9. Running of the Funding Programme
This chapter looks at:
- The support provided to projects by Inspiring Scotland and other stakeholders.
- The monitoring system used to capture the outcomes generated by the projects.
The support commissioned by the Scottish Government from Inspiring Scotland has been very much appreciated, in terms of its quality, the commitment of Inspiring Scotland staff, and the practical networking and advice provided.
The performance monitoring approach has evolved over time and is effectively a coming together of approaches developed by a small number of first round SIRD projects. While the data gathered is indicative of the work projects have been doing, it does not tell the full story of project activity or impact.
Support from Inspiring Scotland and other stakeholders
During the second round of the SIRD Funding Programme, Inspiring Scotland has overseen the performance monitoring of the projects. They have offered projects a range of practical advice or support, if requested, and have organised meet up sessions which give SIRD projects the opportunity to come together, share learning and discuss a range of issues affecting them.
Projects were very positive about both the quality and practical usefulness of the support they had received from Inspiring Scotland. Inspiring Scotland were seen as:
- Positive and supportive. This included being sympathetic to projects’ concerns.
- Responsive, accessible and providing a continuity of support, even when experiencing staffing changes.
- Not having the Central Belt focus that some national organisations can have.
- Focused on positive outcomes rather than bureaucratic procedures.
SIRD projects appreciated the considerable efforts they felt Inspiring Scotland staff had gone to in offering them support including, for example, by travelling some distance to be alongside them at key meetings. These types of efforts, combined with taking a realistic and open approach based on listening to projects’ experiences and the challenges they were facing, has been much appreciated. Also, projects tended to feel that having a monitoring partner like Inspiring Scotland in place made relationships with the Scottish Government, as funder, much easier. This included because Inspiring Scotland was able to present the common experience of the group of SIRD projects rather than each having to raise any issues or concerns with the Scottish Government separately.
In addition to the overall approach taken, projects appreciated the range of practical support from Inspiring Scotland, including:
- Organising practice-sharing and other events where projects could come together and share learning and ideas.
- Working with projects to review progress and develop a plan of action in response to challenges faced. Of particular importance to a number of projects had been practical advice and support when initial ideas or plans had proved difficult to implement and projects were seeking other ways of using their funding constructively.
- Supporting projects at meetings with key local strategic partners.
- Support to help projects facing challenges in securing their funding for core costs.
- Making introductions to other organisations which could share useful experience and learning.
- Other pro bono support they had received from the wider Inspiring Scotland organisation, for example advice around communications and the use of social media.
Although many projects reported having worked quite closely with Inspiring Scotland, a small number said their contact had been limited mainly to the submission of monitoring information. However, these projects were aware that Inspiring Scotland could have offered further support if they had wanted or required it.
The feedback on other key stakeholders was also positive, including in relation to the Scottish Government. The relevant policy team was seen as supportive of, and genuinely interested in, the work the SIRD projects have been doing. There was also a view that introducing Inspiring Scotland as an external partner had made it easier to have frank and open conversations with the Scottish Government, including in relation to the funding of independent information and support.
A number of projects also highlighted the support they had received from Self Directed Support Scotland who were described as very helpful, supportive and accessible, and as providing a source of information and lobbying that had credibility with key decision makers. The support they had provided to projects included:
- Access to a wider range of information about self-directed support through their website.
- Assistance in challenging a local authority on intended changes to their social care policy.
- The provision of practical support and second-tier advice when clients presented with complex cases.
- Support in developing ideas relating to the provision of assistance to people looking to use Option 2.
As noted, Inspiring Scotland have taken an external monitoring role for the second round of SIRD funding. They have received monitoring data and reports from each of the SIRD projects. The monitoring approach, and in particular the structure and format in which performance data is recorded, has evolved over time and is effectively a coming together of approaches developed by a small number of first round SIRD projects.
Given its genesis, it is perhaps unsurprising that some projects feel that the monitoring approach is not particularly well suited to their needs. In particular, some highlighted that the recording categories do not necessarily reflect the subtleties of the work they are doing and that they can sometimes find it difficult to properly represent both the activity undertaken and the outcomes achieved. This was perhaps typified by projects reporting frequent use of the ‘other’ recording categories in returns.
A review of the monitoring data, and the reflections from Inspiring Scotland staff, support this conclusion. The data gathered is certainly indicative of the type of work the projects have been doing and the outcomes they hope to have achieved, but various issues with the gathering of the monitoring data mean it should not be seen as a source which can tell the full story of project activity or impact.
Projects tended to see the bi-annual reports they produce for Inspiring Scotland as the more useful record of the work they have been doing, not least because they afford the opportunity to include qualitative information and an overall assessment of progress made and challenges faced. A small number of projects noted that developing the reports provided a useful opportunity to reflect on their work. One project went so far as to say that they enjoyed the process, as it reminded them of the extent and impact of the work that they were doing. However, some projects did have concerns that producing these reports, along with the ongoing collection of the basic monitoring data, can be time consuming and onerous.
Overall, projects appreciated the effort that Inspiring Scotland had made to adapt the monitoring approach so that it works for all of them but felt that there is still room for further improvement. Projects suggested that the approach should:
- Allow projects to showcase the work they are doing and should provide a useful source of information to support any possible applications for funding.
- Be sufficiently flexible to allow projects to record the work they are actually doing rather than having to ‘shoehorn’ their work into pre-determined categories that may not reflect the activity they are carrying out or the outcomes they are looking to achieve.
- Capture longitudinal information on client progress whilst recognising that this information can be difficult to obtain.
- Be as light-touch as possible, recognising that there is a clear and reasonable requirement to satisfy funders, as guardians of the public purse, as well as the public who ultimately fund these services.
Considering cost effectiveness
An initial expectation of this evaluation was that it would explore the value for money of the projects supported through the SIRD Fund. From the early stages of the study, it was clear that a meaningful and robust assessment of this would not be possible.
Such an assessment would need to be informed by a set of data covering the characteristics of those receiving support from a SIRD project and the type and amount of support received. Information on the short-term outcomes that can be ascribed, in part at least, to receiving support from a SIRD project would also be required. This would allow a model for estimating the impact of people’s use of independent information, advice and support on their accessing of more effective and personalised social care to be developed. Moving forward, any assessment could also draw on longer-term information on the outcomes achieved for those who accessed choice and control-related support. This value for money assessment could use the framework for analysis provided by the “4E approach”, referring to economy, efficiency, effectiveness and equity.
Although useful in itself, an assessment of the value for money offered by independent information and support, would be of greater value if informed by evidence around whether the choice and control offered by self-directed support offers wider value to the social care system. The Scottish Government has recently commissioned research which will contribute to ongoing national monitoring and evaluation thinking and help to provide a strategic overview of progress in the implementation of self-directed support.
Although a robust value for money assessment has not been possible, there is some relevant, though limited, qualitative evidence, in terms of feedback from projects and service users. Those who raised this issue generally felt that a more personalised, choice and control-based social care system could help reduce overall social care costs. This view was often connected with the preventative power that giving people choice could have and in particular on the potential to avoid or postpone people’s need to access other social care or health services. For example, one project and service user referred to the overall cost savings to the public sector of a young person with autism and a learning disability being able to stay at home rather than needing a costly care place. A service user with mental health problems reported that the flexibility that her Option 1 package gave her, along with other changes she had made in her life, had significantly reduced the number of times she engaged with health services. This service user had not used all of her personal budget, such had been the improvement in her health and wellbeing.
Equally, and as noted elsewhere within this report, many project users reported what to them had been life changing support from a SIRD project. This support was sometimes connected with a social care budget but may also have been around tackling other problems or reconnecting with their local communities. Project users sometimes felt that they would need to use other public services less as a result.
While this type of ‘softer’ evidence may point to possible benefits to be gained by investing in preventative work which the SIRD projects are arguably carrying out, the performance data collected by the SIRD projects (along with the absence of other data on the benefits of a choice and control driven social care system) makes it difficult to take this analysis further.
As noted above, the regular SIRD monitoring data is of limited value for making an assessment of whether the costs associated with running a SIRD project offers good value to the public purse in terms of impacts achieved.