The Respect Young People’s Programme (RYPP) has been running for just over a year now, and so it seemed like a good time to catch up with the director of the programme to hear how it’s been going. RYPP is an intervention for 10-16 year olds and their parents where the young person has used violence or aggressive behaviour towards a parent. Many thanks to Neil Blacklock of Respect, who has written this End of Year Report, with especial attention to lessons learnt. I was particularly interested to read about the management and organisational lessons, as this is an area which we do not address so often.
The Respect Young People’s Service have been working on this for some years, designing an intervention, replicating this in a number of settings and assessing outcomes and costs. Our approach is to be non-blaming or stigmatising and to provide practical support and tools to effect change within families. The aim is to end up with a good knowledge base about the RYPP model in terms of:
1. How to implement in a range of settings
2. How much it costs
3. Which families are most likely to benefit
4. The outcomes for the young people
5. What aspects of the programme are most effective in engaging families and are likely to have the most impact
The RYPP is funded under the Big Lottery Realising Ambition Programme and will run through the end of 2015-16. Realising Ambition is a programme to improve the evidence base on interventions that can stop young people’s drift into criminality. The programme is overseen by a consortia which includes Catch 22, Young Foundation, Social Research Unit and Substance, who support the projects to develop models of service provision that can be replicated. We are at the end of the first full year of RYYP delivery and it has been an amazing, at times baffling, but overall, fascinating year. We have learnt a lot about how to implement this APV (adolescent to parent violence) intervention, how Respect can support other service providers and how inventive practitioners can be at engaging young people and their parents in change.
At the end of March 2014, 140 families had benefited from the RYPP; a total that is increasing by just over 50 per quarter.
The RYPP is a structured programme for both parents and young people in parallel and joint sessions with a focus on building upon the strengths of their relationship and supporting changes in both parenting and the behaviour of the young person.
As practitioners ourselves, our interest is often drawn to the programme and how to effect changes in individual clients or families. This year, however, we’ve taken a step a back to observe the macro organisational level. Respect is not the service-delivery organisation in this project and instead works with a range of partners to support their delivery. Respect trained the partners and provides monthly supervision to the staff delivering the RYPP as well as implementation support for managers.
We started off delivering the RYPP in seven diverse and totally independent settings, but this is now down to five. Three organisations got into difficulties early on but one of these has managed to pull that back on track. The five organisations remaining are all delivering well.
When practitioners work with a number of clients we’re always interested to know what it is that makes some succeed and others drop out or fail. This time our group consists of 7 organisations rather than 7 young people. So for us the important question is; why did some organisations struggle and others excel?
The most significant factor seems to be the amount and the stability of the management resource. The reason some projects did not have the management resource had little to do with the quality of the managers. The services that struggled had managers who were stretched beyond reasonable capacity trying to deliver cost savings, being reorganised (cuts), or who had to devote their time to resource-hungry commissioning processes. The management support is critical to
- support staff in prioritising workloads so that the RYPP work happened
- strengthen referral pathways and co-working with other agencies
- ensure that referrals were well selected and appropriate
- support staff in the culture change needed to deliver the structured programme effectively
Services with greater management stability managed to deliver well. The delivery partners are a domestic violence agency, a Youth Offending Service, two family centres and a women’s centre. Two of these five increased their delivery by an additional 50% by the end of March 2013.
At the start none of the partners were experienced in delivering structured work in one-to-one or family settings, the move away from a client centred approach involved a steep learning curve. This in turn required a setting where vulnerability and uncertainty could be embraced and supported by managers as part of the learning process.
Our year one data is telling us the young people benefiting from the RYPP are similar to those described in much of the research around APV.
50% are 13/14 years old
60% are in lone parent families
80% are boys
36% have prior social work involvement
27% have police involvement
Education are one of the biggest referrers into the RYPP, although an increasing number of cases are self-referred. Most, although not all, of the services have found themselves under pressure to take more complex higher risk families. Some have resisted this and set lower thresholds in terms of risk and complexity than others. It has taken longer to get families with more complex needs through the programme and providers adapt their response, putting in place more support and additional crisis response work.
One RYPP provider has also had referrals into the service who fell below the risk/need threshold. Families who did not need the intervention were offered a lighter touch support.
Culture change to deliver the RYPP
The implementation literature is full of case studies where organisations have struggled to make the cultural change that a new innovation requires. It’s one thing to take people used to structured groupwork and teach them a few new exercises. It’s quite another to ask people to move from a client centred or advocacy style approach straight into structured work. Providing staff with a few days training and then expecting them to change the way they have previously worked is a road to failure. With any new way of working there is a pull to go back to the familiar, particularly if something at first feels hard to deliver. Getting the balance right between attending to the individual current needs of the family and delivering the intervention can also be a challenge. New workers adhere rigidly to the exercises and often feel that it’s an either-or between fire-fighting the current crisis and using the programme to address the root causes of the frequent conflagrations. However, with support, staff become so familiar with the RYPP that they do not need to think about the structure and can channel their resources into making the programme fit the family’s needs. Eventually they find that much of the time the structured exercises can be used to explore route causes through using current crises as examples.
We have number of measures that are assessing the effectiveness of the intervention. It’s still a little early for us to talk about outcomes in detail. However, the SDQ (strengths and difficulties questionnaire) scores are showing that young people at the start of the intervention have higher levels of distress than we expected and the post intervention SDQ’s show positive change. Initial feedback from case studies is demonstrating improved family communication, a reduction in family conflict, reduced aggression, improved positive parenting, improved attendance at school and a shift away from negative peer groups. Further evaluation information will be available early 2015 and we will look for to including more this in next year’s end of year report.
We would like to thank all the RYPP service providers for their commitment to turning young people’s lives around and for letting Respect work with them. A list of the RYPP partners can be found here or contact RYPP via firstname.lastname@example.org
Once again, many thanks to Neil for taking the time to write this for us. It is so important that we are able to learn from each other in developing services in this field.