Universal support delivered locally trials-Policy in PracticeEvaluating Universal Support delivered locally trials

Policy in Practice was part of the consortium that evaluated Universal Support delivered locally trials, along with the Learning and Work Institute and BMG Research, on behalf of DWP.  In July 2016 DWP published the findings of the trials and Dr Jane Colechin of the Learning and Work Institute, who visited many of the Universal Support sites, neatly summarised our findings here.

Help for people moving on to Universal Credit

Universal Support delivered locally is the framework for the delivery of local support to Universal Credit claimants that may require transitional support, in particular due to digital and personal budgeting support needs. As part of this framework, eleven areas were selected to trial different aspects of partnership working, needs assessment and delivery of support. trials, which ran between September 2014 and August/ November 2015.

The focus of the Universal Support trials was on helping vulnerable residents adjust to some new aspects of the way Universal Credit is designed, such as monthly budgeting or making and managing their claim via online self-service. The trials also explored different models of partnership working between Local Authorities, Jobcentre Plus and organisations that can provide transitional support.

Four stages to designing support

There was no ‘one-size fits all’ support model, with each trial operating on a tight budget and making the most of (and building on) resources that were available locally. However, there were four key elements of effective delivery across all (or most) sites.

  1. The identification and engagement of participants;
  2. How support needs were identified and diagnosed through ‘triage’ and assessment;
  3. The referral and case management of support;
  4. How support was delivered.

The structure, organisation and effectiveness of each trial developed over time. Typically, the starting point for delivery was on ensuring effective support was available, with a fast growing focus on engagement and assessment, as it became clear that the benefits of support had to be ‘sold’ to participants.

Five elements for successful delivery

Another important driver of the success of a trial was the speed and strength of how quickly relationships between different local partners were developed on the ground. The evaluation identified other elements as important to the successful delivery of the Universal Support element of Universal Credit:

  1. The existence of clear and common success measures;
  2. The existence of the right governance, partnerships and management to oversee these locally;
  3. That claimants can be identified, engaged and screened through different channels;
  4. That co-location and integration are further explored and the benefits (where evident) are harnessed;
  5. That the right systems and process are in place to enable effective local delivery of support – in particular around data sharing, local service mapping and case management.

The importance of social and life skills support

A gap in the evaluation was its focus largely on the financial and digital support offer to residents, to the exclusion of social and life skills support, which was frustrating to many of the frontline advisors participating in the trials. They found that they had to focus on the residents’ immediate acute need, such as help with a housing or debt issue, in order to secure engagement and participation in the financial and digital support elements of the trial. A trusted case worker was an important element of successful outcomes.

The ambition of the DWP in future trials will be, we hope, broader and expand to include support for those with additional complex barriers to playing a full and positive support in society.

Joining the dots – Universal Credit and local support

Policy in Practice finds that, in order to provide the holistic support possible for the complex needs of even the most vulnerable residents, it is vital that local authorities employ a data driven approach to validating what the best support programmes look like, within the budget available.

Read Joining the dots – Universal Credit and Local Support where Deven Ghelani looks at the opportunities for Universal Credit and Local Support offered by local authorities, and how this can be harnessed.

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