We recently commissioned an independent evaluation of our casework model to help us better understand how we make a difference in the lives of the children and young people we work with. The mixed methods evaluation, which ran from May 2021 to May 2022, was based on 15 depth interviews with children and young people, four interviews with staff, two surveys (with 36 children and young people, and 19 staff), a review of evaluation data held by Just for Kids Law and three co-production workshops held with young people and staff to explore the findings and co-produce recommendations.
Overall, we found out just how important and distinct our work is to the children and young people we work with, with client interviewees reporting being very satisfied by our work’s impact on their lives. Our support was also found to be largely accessible and equitable: there were no examples of children and young people feeling they had been treated differently because of who they were which stood in contrast to their experience outside of Just for Kids Law. You can read the full report, but here is a snapshot of what the evaluation discovered about our impact and the effectiveness of how we work.
Satisfaction with support
Children and young people reported being very satisfied with our support, which they attributed to the way they were treated by staff, who they found to be empathetic, supportive, positive, and approachable. They also noted that having multiple support options in one place was the most useful aspect of our support.
Children and young people described us as looking out for their best interests and being more respectful and compassionate than other organisations. This approach, combined with the multiple support options we offer, are key values that distinguish us from other organisations offering support.
[Caseworker] gave me respect; he wasn’t pompous or anything like that. He was just literally always reassuring me. And I thought that was nice. He … said look, we’ll get to the bottom of this, and I can imagine how you felt. … He had empathy. And I thought that took some of the stress out of it.
Young people’s outcomes
The majority of the children and young people interviewed reported progress on the issues we have been working with them on, despite our staff having to work through multiple complex issues during the pandemic. Progress meant improved life situations, such as securing more stable housing, being allowed to return to school, maintaining custody/access to a child, and avoiding prison.
Our clients felt more confident, less isolated, more stable, calmer and less worried as a result of our support, and there was also a strong sense that they better understand their rights and entitlements too. This gave them a newfound sense of power and a new ability to challenge external agencies if needed. Many children and young people said their relationships with external agencies had improved and they felt professionals listened to them more as a result of our work.
In interviews, children and young people gave many examples of how they had learnt more about their strengths through their casework experience and how best to use these to get better outcomes.
When I was with the advocate [Just for Kids Law advocate] … they told me I was stronger than I look. We had to go through a lot of battles, especially with my caseworker [external to Just for Kids Law]. That made me think actually I can do this. I’m strong enough to overcome this.
There’s a lot of things that I’ve worked on, like writing emails, communicating with people, where I can go to for help. There’s a lot of personal strengths, but that before I saw as weaknesses, and I sort of built upon some of them. … There’s a lot of things where I’m just like, ‘Okay I understand this more now.’ And it’s definitely going to help me in the future. … I’ve always been a bit of a fighter when I know I’m right, and someone tells me I’m wrong. And Just for Kids Law have definitely helped me put it across in a more sensible manner.
For some reason I struggle with public speaking … I’ve definitely been pushed in that area and shown that I can actually articulate my story as well.
Looking ahead, many children and young people felt more hopeful about their lives and future, feeling that they better understood their options moving forwards and that they would be in a better position to tackle future issues themselves.
I feel more settled. I wasn’t settled before. I was in temp accommodation – they didn’t meet my needs – there was no time to grow, no ability to feel settled, having a place to stay and call home. I’ve always been in care. They’ve helped me – basically helped me build home. I was moving around before – some not suitable – before I had advocacy involved, I was in a studio apartment with my kids. Now I am in a one-bed trying to get to my next target. They are fighting, helping with my life issues. Everything gets on top of you sometimes, it good to have those professionals that are there.