Leaving Well Q&A Session with Bradford and Coventry

Introducing Leaving Well

Last week, we invited a selection of interested local authorities to take part in a Leaving Well question and answer session with two of Leaving Well’s pilot partners, Bradford and Coventry, as well as Leaving Well founders, Social Finance. Please find the questions and answers from the session below.

Coventry work with about 750 young people in total, around 300 looked-after children and around 400 care leavers.

Doncaster work with about 650 16+ care leavers.

Background of Leaving Well, provided by Tanveer Sian from Social Finance.

Social Finance is a not-for-profit organisation, not a technology company. We do a lot of collaborative system-changing projects, covering topics such as mental health, domestic abuse. We had a question around the fact that outcomes for care leavers were so poor and unequal, we felt like we needed to do something about that. 

Initially, we engaged with an academic to create an outcomes framework – you can find reports about that on our website. We felt like we had to move to make it a bit more practical – the outcomes framework is very academic and wasn’t a particularly useful way for local authorities or any organisation to apply that to support their young people. We started looking at the pathway planning process and identified 3 issues with the pathway planning process. 

1 – Young people don’t feel like they have a voice. 

2 – Personal Advisors and Social Workers felt like there was a lot of admin which was detracting from the time with their young people. 

3 – The outcomes data surrounding it was really poor, and didn’t give much of an insight into how these young people were doing. 

We worked initially with Southampton, Having and Leeds councils to develop a tool completely from scratch – which was based around the academic framework. We did a lot of work with young people and local authorities to finesse that language to make it a lot more accessible. 

In September 2018, we partnered with Bradford, Coventry & Doncaster, who are the second wave of local authorities. Since then, we’ve done a lot of co-production, and making sure it works for both Personal Advisors and Social Workers as well as young people. In the past year or so, we’ve finished our pilot process, we’ve been working with Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) to formalise the learning. Additionally, we completed an internal evaluation and we’re now in the position to scale it. 

Can you explain to us the data dashboard?

Tan at Social Finance: The data dashboard is something that we envisaged from the start. There are about 60 questions over 8 domains. The data is so important on an individual level, these are the specific issues that this young person is facing. It’s also important for local authorities at a senior level to see the aggregate data and identify large proportionate issues that they can respond to – for example, a large proportion of young people don’t have access to heating, how can they put something in place to deal with that.

Bradford, how much has Leaving Well changed your ways of working?

Carly Turpin, Care Leavers Team at Bradford: Leaving Well is now fully rolled out within our service. We became aware of Leaving Well through the National Benchmarking Forum and then we worked very closely with Tan (Tanveer Sian at Social Finance) and our young people. We’ve been very fortunate in the last few months to get some Practice Supervisors that sit within our team and have been able to do the training. We launched it a while ago but have recently launched it again, this has tied in with our OFSTED journey and that we’re trying to improve our practice. We’ve provided a best practice example of a pathway plan from a young person that engages and we’ve done one for a young person that doesn’t engage. Our Practice Supervisors have redone some training and now all the pathway plans go to the Supervisors to quality check them. 

We have used the data dashboard to get what we want from elected members – for example, we were able to clearly evidence that young people didn’t have WiFi , my Service Manager was able to inform that into a report to the Corporate Parenting Panel and we were able to get some yearly funding to support that. 

The young people that do fill it in are great, but the biggest change for us is the young people that refuse to do it but will do the checklist with the worker over the phone – it’s still their voice and their voice is coming across in the pathway plan. Whereas before, the pathway plans were very much a document that were done for young people without the young people involved, and they never saw what was written. That has been a significant change for us. 

How are Coventry using Leaving Well and what has changed for you?

Matt Clayton, Operational Lead for Throughcare Service at Coventry: Overall, Leaving Well has been really good in terms of bettering the way we do pathway plans. It’s much more young person-friendly – they are a lot more involved in it. Both young people and Personal Advisors are being positive about it in comparison to previous ways of doing pathway planning. From a strategic point of view, the dashboard is incredibly helpful as it puts into young people’s own words. We’ve started using that when we’re doing commissioning exercises and putting a bit of pressure on our mental health services about care leavers well-being and how they’re feeling about that. We have a bi-monthly panel that looks at young people in need and what more support we can give them. It’s great as the young people have been self-identifying where they need support which we have used on our NEET panels – this all really helps with our planning. 

Jo Imms, Leaving Care Team Leader at Coventry: When we first had it, workers were quite reluctant to have a new system and a new way of doing the pathway plans. But now that they’ve got used to using it, the feedback from everyone has been really positive. 

The checklist is a great conversation tool and when the young person and Personal Advisor go through the checklist together, it is really evident that it is the young person’s voice as opposed to previously, where it sounded like what the worker said or what the worker wanted to put in. In terms of the young person’s views, more people are actively getting involved, you can see when they have logged in and recorded things. With other pathway plans, they haven’t had that way of making their voice known. There’s the ability to pull out particular questions and get the worker to ask more in depth questions about this in order to help them. It’s more young people friendly and we’ve found it a lot easier to get a young person to sit there and go through it, even if it’s just the checklist. Young people used to switch off and didn’t want to be part of the plan.

Carly at Bradford: We have done the same thing as Coventry in that we have narrowed down the young people that have identified as NEET and we have been doing targeted work on that.

What is the best and worst thing about using the app?

Carly at Bradford: Some of the best things are that you’re getting rid of the pen and paper and that it’s electronic. The other thing that our workers are telling us is that it helps avoid duplication. Most importantly, the young person’s voice is all over the plan.

In terms of the worst – from a practical point of view there were teething problems at the beginning – we accepted that as we were part of the pilot. There is a resistance to change  amongst workers which is the biggest stumbling block, we needed a robust plan and needed to do it in a very nurturing way.

Jo at Coventry: I agree that there were some teething problems but all of that has been sorted. When we emailed with faults, they were quickly resolved. I agree with Carly, when you look at that plan, the young person’s voice is all over it. We can say that they have been completely involved. Sometimes the quality of the plans isn’t great but we have training and guidance documents that are helping with that. I don’t think I can find many faults with it, I really like it.

Percentage of young people using Leaving Well independently?

Matt at Coventry: It depends how you use it, the percentage of young people and accessing on their own is low but the young people really do like doing it with their care worker. When we first got it, we envisioned lots of young people logging in and completing it and it being a to-and-fro process in a virtual way, but actually what we’ve found is young people tend to use it very much with their worker and enjoy doing that. We’re not getting that many young people logging on and doing it individually. 

Carly at Bradford: I’d say the majority do it with their worker, that’s the biggest percentage. Then the next majority are the ones that refuse to do it. We try three times then have to write it without them. The ones that do it on their own are a small percentage, that’s alright with us as we prefer our workers to do it with them rather than on their own. 

How have you found it’s accessibility for young people? In terms of disability, language barriers etc

Jo at Coventry: Workers are adapting the questions when they are working with young people with additional needs. They’re still going through the checklist but adapting it. If there are any language barriers, they make sure that they are using an interpreter. Unfortunately, at this moment in time it is not available in other languages. If the young person has additional needs, the workers need to adapt the way they ask the questions with them. 

Tan at Social Finance: The visual part of the mini check ins was very important for this, with the smiley faces. In Doncaster, there were a couple of examples where young people would really enjoy doing that because it was very simple. The mini checkin is the only bit of the tool that only the young person can fill in – the young person would have to log into the account themselves to do that. The rest of it is all collaborative. It’s all about the young person making sure that their PA knows how they feel about something at any particular time.

Have any of the local authorities been using this prior to an OFSTED inspection?

Matt at Coventry: We haven’t been using it during an OFSTED inspection. We have done a fake OFSTED, our Director of Children’s Service was a previous OFSTED inspector and they’re all very happy with it. They compared pathway planning with the Leaving Well tool to how we were doing it before and they were really impressed with it and thought it was a much better way of pathway planning. On our previous OFSTED inspection, we did well but one of the areas of improvement was about having Young People’s voices in their pathway plans coming through more so that was a big part of our decision making around being part of Leaving Well. We’re optimistic that OFSTED will say the voices of young people have been improved when they next come. We’ll see when they come next year!

Tan at Social Finance: Bradford is due an OFSTED inspection – I’m excited to hear what they will say about Leaving Well. This is likely to be the first report where (hopefully) they will explicitly talk about Leaving Well.

How does it link with existing systems? LCS etc?

Andrew Jackson at Looking Local: As it stands, the Leaving Well tool doesn’t link in with a case management system. All of the engagement that is happening within the tool is contributing to a live PDF document. One of the things that Looking Local will look at as a priority is developing an option of a data export which can be triggered along with the PDF. This will be some sort of generic type import file where you can configure case management to automatically import and harvest the data.

Matt at Coventry: In terms of the pathway planning process, we weren’t using the protocol pathway plan as it was anyway. Previously, we were just using a word document that we were uploading each time. Leaving Well has just replaced that – we upload the PDF. We have configured the LCS process so that it asks ‘has this pathway plan been completed by Leaving Well?’ you tick yes and then it gives you the option to upload the document. So Leaving well fits into the workflow that way – which is fine. There is more of a process that we go through to match up the dashboard data etc, so the capacity to integrate it would be useful. But from a day-to-day caseworker point of view, the process works absolutely fine as it is. 

Have you been using the data export feature on the dashboard, which goes into an xls file?

Matt at Coventry: To be honest, we’ve mainly been using it within Leaving Well as a live dashboard. I’d like to get to the stage where we are tracking trends and properly using the data. We haven’t got to that stage yet, partly because of capacity and we haven’t had the chance to do it in the current environment. At the moment we have loads of data around how many people have WiFi (for example), we’re not currently using that but it would be useful to reflect back in 6 months time to look at the trends in the data – that’s where we need to develop a bit further in terms of how we’re using Leaving Well going forward.

Are there any other features that you would like to see on Leaving Well?

Matt at Coventry: Similarly to what I have just mentioned, the ability to track trends over time would be really useful. It can become a big manual exercise with downloading various data at various times so the ability to have graphs of what has been happening in each area would be useful and it would allow us to see the impact of the different things that are happening. A big thing for ages was the spell check, so we’re happy that is now in place and that made a big difference. 

How long have you been using the tool?

Matt at Coventry: We have been using it for about 2 years in total. It was about a year ago that we switched to only using Leaving Well and cut off the ability to do other sorts of pathway planning on our systems. We did this as we had some workers that really went for it and some that didn’t use it for a while, so we continued to use both for a while whilst Leaving Well was in it’s pilot phase. In the beginning of the pilot phase, we had a few people that were trained in using it and then we slowly tried to roll it out and then we had a cut off date when everyone had to switch to using it in the new way. I don’t believe that anyone has any longing to go back to the old system now that they are used to using Leaving Well!

Jo at Coventry: Definitely not, everybody prefers pathway planning on Leaving Well. It’s a lot more straightforward, flows better and is much better suited to young people. Whereas previously, it wasn’t very young person friendly and a lot of the information wasn’t relevant. 

In terms of how you’re doing referrals for young people, how are you promoting the Leaving Well service?

Jo at Coventry: From when they transfer to use initially, we set them up. At the moment, we’re working on a welcome pack for the team and as part of that, it will introduce Leaving Well and what it’s for. But for now, when they’re allocated to a new worker or when they turn 16, they have a conversation with the young person about the pathway plan.

Can you download it as an app on Google Play/Apple?

Andrew at Looking Local: No, Leaving Well is a mobile web-app so that it can be accessed via any web browser and does not require an app download. It is designed and developed as a mobile-first website so you will find that if you’re using it on a mobile or any device, it is very mobile friendly. 

What was the thinking behind taking the closed-question approach?

Tan at Social Finance: Looking at it from the individual and the aggregate level perspective. At aggregate level, it’s very clear that you just need that binary data a lot of the time. Whereas, the PA is going to have the notes such as ‘this is what I need help with’ beyond the yes/no tickbox. It was important not to overload the data at the aggregate level and a lot of the more specific information was mainly relevant to the PA and their manager as well.

Any observations or insight around the use of Leaving Well?

Bradford: I used to use it when I was a social worker so I have first hand experience in using it. It’s a great tool to use with young people. The feedback that we get from the staff is that they like it as there is input from the young person rather than just the social worker writing it on the young person’s behalf. We now have a format in terms of how the pathway plan should be written well. Leaving Well is being used across the service now so everyone is now using one system as opposed to using two. 

Have the young people liked having involvement in their pathway plan?

Bradford: Definitely, it’s great to be able to read the comments from the young person in the checklist – for example if they say they’re not happy with where they’re living –  it’s good for Managers to have that insight when they’re authorising the pathway plans. 

How did the pathway planning process look for you before Leaving Well?

Bradford: We had pathway plan forms on our system (LCS). The social worker would go to a LAC review meeting and it would be triggered afterwards. My understanding was that people were just writing down information that was in their heads rather than going out to the young person and gaining their views for specific areas. It was based on the LAC review as opposed to going to the young person specifically for the pathway plan process. Things can easily be missed that way and a lot of it was down to interpretation rather than having a direct conversation. 

Thanks to everyone who was involved with the Q&A session, it was great to hear from Bradford and Coventry, as well as having the background context from Social Finance. If you have any questions regarding Leaving Well, please feel free to get in touch or book a free virtual demo to see what the tool looks like and how it works.