Our fundamental purpose is to help people who experienced childhood abuse and neglect in care to live happier, more fulfilled and more independent lives, recognising and being sensitive to the profound impact of traumatic experience – and tailoring support to set the conditions for positive connection and improving quality of life.
We do this because we know that a positive relationship can be both an outcome in its own right, and a powerful enabler to accessing other supports.
Trust is a hugely important part of this; it is fundamental to making a connection and to building bridges to other supports and resources. This is especially important for people who may have been let down and poorly served by professionals in the past or may have a deep mistrust of services.
And we decided to be iterative, so we can apply what we learn immediately, constantly aiming to do our best by and for the people we work with.
For a number of years, we have worked with Matter of Focus. Together, we use impact measurement to drive insight and innovation. And by investing in impact measurement, we have an evidence-based way of reflecting on our work, developing the courage to test new ideas and adapting when we need to.
As such, as we now have real confidence in the importance of taking a relational approach, with a strong evidence base about what works and how.
It has helped us take a hard look at what being person-centred and trauma informed means in practice, with effects ripping out across how we work as colleagues, as commissioners of support and as contractors with Delivery Partners, as well as how we respond to feedback and complaints. Our relational approach invites the participation and contribution of everyone who is involved in and benefits from the service.
Measuring the impact of our relational approach has been central to developing an understanding of what ‘good support’ looks like and feels like to people, who have been seldom heard, or well served by existing services.
These sessions helped us to:
We found that our collaborative approach to commissioning brings trust, choice and flexibility to our outcomes-focused support. It also creates a network of support, knowledge and learning with Delivery Partners which, in turn, helps navigate complexity and offer holistic support.
We also found that our collaborative approach to commissioning can face systemic challenges. For example, inaccessible services, capacity challenges or confusion around national programmes of support can hinder the way we can work together.
We would like to thank all those who took part in the process. Their insight and feedback was invaluable.
“This Action Learning Programme helped us consolidate what we have learned about sustaining collaborative relationships with partners. This project was an opportunity to work with our partners to explore how we can enhance our approach to working together, so we can continue supporting people to work towards their personal outcomes. It highlighted the importance of building ongoing communities of practice, and of evaluating our wider impact.”
Louise Hall, Impact and Evaluation Lead, Future Pathways
“It was so helpful to better understand Delivery Partners’ experience of working with Future Pathways. For me being relatively new to my role, the voices of everyone in the group and the learning that was shared about what works, helped to shape my own approach as partner relationships lead. The opportunities for learning and improvement can’t be overestimated.”
Nell Glen, Partner Relationships Lead, Future Pathways
“People are better supported when the different parts of the system work better together. Future Pathways have shone a light on this by convening partners and exploring how the capacity within the system can be used better. This report shows that more collaborative, trauma-informed commissioning is not only necessary, it’s clearly achievable.”
Graeme Reekie, Director, The Lasting Difference
Delivered by the In Care Survivors Alliance, Future Pathways was set up to offer something tangibly different to people who experienced childhood abuse or neglect in Scottish care settings. The aim was to directly reduce the inequalities that come from such experiences.
And that this could be achieved by focusing on what was most important to someone and by providing tailored support according to the personal outcomes or goals they wished to progress.
It is known that the impact of childhood abuse is individual and wide ranging. No two people were alike in their experiences, therefore a personal response was vital. Having consulted with people about what was important to them, the challenge was to respond to a wide range of needs in a personal way. It was hard to see how a single organisation could respond.
Early evidence highlighted the importance of this: by the time our first scoping report was completed, it was clear that people usually had multiple needs and few supports. Indeed, we found that people had shown great resilience in the face of services that did not always understand or respond to their needs. More of the same would not do.
The Scottish Government identified that alliancing had the potential to offer something new and different. The initial test was whether alliancing would enable partner relationships that allowed for a flexible response to individuals. Done well, it is a culture of innovation and learning, with all partners sharing risk as well as opportunities, never losing focus of the person’s needs and requirements.
In Care Survivors Alliance brings together four partners:
While each organisation has specific qualities, experience or remit that we can draw on, we also know that working together enables more effective support for those who access Future Pathways.
Our collaborative approach also extends to our network of Delivery Partners and beyond. These are the organisations, services and individuals from which we commission support. Over time, we have developed and strengthened our network and we now work with around 62 active Delivery Partners. This commissioning model also offers the flexibility to respond to individual need, offer real choice to people and to truly tailor our support. For example, our network includes organisations and practitioners working across counselling, therapy and record searches, as well as in life coaching, or creative writing services.
There is a sense that a consistent priority placed on relationships and learning. There are examples of support being offered in new and different ways, improving the response to individuals.
We have more to learn about the unique contribution that Future Pathways and our partners make in understanding what is most important to someone and convening support around them accordingly.
Collaboration is essential to any alliance model. This is clearly the case for Future Pathways: our aims can only be achieved through the joint working and shared values of our four Alliance partners. We are committed to building relationships, learning from each other and reducing barriers to support where we find them.
In 2018, we commissioned Matter of Focus to evaluate our service. This would support our learning and the ongoing development of Future Pathways.
Since then, Matter of Focus have helped us to track, measure and report on our work. They help us to see the difference we make and where we can improve.
The way someone experiences a service (and the feeling they have about this) plays a significant role in how the person benefits from the service. It is important, therefore, to make sure we build effective relationships that foster trust. It is not just about delivering a service, it is about the interaction between us and the people we support.
Understanding the relationships between Future Pathways and the people we support is essential to how we learn. Matter of Focus created a simple framework which helps us to map a person’s journey of support. Through the framework, we consider:
The framework helps us to think about our service, show where we are making a difference and highlight areas we can improve. It also prompts us to consider the relationships we build. For example, how we build trust and how people respond to us. It also helps us to think about how we can support people in their goals, by considering emotional or practical outcomes.
The framework helps us identify additional context, like the person’s individual sphere (for example, values, habits and skills), their social sphere (such as networks, roles and relationships) and their material sphere (things like infrastructure, time or resources). Considering this additional context helps us to understand the diverse ways people experience Future Pathways. This, in turn, helps us to build and sustain relationships.
The research showed how important it is for us to consider, talk about and understand the relationships we have. The evaluation approach from Matter of Focus has helped us clarify how Future Pathways make a difference. Their research also shows that establishing and maintaining trusting relationships with those we support is crucial to creating an environment where a path towards recovery becomes possible. In addition, by being able to use a framework that demonstrates evidence of outcomes, we have been able to make a stronger case for continued funding and ensure continuity for survivors.
In short, this work has shown that it is not just what we do, but how we do it that gets results. This learning is essential for other services too – we encourage partners and organisations to place people’s experiences at the heart of improvement work.
This piece of work by Matter of Focus looked at the issue of trust and how important this is to the people we work with and to our own staff. Focusing on this specific theme helped to show how the evaluation approach can shine a light on the relationship between Future Pathways and the people we support. It also helped to show how we adapted in response to the findings.
Our collaborative piece has recently been published in Evaluation and Programme Planning, an international journal hosted by Science Direct.
The programme will last 12 months. It will be led by a group called The Lasting Difference. They are experts in helping organisations like ours to find ways to improve what they do.