THE NATIONAL EVALUATION OF THE CAREERS SCOTLAND INCLUSIVENESS PROJECTS
CHAPTER FIVE KEY WORKER AND CLIENT RELATIONSHIP
5.1. This chapter draws on the longitudinal survey of two cohorts of Inclusiveness Project clients - one tracked from late 2002 (Cohort One with three waves of surveys over 12 months) and the other from late 2003 (Cohort Two with two waves of surveys over five months). The chapter summarises the cohorts' key characteristics and the nature of the relationship between the clients and their Key Workers. Excerpts from face-to-face interviews with clients are used to illustrate key points. The next chapter assesses the progress made by the clients and the extent to which this can be attributed to the influence of the Key Workers and the consequences in terms of client outcomes.
5.2. The broad characteristics of the two cohorts were as shown in Table 5.1.
Table 5.1: Characteristics of the cohorts - baseline data
Cohort One % (n=271)
Cohort Two % (n=313)
16 years or under
17 years of age
18 years or over
No standard grades sat or studied
Four or more sat or studied
Unemployed or unable to work
In training or GRfW
In full or part time work
Contact with Careers Scotland
Pupil Referral Unit
Youth Offending Team
Mental Health Services
* Reported missing for several days or weeks at a time
5.3. In terms of the statistically significant relationships observed from the baseline data, those in the cohorts who had been most disengaged from education (as measured by frequent truancy) were more likely to be unemployed and less likely to be in education. Moreover, among those who had already left school, those who had truanted frequently were less likely than those who had never truanted to report having received help deciding what to do when they left school - for example, 36% of frequent truants in Cohort Two said they had received such help or advice compared with 59% of those who had never truanted.
5.4. The findings reinforce the view observed from the case studies and from Beattie that the transition to education, employment and training is most problematic for those who are disengaged from education and suggested that, for them, the provision of careers advice had often been of limited influence. If the Inclusiveness approach is going to maximise its positive influence, more will have to be done in terms of ensuring that those in greatest need in the school environment benefit from targeted and tailored careers guidance. The case studies suggested, however, that within the school environment the employability needs of the disengaged - or those at risk of becoming so - can be 'squeezed' by a focus on academic achievement. This issue is being addressed by Careers Scotland through targeted early intervention initiatives such as Activate.
Key Worker/client relationships
5.5. The Inclusiveness Projects placed a high level of importance on the development of a good relationship between the Key Workers and their clients so that they were able to deliver support and direct them to services tailored to their needs. Table 5.2 provides some summary statistics on the nature of this relationship as observed from the cohort surveys and its contribution to education, training and employment choices.
Table 5.2: Key Worker/client relationships
Relationship with Key Workers
Wave 1 % (n=271)
Wave 1 % (n=313)
Met Key Worker through school
Known KW - 6-12 months
Over 12 months
Frequency of KW contact - weekly plus
Very satisfied with KW help or advice
Involvement in and contribution of choices made about education, training, employment
Wave 1 % (n=109)
Wave 2 % (n=109)
Wave 1 % (n=171)
Wave 2 % (n=171)
Strongly agree that "I feel involved in deciding on my education, training or employment choices"
Strongly agree that "I feel education, training or employment choices will help me in future"
Contribution of Key Worker
Wave 2 % (n=136)
Wave 2 % (n=200)
Got client into training/helped find training or education
Friendship/helped with personal problems
Help getting employment including work placements or work experience
Help getting back into training/education
Help get job interviews - mock interviews
Wave 3 numbers (n=43)
Wave 2 numbers (n=24)
Joint decision to close relationship
Client decision to close
Key Worker decision to close
5.6. For the majority of clients, the initial contact with Key Workers came through school or the Careers Scotland with the latter taking on more importance in the second cohort, perhaps reflecting a growing prominence of careers advice in schools - although further research would be required to test this.
Duration and intensity of the relationship with Key Workers
5.7. The first wave of consultations with both cohorts (Wave 1) was originally intended to provide a baseline picture of clients at a relatively early stage of contact with the Inclusiveness Projects. However, both Cohorts in fact included a number of more established clients. Among Cohort One, 37% had known their Key Worker for less than six months, while 24% had known them for between six months and a year and 37% had known them for over a year.
5.8. Key Workers involved in recruiting Cohort Two were specifically asked to try and focus on relatively new clients who had been in touch with the Projects for between three and six months. However, the eventual composition of Cohort Two was broadly similar in terms of the length of time clients had known their Key Worker although slightly fewer clients had been in touch with their Key Workers for over a year (29% compared with 37% of Cohort One).
5.9. The following reasons could explain the higher than expected length of contact between respondents and their Key Worker as demonstrated by the cohorts:
- the Key Workers who were asked to recruit clients for the cohorts might have been concerned about the possible negative impact on their initial relationship building and might, as a consequence, have led them to recruit more established clients.
- some Key Workers involved in recruiting Cohort Two had relatively small case-loads, particularly where they were employed part-time, and were unable to recruit sufficient clients to the study.
- the Inclusiveness Projects could be associated with the retention of a high proportion of clients.
5.10. Later waves of the surveys suggested that there was in fact a relatively high level of retention of clients over long periods. At the Wave Three survey of Cohort One clients, for example, two-thirds (87 individuals) of clients were still in contact with a Key Worker. This figure includes 57 who had been in contact with their Key Worker for over six months at the baseline survey, a year earlier.
5.11. Similarly, over half the Cohort Two (106 individuals) had been in contact with their Key Worker for at least a year by the Wave Two survey, while 56 of these had been seeing a Key Worker for at least 18 months. The high proportion of retained clients raises important questions about the 'moving-on' of clients and the creation of a dependency relationship. Moreover, the maintenance of long term relationships with their clients presents a major resource challenge. Clearly, running counter to this and no doubt of concern to the Key Workers, there is the risk that clients 'pushed' to move on too early might lead to individuals simply dropping out of the system.
5.12. The Beattie principles emphasise the importance of flexible and, where necessary, intensive support for clients. The baseline surveys showed that clients received intensive support from their Key Workers in terms of frequency of contact. Forty-six per cent of Cohort One and 44% of Cohort Two clients saw their Key Worker at least once a week when first interviewed, while a further 27% of Cohort One and 32% of Cohort Two saw them fortnightly.
5.13. Later waves of the surveys indicated some reduction in the frequency of contact over time. Of the 124 Cohort One respondents, for example, who still saw a Key Worker at the time of their six month follow-up interview, half (48%) reported seeing their Key Worker less often than at their initial interview. However, just under half (44%) of Cohort One respondents who still saw a Key Worker at Wave Two were still seeing them once a fortnight or more often. Similar patterns emerged between Cohort Two Waves One and Two. By the 12 month follow-up survey for Cohort One, of the 87 respondents who still saw a Key Worker, half saw them less frequently than they had at Wave One but again just under half still saw them once a fortnight or more often.
5.14. These findings suggest that, while many Key Worker clients were progressing towards employability, significant barriers continued to exist to inhibit the process. Many clients clearly required a considerable intensity of service. That said, moving clients on was a major issue for the Inclusiveness approach and there was clearly a risk that some clients had come to depend upon Key worker support.
Nature of the Key Worker relationship
5.15. The Wave Two questionnaire for Cohort One and the baseline questionnaire for Cohort Two included questions aimed at exploring what kinds of activities clients had participated in with their Key Workers and which of these activities they found most valuable in terms of getting to know them. Almost all clients reported having participated in one-to-one meetings or discussions. A smaller proportion in each cohort had also taken part in group discussions involving other young people and in leisure activities with their Key Workers. The majority of Cohort One Wave Two respondents who had participated in each activity felt that it had helped them get to know their Key Worker ' a lot' or ' quite a lot' (Table 5.3).
Table 5.3: Extent to which activities helped client get to know Key Worker (% of Cohort 1 Wave 2 respondents who participated in these activities)
Quite a lot
No strong feelings
Not a lot
Not at all
Group discussions/meetings with your Key Worker and other young people
One-to-one meetings or discussions with your Key Worker
Leisure activities - e.g. going swimming or bowling or to the cinema
5.16. Cohort Two respondents were asked which of the three they found most helpful in getting to know their Key Worker. Among the 54 respondents who had participated in all three activities with their Key Worker, 33 said they found one-to-one meetings the most helpful, while 9 found group discussions or meetings most helpful and 10 thought taking part in leisure activities with their Key Worker had helped most.
5.17. The findings suggest that clients found all types of activities helpful in building relationships with their Key Workers. But, while group discussions and taking part in leisure activities provided a useful means of building relationships with some clients, the provision of one-to-one support was clearly a fundamental building block of the Inclusiveness approach. It was also an approach that distinguished the service for the clients and gave it greater relevance.
Findings from the qualitative research highlighted the central importance of one-to-one contact between clients and key workers in helping to build a trusting relationship. This type of contact was particularly important in helping clients make decisions about their lives through discussion of the options open to them and in assisting them with personal and emotional problems.
INTERVIEWER: What is the most useful thing she has done for you?
CLIENT: I think it is just that she has been there for me to speak to her. When you speak to someone else they always criticise you in what you are saying. (NAME OF KEY WORKER) just sits and listens and if I have got a problem we will try and solve it, stuff like that. It is mostly the listening that is really good.
However, a small number of participants were less happy about contact with their Key Workers and felt that it may have hampered their progress. The comments of one young man highlight a need to monitor the impact of key workers' caseloads on their ability to spend sufficient time with individual clients:
CLIENT: (NAME OF KEY WORKER)'s got other clients as well so he has to sort their life out as well. I think he is doing things right but it's just getting, I wouldn't say slower and slower, but slow…. (I'd like more support) … So I can get out there and do the things I want to do instead of messing about.
5.18. The majority of respondents in each wave of the survey had discussed with their Key Workers issues relating to their opportunities for education, employment or training, highlighting the importance of employability within the Inclusiveness Project. A slightly higher proportion of Cohort Two claimed this - suggesting that the employability focus was stronger for this more recent cohort of clients (Table 5.4).
Table 5.4: Whether Key Worker has discussed plans about working together to find education, employment or training (% at each Wave)
Don't know/can't remember
5.19. An important Beattie principle is that young people should have ownership over the decisions made on their behalf with regard to employability. The majority of respondents in each cohort agreed that they felt involved with the decisions made - 93% of Cohort One and 95% of Cohort Two agreed or strongly agreed with the statement ' I felt involved in deciding on my education, training or employment choices'. The proportion strongly agreeing was somewhat higher among Cohort One. The same proportion of respondents in each cohort also agreed that their education, employment or training choices would help them in the future, while just 4% of Cohort One and 7% of Cohort Two said they had felt ' pushed into' their education, employment or training choices.
5.20. Moreover, respondents appeared more positive about their involvement with their education, training and employment choices over time (see Table 5.1). For example, respondents in both cohorts were more likely to strongly agree that they felt involved in these decisions at their six-month follow-up interviews compared with their baseline interviews. The survey suggested, therefore, that the Inclusiveness Projects succeeded in giving clients a sense of ownership over their action plans and that this improved with the passage of time.
5.21. Among Cohort Two respondents, those who had frequently truanted were significantly more likely than those who never truanted to strongly agree that they felt involved with their education, training or employment choices (40% compared with 22% of those who never truant). This suggested that the Inclusiveness approach worked particularly well with those clients most disengaged or at risk of disengagement.
5.22. Respondents were asked whether their Key Worker had introduced them to other people who could help them with education, training or finding work. The findings suggested that Key Workers were playing a co-ordinating role, referring clients on to a variety of different organisations who could help them. A higher proportion of Cohort Two respondents cited being referred to people who could help them with issues other than employment or training. This may be due to the different characteristics of clients in Cohort Two who were more likely to be homeless and/or with drug or alcohol problems. The findings highlighted the broad role Key Workers adopt in referring clients on to sources of help or advice which go beyond education and training in addressing clients' wider social and emotional development.
5.23. Overall, satisfaction with the help or advice provided by the Key Workers was extremely high among clients in both cohorts, with 70% of Cohort One and 73% of Cohort Two ' very satisfied' at the baseline survey. Satisfaction remained very high in later waves of the surveys, although by the 12 month follow-up (Wave Three) of Cohort One and the five month follow-up of Cohort Two (Wave Two) revealed dissatisfaction amongst a very small number of clients (3 respondents in each case). However, the numbers are too small to be regarded as a significant caveat on the overall high levels of satisfaction with Key Worker services.
5.24. This was also confirmed by the majority of respondents in both cohorts who viewed their relationship with their Key Worker very positively at the time of their baseline interview. Almost all respondents agreed their Key Worker was there to help them and over 90% in each cohort agreed their Key Worker had made things easier for them. Most respondents also disagreed or strongly disagreed that their Key Worker was ' just another person I have to see' - suggesting that the relationship and time spent with their Key Worker was generally viewed as important by clients. This was replicated in subsequent waves of interviews.
5.25. Among Cohort One (but not Cohort Two), clients who had truanted frequently were less likely than clients who never truanted to agree that their Key Worker was just another person they have to see. This reinforces the earlier suggestion that the Inclusiveness approach would appear to work effectively with the most disengaged clients.
5.26. The baseline surveys with both cohorts of clients identified a very wide range of different types of advice and help provided by Key Workers - from help aimed directly at finding employment (such as job search, placements and work experience) to help with confidence building, social skills and personal problems. The most frequently identified form of help valued most highly was that of finding or getting into training or education (15% of Cohort One Wave Two respondents and 20% of Cohort Two Wave Two respondents). Ten per cent of Cohort One and 17% of Cohort Two Wave Two respondents rated help received getting into employment, including finding placements and work experience, as the most important thing their Key Worker had done (see the summary statistics in Table 5.1).
5.27. While help with employment, education and training featured highly, clients also placed a high value on the emotional support, encouragement and friendship provided by their Key Workers. Fourteen percent of Cohort One Wave 2 respondents and 8% of Cohort Two Wave Two respondents said that the most important thing their Key Worker had done was to provide friendship or help with personal problems. Eleven per cent of Cohort Two Wave 2 respondents said the most important thing their Key Worker had done was to help build their confidence or social skills.
The interviews with the parents of eight Key Worker clients revealed that some knew very little about the Key Workers. In general, they did not seem unduly concerned about this since they felt that the Key Workers were there for their son or daughter who should be afforded some privacy in their dealings with support services. However, one mother said that she would have liked more information about the role of the Key Worker, while another appreciated the information she was sent about her daughter's progress and what activities her Key Worker was arranging for her daughter.
Where parents did know more about the service, they made very positive comments about the differences they perceived in their son or daughter since having a key worker:
"I thought they were trying to push them in the right direction, put them all into all sorts of different placements, give them a wee bit experience in different fields."
(NAME OF KEY WORKER) has done enough to get (NAME OF SON) into the job. She's built his self-confidence, she's got him working as a team member. She's spoken to him and she's said. "If there's any questions you need to ask, I'll do it for you. Speak to me and I'll help you out".
The value added by the Key Workers
In general, participants in the qualitative research were overwhelmingly positive about their key workers. Even those who had not yet had hard outcomes were still very positive about the help they had received:
I think my life is a lot better because of having (my key worker). I feel my life is secure and that sometime it is going to be better.
Several participants commented on differences between their key workers and other adults they had come into contact with, highlighting the success of key workers in building open and trusting relationships with clients:
"He was so easy to talk to compared to most people. He talked like you did. When it came to being serious, he could be serious."
"He treats you more like a friend (…) He treats you like an adult, even when you were in school, he treats you like an adult."
5.28. The follow-up surveys with both cohorts of clients sought to explore issues around moving on from Key Worker support. Forty-three respondents who participated in Cohort One Wave Three and 24 respondents in Cohort Two Wave Two no longer saw a Key Worker. These respondents were asked who made the decision that support should stop (see the summary statistics in Table 5.1). Among Cohort One Wave Three respondents, the most common response was that it had been a joint decision (11 individuals) and in Cohort Two Wave Two the Key Worker had decided in a third of cases (8 individuals).
5.29. Respondents were asked an open-ended question as to why they no longer saw their Key Worker with the following categories of response:
- some respondents stated that they were now in a job, education or training as the reason they no longer saw their Key Worker
- other respondents stated that they no longer felt they needed support from a Key Worker - ' Don't need them anymore. I have found my feet'
- some stated that their Key Worker had left or gone on leave and that they had not been offered a replacement
- a small number were unsure or said their contact had 'just stopped'.
5.30. Most respondents who no longer saw a Key Worker said there was nothing that they still needed help with. Among the small number of respondents who felt they did still need help (nine in Cohort One Wave Three and six in Cohort Two Wave Two), the most commonly mentioned issue was finding a job or work placement, although a few respondents mentioned help with confidence or emotional support.
5.31. The majority of respondents in each Cohort who did still see a Key Worker at their final interview stated that they had not discussed with them how long they would continue to see them for - 83% of Cohort One Wave Three and 74% of Cohort Two Wave Two said this. In both cohorts, one in five respondents could not say under what circumstances they would feel they no longer needed to see a Key Worker while a further one in ten said nothing would make them feel they did not need to see their Key Worker.
5.32. These findings suggest the need to manage clients' expectations about how long the service will be available and to prepare them for moving on at some defined point in the future. Although Key Workers may not wish to undermine their efforts in building-up a relationship with their client by discussing when support should be withdrawn, failure to discuss moving-on from support altogether may foster over-dependency on individual Key Workers.
Participants in the qualitative research expressed mixed feelings about ending contact with their Key Worker. Among those who had stopped seeing their Key Worker, some had decided themselves they no longer needed the support, for example because they had a job or were receiving support from other sources. Two clients had simply "lost contact", although they did feel that they would still benefit from the type of help their Key Worker had provided.
"They made appointments for me but I just said I wasnae going. I said I was doing all right."
However, several stated that they would get back in touch with their Key Worker if their circumstances changed, particularly if they stopped working. This highlighted the success of many Key Workers in engaging with clients and building a relationship that could hopefully prevent them from "dropping out" if they encountered problems in the future.
Among some clients who still saw their Key Worker, views on the circumstances in which they could envisage moving on from their support also varied. Some participants felt they would be fine once they found a job or course, while others felt they needed to build their self-confidence or self-esteem before they stopped seeing their key worker.
INTERVIEWER: How would you know that you didn't need to see her any more?
CLIENT: Once I feel like I could deal with things myself and "talk up" for myself and things like that."
5.33. The relationship between the Key Workers and their clients was a very positive one. Not only did it provide clients with valuable advice and support in identifying appropriate referrals and securing education, training and employment opportunities but it did so in a way that gave the young people a sense of both ownership and achievement. This was much appreciated by the clients themselves who recorded very high satisfaction rates with the contribution of their Key Workers in building their self-esteem and confidence and putting them on the road to further education, training and employment.
5.34. Indeed, the contribution of the Workers was such that it might have led to a degree of over-dependence on the part of clients - as demonstrated by the length of time a good proportion of clients stayed with their Key Workers (30-35% for over a year) and the absence in a high proportion of these cases of any discussion of 'moving on'. We now go on to consider issues of client progression in greater depth.