local partnerships.

TreeHouse wanted to evaluate the PSP not only to provide evidence of impact to the DCSF but also to learn from the experience, so they could apply the learning elsewhere.

TreeHouse approached OPM as they were attracted to OPM’s values-driven approach to evaluation, and by OPM’s deep understanding of the public service commissioner–provider relationship.

What we did

OPM and TreeHouse were committed to conducting the evaluation in a way that did not merely satisfy the needs of the funder, but also built the capacity of TreeHouse staff to sustain improvements over the longer term.

The approach adopted for the evaluation of PSP recognised that meaningful engagement and the nurturing of ongoing learning and reflection could be a means of building capacity within TreeHouse to achieve ambitious longer-term outcomes. OPM and TreeHouse colleagues worked together to co-design the evaluation and a number of research instruments. They also identified specific activities that TreeHouse staff could do, with training and support from OPM, in a way that would not threaten the integrity of the evaluation. We then distilled learning from the evaluation to refine practice.


The evaluation helped TreeHouse demonstrate value and accountability to the funder and stakeholders, and communicate learning about the PSP. Co-producing the evaluation meant that TreeHouse staff involved began encouraging others in the organisation to use evaluation techniques, which contributed to a culture change.

Building on the PSP evaluation, TreeHouse secured new funding to deliver a Parent Participation Project (PPP), which benefited from PSP learning. For example, a key finding from PSP was that TreeHouse needed to adopt a ‘doing-with’, rather than a ‘doing-to’ approach when working with stakeholders, and to treat them as equal partners. So TreeHouse involved stakeholders in planning the PPP from the start. One stakeholder found this: ‘inspiring and generated increased momentum to work together to ensure that participation is embedded in service delivery’ (stakeholder comment after a workshop).


Friday, February 7, 2014

Quick wins for local councils and disabled people


The RNIB, as a national organisation representing more than 15,000 members and campaigners, was acutely aware that disabled people across the country stood to be amongst the hardest hit by the cuts in public spending.

Almost two million people in the UK have a sight problem which has a serious impact on their daily lives. The vast majority of these people rely on a core bedrock of services – e.g. accessible information or support with getting around or regaining employment – in order to live independently. Much of this support is provided by local councils.

These services are not luxuries, and often don’t cost much. Yet if withdrawn the impact on people’s lives can be dramatic. At the same time the RNIB knew that to make the case for even modest continued investment, they needed independent evidence of impact, and practical recommendations – which is where OPM came in.

What we did

A wide range of RNIB members from nine places across England were invited to take part in the research, including young and old people with different backgrounds and experiences.

The research included focus groups, in-depth ethnographic interviews to ‘tell the story’ of a day in the life of a blind or partially sighted person, and three participative case studies exploring the good work three local authorities were doing (Leicester, Plymouth and South Tyneside).

OPM and the RNIB launched the report based on the findings from the research at the national Local Government Association conference, with speakers including the (then) leader of South Tyneside Council.

Social impact

The research went a considerable way to achieving its aim of raising awareness of the practical steps needed to improve outcomes for disabled people when the findings were covered by The Guardian, as well as in local papers where the research had taken place.

Since the launch of the report the RNIB has continued to work with a network of local authorities to encourage and support them to adopt best practice like the innovations showcased by the research.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Greater Manchester Hate Crime Awareness Week 20-26 January 2014

Rose Simkins is Chief Executive of Stop Hate UK, a charity that provides independent and confidential support to people affected by Hate Crime.

It is the Greater Manchester Hate Crime Awareness Week this week. Stop Hate UK and OPM welcome the recognition and publicity Greater Manchester Police and Manchester City Council will be giving hate crime during their week of activity and awareness raising.

The publication of hate crime figures in 2012 led to sensationalist reports of Manchester being the ‘hate crime capital of England and Wales’. Yet, this overlooks the fact that a key contributory factor to the higher figures recorded for Manchester was the proactive approach adopted by the police to raise awareness and to encourage reporting. The Hate Crime Awareness Week signals the ongoing commitment of the police and local agencies to tackle hate crime.

It is important that hate crime is given a greater profile as many people are still suffering in silence and are not seeking the support and justice they deserve. A network of reporting centres is being expanded across Manchester at the start of hate crime awareness week.

Stop Hate UK is a national organisation working to provide support to victims of Hate Crime. Stop Hate UK provides the Stop Hate Line, a 24 hour helpline which operates in some areas of the UK, including Oldham and tenants and residents of Southway Homes for victims and witnesses to report all forms of Hate Crime and receive support; and Stop Learning Disability Hate Crime, a 24 hour reporting and support helpline for people in England and Wales.

Many other areas across the country are now concentrating their activities during the National Hate Crime Awareness week in October of each year, but here at Stop Hate UK every week is Hate Crime Awareness Week!

There are a number of factors that determine whether people decide to report a Hate Incident, and they include:

It is communication that helps us understand the number of reports in the past year about Alternative Sub Culture Hate Crime, something which Greater Manchester Police have taken the national lead on recording.

From April to December last year, there were 3,282 hate crimes committed in the region. Of those, 2,687 were race-related, 338 were against sexual orientation and 244 were religious hate crimes. There were 106 disability-based crimes, 35 against transgender people and 21 victimised Sub Cultures.

Can we honestly believe there were such small numbers in Alternative Sub Cultures and the other categories?

In attempting to understand this low level of hate crimes, it is important to note that these figures are for reported hate crimes only. Incidents reported to Stop Hate UK from across the country have been wide-ranging and include many different kinds of (sub)criminal offences and incidents.  Examples include physical assaults, sexual assaults, criminal damage and harassment, hate motivated anti-social behaviour, threatening behaviour and verbal abuse.  It is these latter two that are being most often reported to the helpline, and it is important for us all to recognise that hate crime can happen to anyone, at anytime and in any way. We must not dismiss these experiences as ‘trivial’ or ‘low level’, as the impact on victims and family members can be significant. Hate incidents can also easily escalate into hate crimes.

This Hate Crime Awareness Week will help us all to increase this understanding and awareness of Hate Crime.