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What is an activity agreement?
An Activity Agreement is a creative package of activity and learning that is built around a young person’s needs and interests. This could be a range of activities from music and construction to equine assisted therapy, bushcraft and green woodworking, which enable the young person to become confident and learn transferable skills for the workplace. They are supported to set goals and targets and make the changes they need to, building skills to enable them to progress positively. This video focuses on a number of young people who have been successfully involved in Activity Agreements.
PDF file: The Activity Agreement Model - How the Activity Agreement approach can support flexibility and choice in the development of Curriculum for Excellence senior phase learning and pathways (319 KB)
How are they set up?
In East Lothian, a transitions officer from East Lothian Works employment Hub attends all school Hub meetings across the local authority. The purpose is to identify young people who are cause for concern. Skills Development Scotland, Bridges Project, and community groups also attend, and the best course of action for each young person is discussed. The partners will have different relationships with the young person and they can contribute to a discussion on the best and most meaningful way forward including partner support if necessary. The Hub meetings take place four to six times a year. Referrals can also come from social work, other agencies and families.
Many vulnerable young people need additional support to make the transition to the world of work or training, even if they are academically able. They need very specific, bespoke training which can move at a pace where they are able to flourish and achieve their full potential. The allocation of a specific support worker who can guide them through difficulties, keep them on track and support them to make the changes that they need to make is invaluable.
Interventions are different for each individual and are identified through one-to-one support with their trusted professional and the creation of an action plan. Therapeutic services such as counselling and equine assisted therapy can be used to address poor mental health. Learning new skills through green woodworking or music promotes confidence and transferable skills for the work place. Young people can access work experience placements which give them and insight into the world of work and give them experiences for their CV.
Young people receive six months of aftercare, allowing their transition to work or training to remain a good experience and enable them to sustain their positive destination. The aim is to allow young people to make steady progress, build capacity, and address difficulties so they can become independent and access routes into progression through further education, apprenticeships, volunteering, paid employability training and employment.
What is the impact?
The imapct of the Activity Agreements can be evidenced by quarterly reporting to Scottish Government around numbers of young people progressing to positive destinations and what these destinations are - young people participating, young people being referred, and young people being worked with to enable positive engagement to begin.
In the first half of 2016/17, 100% of young people on Activity Agreements in East Lothian progressed to a positive destination; 40% went into employment; 30% to further education; 20% took a training place with the Employability Fund at stage 2; and 10% took temporary employment with Community Jobs Scotland.
The impact of the aftercare service which was identified as a need some years after Activity Agreements started has been significant. Young people are able to access services such as counselling to support their transition to training or employment. As a result, sustained destinations have increased and a smaller number of young people fail at their next step and fall into bad habits and routines.
How to use this exemplar to improve practice
This service works best when it is widely referred to by partners, schools, agencies, social work, police, and health services. Young people are generally referred from school, but more work is being done so that the wider community has a good knowledge of the service and an understanding that anyone can refer. This has been done through a series of presentations to schools, social work, educational psychologists, and supported accommodation.
If a young person initially has a destination when leaving school but does not sustain that destination or circumstances change, any professionals who comes into contact with that young person could refer them to ensure that they are getting the kind of tailored support needed to remove barriers and focus on skills for work.
- Closer working with partners in the community could improve early identification of young people who fit the criteria for Activity Agreements.
- Partners who already have a relationship with young people, and could act as the Trusted Professional for that young person, could be identified.
- Better tracking of community initiatives could help identify suitable young people and help monitor the progress which otherwise is unaccounted for.
Self-evaluation is key to improve the Activity Agreements service. The service is a rolling one with no start and end date to training. As a result, evaluations can be sporadic. Young people can move on, and while working successfully they can be reluctant to engage with evaluations.
Standardised evaluations should be done on a regular basis throughout the young person's journey with a closing evaluation done when they are job-ready. The young people’s evaluations could then be used to inform best practice and provide suggestions on how to improve the service. There should also be once-yearly refresher sessions for other practitioners and agencies to inform them about any changes/improvements to the service. This could be scheduled at the beginning of each year.
Next steps will be planned in conjunction with Scottish Government after statistics and figures are provided at the end of the year.