Changing the Landscape – Project Evaluation of the “Reaching Communities Support 360 Project.” Final Report.

Wainwright, John Peter orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8190-0144, Karolia, Ismail, Hargreaves, Paul and Ridley, Julie orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-0879-308X (2023) Changing the Landscape – Project Evaluation of the “Reaching Communities Support 360 Project.” Final Report. Project Report. UNSPECIFIED. (Unpublished)

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Executive Summary
The final project evaluation report of the National Lottery funded IAG Support 360 Project builds on the interim report (submitted June 2021). This report highlighted the effectiveness of the partnership – led by Lancashire BME Network and comprising four partners – Bangladeshi Welfare Association, ITHAAD, Northern Community Network and the People’s Enterprise and Empowerment Forum).
The current report continues to explore the main themes previously highlighted – namely how the partnership was working to provide Information, Advice and Guidance to vulnerable communities in addition to looking at the impact on social capital and community connectivity. It also seeks to explore:
1. The reasons that beneficiaries chose to access one of the partner organisations rather than established employment, advice or statutory services.
2. How the service was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit
3. How could service delivery be improved.
4. Was there a legacy element left by the project?
Key Findings
1. The partnership worked effectively to deliver on the project aims - significantly exceeding the targets (1083 against a total target of 540)
2. The majority of clients that accessed the service were from South Asian (heritage) backgrounds – primarily Pakistani and Bangladeshi. However, the project also identified the presence of South Asian heritage communities that held citizenship of a European country (such as Italy, Poland and Romania) and had subsequently moved to the UK. These communities sought support to secure settled status following the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union. Approximately a third of survey respondents felt that Brexit had had a negative impact on their lives.
3. In addition, the partners supported clients from Irish, Syrian, Afghani, Romanian, white British, and Moroccan backgrounds.
4. Approximately 50% of clients sought benefits advice during their first contact with the IAG service. Legal advice was another key area of support provided.
5. Postcode data highlights that most clients were resident within a 2km radius of the offices of the IAG support providing organisation. A significant number lived within a 1km radius.
6. Clients accessed the service due to high levels of trust in the organisations, and often came to them either through a personal recommendation, a referral by another organisation, through prior knowledge of the organisation or due to proximity of residence.
7. Clients were generally aware of the existence of other services e.g., mental health services, law firms and advice services in addition to the IAG Support 360 service.
8. The use of female volunteers highlighted the demand for support by female members of the community.
9. Digital illiteracy rates are higher for communities in Pennine Lancashire than for other parts of the UK. This was highlighted during the pandemic.
10. The impact of Covid-19 led to an increase in demand for support. This was met with creative approaches to service delivery – such as the client using WhatsApp to take photos of letters which were then live-translated into a community language during a phone call between the advisor and client. Clients also reported feeling more anxious as a result of covid and felt as though they would need more support in future.
11. Participants identified a number of characteristics of an effective organisation – including locality, flexibility, confidentiality and responsiveness (see page 31 for complete list).
12. It was recommended that further funding be sought to continue the project as a need has been identified, and the model produced by LBN, and partners demonstrate that communities can become self-reliant when capacity and skill is developed. Further funding would relieve the burden on already overstretched public services.

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