"The main aim of this programme was to promote a range of knowledge exchange activities focussed on tackling child poverty through a multi-agency approach and to improve the effectiveness of services delivered to local communities. The project developed as a partnership between the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow City Council, West Dunbartonshire Council and Save the Children, Scotland.
The knowledge exchange activities consisted of a series of five workshops looking at how agencies and families can work together, placement exchanges between the university and local authority partners and five small scale projects conducted in local communities, which focussed on consultation with vulnerable families on how services can be improved. Also, a synthesis of existing evidence on inter-agency working was completed. In total, over 200 service providers participated in events (workshops, projects, placements) and over 100 families took part in projects.
Findings reveal that successful integrated working requires clear vision and leadership from partner agencies, commitment to make things happen, good relationships and mutual respect between services collaborating and a supportive culture of working in multi-agency teams. A shared knowledge exchange agenda is key, with flexibility in relation to different cultures of working, different languages and changing priority agendas."
"There were two types of findings emerging from the programme; one on the immediate topic of investigation (ie effective service delivery in tackling child poverty) and the other related to the KE processes.
Effective service delivery in tackling child poverty:
In Scotland, there is clear commitment at national, local and regional level to tackling child poverty and improving service delivery for the poorest families.
The integration of services and multi-agency working are a central part of current policymaking, although their implementation is not always straight forward.
Successful integrated working requires clear vision and leadership from partner agencies, commitment to make things happen, good relationships and mutual respect between services collaborating and a supportive culture of working in multi-agency teams.
Parents and practitioners identified several characteristics of staff working collaboratively: they need to be experienced and have specialist skills, dedicated and committed and able to communicate and empathise well with families and colleagues from partner agencies.
Addressing family poverty through a multi-agency approach is not necessarily a specific target of any policy or individual service, although it is seen as an underlying problem of other issues that are identified and tackled.
When it comes to service improvement, the influence of service users is less clear than that of professionals, although there is acknowledgement that it is important to know what poverty is like form the perspective of those experiencing it.
Service users in poor areas (adults and children) want services to be easily accessible at point of entry, flexible (but with continuity of professionals involved), of good quality, responsive and involving families in decisions and non-judgemental.
Key issues in improving services include faster access to support, early intervention to avoid likelihood of crises, access to wider range of services and improved identification of vulnerable groups.
Frontline universal services, home visits and 'one-stop' shops in communities are seen as valuable for families and seem successful in engaging with those who might otherwise be 'invisible' to services.
Findings related to the processes of knowledge exchange:
All participants in the programme valued the benefits of engaging in KE and were enthusiastic about taking part, but almost all encountered difficulties in sustaining participation.
Collaborations are complex and often difficult to manage; barriers to participation included heavy workloads, restructuring and changes in individual roles, complex job demands, limited decision making power in some roles; sustained support from managers is key for practitioners to participate.
Practitioners wanted information presented in an easily accessible format and events that would have an immediate benefit for their job. Parents involved also had high expectations, directly related to improvements wanted in service.
Feedback on workshops was consistently high, with participants valuing opportunities to share practice and ideas. Many considered attendance as time well-spent and very valuable for their job.
Work-based, work-related, practitioner and parent-driven projects are more successful and manageable than externally driven initiatives; trust between partners and ongoing fostering of relationships are key to long-term sustainability.
Successful, sustainable KE processes need commitment from all partners and a shared KE agenda, with flexibility for unpredictable changes and willingness from all parties to learn about the different cultures of working, different 'languages' and priority agendas."