Thank you to everyone who has been invovled in the project

Thank you!

The brief for this project was to consider how IRISS can facilitate leaving care services to use a co-productive method with the aim of improving social and emotional support needs for young people when they are preparing and planning to leave care. Co-productive meaning collaborative – bringing  service provider and care leavers together to work together on the project and develop ideas together.

The people involved were a mixture of service managers, practitioners and care leavers from Argyll and Bute. I’d like to thank all that were involved for their willingness to share their perspective and opinions, and to try a new approach when working together. Thanks also to people who have posted and got in touch with me about this project – please keep in touch.

However the project does not stop here –  A report about the project will be published over coming months and link to it will be posted here, as well as information about the development to the ideas and how services for care leavers are being improved in Argyll and Bute.

6th workshop

Start of the day

This workshop followed quite a similar format to workshop 5. Everyone got together at the start of the day and fed back what they had learnt about their idea in the intervening week. They also discussed and what they would be working on in their group.

Some of the groups had been able to meet with young people who were/had left care, others had not so the feedback was mixed in terms of being useful when taking the ideas forward to respond to care leavers needs.

Working in groups

After this everyone started to work in their groups, developing the idea, making changes and having new ideas.

Family and Friends pack


Where is my free Internet
















Digital Pathways

Evaluation of ideas

Each of the groups were also asked to fill in sheets that related to evaluating the development of their idea so far in order to reflect and track this information.

They were also asked to consider how they would evaluate their idea in the future as well as discuss barriers they might experience in the ideas development and how these could be addresses.

Example of evaluation sheet


Pitching the ideas

To finish the day (and to round up the last workshop) a ‘Dragon’s Den’ was created where each group had to pitch their ideas to the Dragons, explain why it responded to care leavers social and emotional needs, and explain how it was going to be developed. This was a way of sharing the work that had been completed that day with the rest of the group, and also a fun way of rounding off the session that placed care leavers voices about the quality of the ideas and hope for their development at the fore. Unfortunately we only had 1 Dragon that was a care leaver, so three was a a lot of pressure to provide thoughts on each of the pitches but the feedback was welcomed by each group.

What next..?

At the end of the session we all had a chat about how the people that were involved would like to continue to take the ideas forward and to work together on their development. Some people wanted to continue to work in the same format but meet less frequently and ensure care leavers were more involved, others were keen to use the more traditional format of a working group at which care leavers are represented.  After discussion the group decided to work in the traditional format.

5th workshop

Start of the day

To start the day we all start together and shared what had happened after we had taken the mocked up version of our ideas out of the room and tested them with care leavers. Someone from each of the 4 idea groups was asked to feedback on what had happened in the last two weeks using the mocked up idea, how this made them feel and what they thought they needed to get out of todays’ session to move the idea forward. The group at this stage supported one another with support, advice and suggestions.

Unfortunately no young people were able to make this session so feedback and discussion (although useful) greatly missed their voices. This also had an impact on the rest of the day as practitioners were not so keen (rightly so) to develop the ideas without care leavers feedback and perspective.

Catch up on the ideas

Talk Talk (formally known as ‘Proactive not Reactive’ and ‘Link’)

 This team was lead by a Service Manager so the testing involved one staff member from each of the 6 area teams identifying care leavers who had used/were using their service. They had arranged to call them once that week and see how they were going in their new place. Each time someone phoned they had managed to speak to a young person.

The Service Manager felt he had had a positive response from service staff around the idea and said no issues had been raised by young people they had spoken to on the phone. On reflection he thought care leavers may speak to through a Throughcare and Aftercare worker if they did have any issues. Other comments from people in the room were that just talking to a young person is good enough, and should not be undervalued, whether they had something to say or seem to appreciate it should not matter too much.

Some things to note about this idea from the testing were that it was felt the success of the communication would depend on the young person and what stage they were at in their life. However it was noted this was just the beginning of the testing phase and through it was a useful idea both to keep lines of communication open with care leavers so that they don’t feel isolated and well as help to develop the service using their feedback.

Lots of ideas were given to this team by people round the table around taking the approach and other services developing it too, however there was some concern that each care leaver may be flooded with calls which some people thought might not be necessary, however others thought that even if a young person does not pick up at least they know you have called and through about them that day.

My Family Pack

A Throughcare and Aftercare worker spoke about the Family Pack. She said that she had worked with one young person from the project on the pack, and shown it to other care leavers to get their feedback too. She had found this difficult as care leavers are located all over Argyle and Bute and she was disappointed she had not been able to develop the pack further in the past two weeks.

She said she was disappointed with the feedback she had received. Most young people had said that they thought they had outgrown doing this kind of work with their Throughcare workers and that he/she would already know a lot of the things covered in the pack, so they found it rather repetitive. However interestingly when the pack was shown to residential workers they seems to think it would have a place in children’s homes to support young people to think about contact with their families when they are first taken into care. Also one care leaver on the project had mentioned to a residential worker where she lived that the pack she was working on would help her get the access she wanted with her family.

I found the feedback from testing this idea interesting as it was one of the most popular ideas in the workshop, so goes to show the important the of testing an idea quickly is before it is developed further.

The feedback received about this ideas may also be due to the fact that Argyle and Bute have 2 Throughcare and Aftercare workers for the region. Therefore it may be understandable that workers may already know this information. This may not be the case in other regions of Scotland where young people can have several Throughcare and Aftercare workers due to local authority boundary changes, restructuring and staff turnover.

Where is my free internet

This group were unable to test the idea out with any care leavers but did speak to a number of young people. One member of the group mentioned that she had found it hard to bring up the idea in conversation or ‘tag it onto the end of a conversation’ they were having in relation to the service she was providing.

Some of the feedback was that service staffs seemed to think this was a good idea more than young people, and it seemed to be a tool that could be used once (as the towns in Argyle and Bute are relatively small), so once internet resources had been identified the tool may not be used again.

However what seemed to happedn (possibly as a result to fthis) was that other resources were included in the map, such as a the community centre and library. It was also used to ask young people to make their own networks with in the towns.

This groups felt quite disappointed that their idea had not taken off once it left the workshop space, but saw opportunities to learn from the ‘mistakes’ or assumptions they had been engaging with, and were pleased they had more time to develop it more.

Digital Pathways

This group seemed to take a more traditional approach to developing the idea with more research and connecting into the working groups that are established in Argyle and Bute to develop ideas. They had been working by email in the last two weeks to create a pitch for their idea, planning a testing site for the work and identifying possible funding streams.

 Working on ideas

So afte the fedback session everyone broke up to work in their groups.

Developing Talk Talk

Developing the Friends and Family Pack

Developing ‘Where is my free internet?’















Developing Digital Pathways


Whilst working on developing their ideas and getting them ready for the next two weeks of testing each of the groups were asked several questions, the answers to which they would be able to use to tell someone outside of the workshop about their ideas and why they were developing them. The questions were:

  1. Describe your new product/service
  2. How does it relate to the social and emotional needs of care leavers
  3. How is your product or service different from what already exists
  4. What are the three main barriers to the implementation of your product/service across Scotland?
  5. How could you bets introduce your new product/service to your colleagues?

 Finally each group was asked to start thinking about evaluating their idea sand it’s development. To do this they were given a sheet of paper with four columns which they were asked to answer the questions – I want to understand…, The way I will I do this…, Explain what success looks like in week one…, Explain what success looks like in week two…


Thanks go to Snook for the photography

Fourth workshop

The fourth workshop was all about developing the winning ideas. We voted on the ideas we liked by placing sticky dots (two dots each) on our favourites. The top four ideas were:

  • Where is my free internet?
  • Electronic Pathways
  • Family and Friends Pack
  • Proactive not reactive

(see the last blog post for an explanation of each of these ideas)

We then talked as a group about why we had voted on each of these ideas, and spilt into smaller groups that included people with energy around particular ideas, and would have the ability to take the ideas back into services to test.


Lots of Blue Peter style materials were made available for use. As there were two process-led ideas (‘Proactive not reactive’ and ‘Electronic Pathways’) and two product-led ideas (‘Where is my free internet?’ and ‘Family and Friends Pack’), the materials were used in different ways by different groups.

There was lots of doing and making this week so most of the pictures should speak for themselves. Anyone from the groups that wants to share what they were doing please add a comment.

 Where is my free internet?

This group developed a map that could be given to care leavers in different localities to tell them where free internet access is. These are some of the first prototypes of the idea.



This prototype is going to be floated in front of young people to see if they like the idea and figure out if they would engage with it.

Electronic Pathways

This group created a plan to introduce an electronic version of Pathways in Argyl and Bute and considered how a USB may be the best way to do this in an electronic format. They are contacting the people that need to give them permission to take this idea forward and bring together a working group to pilot it after the project is completed.


Family and Friends Pack

This group created all the items that would be in the Family and Friends pack, considered how a worker and young person would use the pack, the kind of conversations they wanted it to stimulate, and how this would enable care leavers to be provided with monetary support to make journeys to visit friends and family. The prototype is being shown to a young person who has to travel to visit his friends and family to get feedback on the idea and the prototype.

Proactive not reactive (now called ‘Link’)

This group created a script that would enable them to test out whether young people would like services to be more proactive and are using the script to phone young people who are receiving support at the moment to figure out how this would be integrated into their service.



All the groups then fed back what they had created to one another and discussed how they were taking the prototype forward in the two weeks until they meet again. Some groups were able to think about the success of this prototype, what it would look like and how they would evaluate it. There will be more posted on that and the feedback and development of the prototypes in the next post.

Thanks again to Snook who took most of these photographs.

Third workshop

Well today was all about ideas!!!!

We started off by introducing ourselves as there were some newcomers – they were included in our ‘who and where’ diagram. We then continued to work on the journey map that we started last week. I think it is fair to say it took a while to get back into this activity and provide feedback, however the discussion certainly warmed up by the end of the workshop, with ideas flying about thick and fast.

The outcome of the map was that several ideas and problems were identified and posted on post-it-notes. We split up into two rooms – care leavers in one and practitioners in another – and each person was invited to take two post-it notes – one idea note and one problem note back to their group (the picture below wasn’t the post-it-notes we used, everyone was too quick off the mark to take them off the wall so I didn’t get a photograph in time, but hopefully provides an idea of the process). We then discussed in our groups how we could respond to the problems we had chosen.
















Care leavers group

In our group, it was hard to talk about ideas because we were constantly talking about problems. I think this is a natural thing to do as everyone seems to experience quite a few problems and has energy around discussing their effects. Smaller groups were a good place to find out about what those experiences had been. We had to remember to get past talking about problems and thinking about what we could do to respond to those problems – how would we like it to be instead so we were able to explore our ideas.

Our group didn’t really follow the post-it-notes we had taken off the wall. We used them to start a new conversation after we felt one idea had been worked up, but generally we were able to identify enough problems by just talking about experiences.

One of the main topics of conversation was around money – how much people got for working, to live off, how to pay bills, how to travel to see friends and family after being placed miles away from where they live, and how to access or earn more money. This was interesting for me because the project is focused around social and emotional needs, but it seemed that for the young people, knowing about and having money was really important as it dominated the conversation. As a result, a couple of our ideas looked at how we could make information about money more readily available, what kind of information this might be, and how care leavers would access or find it.

That is just a snapshot of one of the ideas, I’m not going to share any of the others as we are yet to share them with the rest of the group. Next blog post will reveal all!

Practitioners group

Similar to last week, I am only able to talk about one group as I wasn’t in the other.  Pamela from the Forum has kindly agreed to add a comment to this post to share what happened in the practitioners group.


Sharing our ideas

As we had worked in groups, we reconvened to share our ideas. The practitioners presented their ideas to the young people who were able to comment on them, and the discussion led to a fleshing out of each idea from a concept to how it could work in practice, as well as things the young people would change about the idea and how these changes could become part of existing services.

A really interesting discussion was held around the inclusion of young people in conversations that involve decision-making about their lives, more information being shared between practitioners who do not work with care leavers on a regular basis, and services being more proactive about keeping in contact with care leavers.


There was some really interesting debate and perspectives which the group was actively involved in and willing to share. Not everyone agreed on all points, so there was a  lot of discussion around the ideas, their possibilities and potential. I was really pleased with the honesty and willingness of people to share their thoughts and am looking forward to the progression of these ideas next week.

Second workshop

The second workshop was held at the 3 Villages Community Hall in Arrochar (all the workshops will be held here – great venue!). We had a smaller turnout this week due to holidays and work commitments, but despite this, saw a mix of practitioners with different backgrounds and knowledge, as well as care leavers attend. In response to being asked the week before to give people an opportunity to get to know one another, we did round-the table introductions where people introduced themselves, shared a little bit about what they did at work, and a little bit about a personal interest not related to work. Lauren from Snook drew what she heard so you can see us all in the image below.

This session worked by using the tools and language we had been introduced to the week before, but this time they were applied to the Leaving Care service.

First activity

We broke up into two groups for the first activity; Chris, a Youth Worker from The Forum and The Debate Project, facilitated the session with care leavers, and Pamela from The Forum, facilitated the session with the practitioners. Different activities were planned for each group, and as I was only one in the care leavers group, Pamela from the Forum ha agreed to add a comment about what happened in the practitioners group. Everyone is welcome to add their recollections(!).

Care leavers group

The people in this group created a persona of a care leaver. A persona is a person made up using specific detail that the people in this group were able to draw on from their experience to create this persona.








We created Jemima Bairns, who was 16, lived in foster care, was pregnant and had been bullied at school, which led to her not doing so well in education. We decided that Jemima was a shy girl who was wary of people but had lots of friends. She identified more with adults than young people (as that is who she has most contact with), has support from her boyfriend (Jack) with the baby, likes to go out on a Friday night and tends to be too proud to ask for help.

We agreed that Jemima’s life felt hectic and that she feels lonely, scared, anxious, excited, stressed, lost, relieved, worried and, in blunt terms, that she was s***ing herself about moving on from her foster carers. We thought she might need some kind of maternity grant, moral support, support from throughcare, more staff around and have someone to hold her hand when leaving care. Other things we thought Jemima (as a care leaver) might not have that other young people have were, connections to other young people, connections to other young mums, not being able to return home after she had left, and was likely to face a riskier future.

By creating Jemima, we were able to talk about different care leavers experiences but focus upon Jemima. For the rest of the day, she became our reference when we were talking about this transition. However, she was also used to stimulate debate between both groups when the practitioners were invited to join our group and look at what had been created. The practitioners asked questions about what was written about Jemima, told us their own experiences of working with care leavers and pointed out things that were new to them. For example, one practitioner mentioned that she had never thought about the possibility that care leavers might be more comfortable talking to adults than young people of their own age.

Practitioners group

The practitioners were asked to do a similar thing to the care leavers. Pamela will post a comment at the bottom of this email to explain this part of the process.

These are photographs to show what was created during their conversation.

Second activity

When the first activity had come to a close, we all got together to deepen Jemima’s life story by mapping it along the lines of a journey. We as a group had already decided upon some of the things that had happened in her life, so this part of the workshop was used to flesh out which services she came into contact with and how the contact was made, supported her (or did not), and was delivered.

I think this activity allowed for a lot of knowledge sharing between everyone in the room. We were able to explore the ways in which services linked to care leavers, if that contact was facilitated by a worker, or if was expected that care leavers should make contact with certain services themselves.

We also learned about the different systems services use to provide support to care leavers, where and when the service starts and stops providing that support. Some healthy debate was had around why these systems were used, and, if and how that could change. One practitioner acknowledged that some elements of their database system could be changed to ensure care leavers stay on their database for longer.

We only got half way though the journey map as the discussion was so lively, and the problems and ideas that people encountered compelled them to share their perspective with others. You can see what we completed in this session below.

During the discussion, Snook wrote up the insights they had into the situation, noted down some of the problems that were arising, and opportunities they saw for change.















Debate and discussion

I think it’s fair to say there was quite a lot of sharing of perspectives and learning going on about the different systems that services use to support care leavers. One of the things that really stood out for me was when one of the practitioners shared the collective fact (after the first activity) that on reflection most of the practitioners didn’t feel they’d managed to ‘get their lives sorted’ until they were about 25-30 years old. It was noted that at the moment we are asking care leavers to establish themselves and their lives between the ages of 16-21.

Another reflection from practitioners was that they had not realised that young people may feel better able to speak to adults rather than young people of their own age, as they have so much contact with adults.

As might have been expected, changes in policy and better resources were spoken about by participants: the age of leaving care needs to be higher, accommodation resources that create a step change to living independently need to be established, and being able to return to care when needs be (as other young people are able to do) was highlighted.


So next week we are working towards finishing the map and thinking of ideas that can respond to some of the problems highlighted in the map.

(All photographs are courtesy of Snook on this post)

Welcome to the re-designing support for care leavers project

This section of the blog has been created to follow one of the projects being undertaken by the Innovation and Improvement Programme at IRISS, which is entitled ‘Re-designing Support for Care Leavers’.
Why run this project?
As a result of research that IRISS conducted on the state of innovation and improvement in Scottish social services sector, key barriers to innovation emerged. A lack of time, finance and political interests were the three main barriers that were reported by the sector – maintaining the status quo rather than focusing on the needs of service users.
This project is exploring how co-productive* methods can be used in the social services sector to use resources differently and consider how this process may effect the status quo by involving service users in the re-design of existing services.
What is co-production?
* Co-production is a word that is used widely and can be interpreted in many different ways. In this project it refers to a way of working whereby service providers and users work together to create a service that works for them. The approach is value-driven and built on the principle that those who are affected by a service are best placed to help design it.

Focus of the project
This re-design project is focusing upon the leaving care transition for young people in Scotland. It is well documented that young people leaving care face difficult and accelerated challenges in comparison to their peers. At a recent young people’s conference, hosted by the Debate Project, care leavers from across Scotland came together to share their views and opinions on leaving care. At this event, young people said that the thing they needed most, and didn’t receive when leaving care, was emotional support. Young people said that when they left care they felt isolated, depressed and lonely (Life After Care, 2009).

A young person from the Debate Project commented on her feelings about leaving care:

‘You feel ashamed and you feel isolated and you’ve got no one to talk to about it. You keep it all to yourself. I didn’t get any support, mental support or emotional support. Growing up l was always anxious or sad. When l left care I had a hard time settling down emotionally and struggled to set up my life. I feel like I was let down, I didn’t have regular contact or an allocated worker.’
People that are involved
So in Partnership with the Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum, The Debate Project, Argyll and Bute Council, practitioners, care leavers and service designers from Snook, we are working using co-productive methods to explore and develop ideas that respond to the kind of emotional and social support a young person is looking for as they leave care. We will test these ideas in practice and evaluate both the process people involved work through, and the application of each of the ideas.
Get involved!
The project will run from the 7th July 2011 until October and will be showcased at the IRISS Forum on December 6th as well as online. We are really keen to make sure the learning and ideas from this project can be shared across social services and beyond, so please read and comment on the blog and share it will people who may be interested.