Payment by results: Teens and Toddlers’ key learnings one year on
As one of two charities cited in Impetus-PEF’s recent Beating the Cuts report, we are delighted to be held up as an example of a small charity for whom the social investment model is not only working but reaping positive results.
Teens and Toddlers received funding from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Innovation Fund in 2012, enabling us to expand our existing programme – which inspires at-risk young people to achieve the self-belief, skills and qualifications they need to succeed in education and life – and work with many more at-risk young people who we would not otherwise have been able to reach.
The three-year Innovation Fund contract, which is providing funding for 1,100 young people in 30 schools over three years and is managed by Social Finance, has the potential to generate huge savings by tackling the rising number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) in the North West of England. Success measures include improved attitude to school, improved attendance and behaviour at school and the achievement of a QCF Level 1 qualification in interpersonal skills in addition to GCSEs. We’re now almost one year into the contract and thus far have seen excellent preliminary results for the first four outcomes (the final two won’t be available until the students have completed their GCSEs next summer).
In this payment by results funding model, the investors – who include The Barrow Cadbury Trust, Big Society Capital, Bridges Ventures, CAF Venturesome, Esmée Fairbairn and Impetus-PEF – bear the financial risk rather than the charity. In these difficult economic times, with funding sources drying up, such a model is attractive to charities like ours, but it does not come without its challenges. Having robust evaluation processes in place before embarking on a payment by results programme is vital.
Fortunately at Teens and Toddlers we have been measuring our results since 2001 and we are able to prove the continued success of our programmes: only 5% of the young people in our programme become NEET – compared to their teachers’ prediction that 45% will drop out – and only 1.6% report a pregnancy. This evaluation track record is critical for us because it demonstrates we are a sound investment.
We have always taken evaluation seriously, but this payment by results contract has actually helped us sharpen our evaluation processes, and begin identifying new ways to improve our programme delivery:
- Payment by results models expose weaknesses in organisational infrastructure that you must be prepared to address. The DWP contract has required a large amount of data capture, causing us to make our evaluation processes even more stringent. To fulfil contractual obligations, we have begun tracking the performance of every young person enrolled at each step of the programme. This real time data has empowered us to performance manage our programme and understand more about the operation’s effectiveness. Now, for example, we are able to take action straight away when we notice a drop off in a student’s attendance, allowing us to resolve issues early on before the programme’s results are negatively affected.
- To satisfy contractual arrangements it is necessary to strengthen training amongst delivery staff. Although this might seem a challenge, it has actually provided a fantastic development opportunity for delivery and management staff. The data-driven approach also supports staff development, because it allows us to quickly identify and correct any problematic aspects of the programme, as well as identifying areas where further training is necessary.
- In order to evidence the delivery of results it is vital to strengthen relationships with partners. Our programmes address the same issues (attitude, attendance, etc) as schools and our rigorous data collection has allowed us to exchange information with the schools in which we operate, not only strengthening our relationship, but also ensuring that the young people in our programmes are getting personalised, effective support.
- This model has given us a wide body of evidence to support the extension of our programme. Working closely with schools has allowed us to look closely at the idea of working for a longer period with young people. Currently Year 10 is the cut-off for participation in our programme, but we have been investigating extending the programme through GCSEs.
- Finally, working with the payment by results model has allowed us to engage a wider group of stakeholders in the community with the young people. The at-risk young people who participate in our programmes are traditionally marginalised in society. The payment by results model has allowed us to give these young people exposure to a wide network of adults, strengthening their sense of community and providing access to role models.
Overall, and thanks to our fantastic team in the North West who have been under huge pressure to deliver the DWP contract, our experience has been positive. What ultimately underpins the work we do is belief – just as we instil a sense of self-belief in the young people we work with, so we must constantly remind ourselves that anything is possible as long as we keep focused on what we want to achieve.