Evaluation Blog #14: Urgent Lessons from the Talent Match Programme to Avoid a Covid-19 Youth Unemployment Crisis

In the coming months we will see record levels of youth unemployment in the United Kingdom – levels higher than the periods following the 2008 financial crises or the 1980s recession. We know that unemployment has scarring effects which can last lifetimes – and the longer the period or periods of unemployment the more significant these are on both lifetime income and wellbeing. The long-term costs of not urgently addressing this coming crisis far outweigh the costs of properly funding a response now.

The National Lottery Community Fund’s £108 million programme was a response to the youth unemployment crisis which followed the financial crisis. From 2014-2018 Talent Match supported over 25,000 young people in 21 parts of England – from London to Newcastle and from Hull to Cornwall. £108 million sounds a lot of money but over 5 years and 25,000 young people it works at around £4,000 per person supported – an amount less than previous employment initiatives.

The 21 local voluntary sector partnerships which delivered Talent Match focused their support on those young people facing the greatest barriers in securing employment. The barriers were wide-ranging and many young people faced multiple barriers: from the legacy of adverse childhood experiences, homelessness, substance misuse and addiction, disability, low levels mental health, limited or no prior employment experience, to no or low qualifications. But what was also evident was that most of the 25,000 young people had individual career and life aspirations and they had talents.

Talent Match was a radical experiment in youth employment policy. Rather than generalise as to the barriers young people faced and offer a one size fits all response, the programme took an approach which was focused on the needs, talents and aspirations of each individual young person. How did it do this? It started by asking young people what they wanted; whether in the design of the programme by the National Lottery Community Fund or by the 21 partnerships. The partnerships then engaged young people in the delivery of the programme: whether in understanding barriers, ensuring employers consulted young people or developing young people as peer mentors.

Here are some of the key findings from the evaluation of Talent Match which is published at the same time as this blog:

  • A total of 25,885 young people were supported by Talent Match. Of these, 11,940 (46 per cent) secured some form of job, including 4,479 (17 per cent) who secured sustained employment or self-employment.
  • Talent Match participants moving into work reported high levels of job satisfaction.
  • Talent Match helped support participants to improve their wellbeing: 70 per cent of those who gained a job reported improved life satisfaction; and 60 per cent for those who did not gain a job.
  • At least £3.08 of public value has been generated for every £1 spent on Talent Match programme delivery. This means that there is a positive social benefit associated with Talent Match.
  • Lead voluntary and community sector (VCS) partner organisations effectively engaged other organisations from across sectors, including employers.
  • The involvement of young people was the key feature of programme innovation and lessons on successful co-production can be drawn from Talent Match for future practice.

But Talent Match alone is not a panacea: young people, especially those facing multiple barriers (including low skills, limited employment experience, homelessness and low levels of wellbeing) will continue to need support regardless of the state of the national economy and the level of unemployment. They will need support in entering and in sustaining employment. Payment-by-results approaches to delivering employment programmes often mean there can be few incentives for providers to help these groups.

There are nearly seven million 16-24 year olds in the UK; around 1 in 10 of the national population. The last recession led to youth unemployment peaking at 1.4 million in 2011. During the period of the great recession (2008-2012) perhaps double that number experienced unemployment at some point. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the national economy is already greater than the financial crisis. What can be done to prevent between a third and a half of today’s 16-24 year olds experiencing unemployment?

As evaluators with long standing experience of employment programmes and drawing on the experience of Talent Match we believe that the following are now needed:

  • Youth involvement: the crisis faced by young people today differs markedly from the challenges they faced in previous periods of high unemployment. A different approach is required which recognises that work first solutions alone are not enough. Engagement with the diversity of young people in the design and delivery of the response is essential; tomorrow’s economy and the nature of work is likely to look very different from those of the past.
  • Person-centred approaches and key working: the value of high-quality relationships between participant and employment support provider were found to be crucial to initial and ongoing engagement. This was especially the case for young people furthest from the labour market.
  • Partnership and local employment support ecosystems: Devolution may offer the opportunity to build local employment support ecosystems. These can overcome some of the challenges of short-lived programmes interventions which have constrained employment support for a long time.
  • Support for those who need most help: at a time of huge unemployment there is an obvious tendency to focus on those closest to getting jobs. A risk of this approach is that those furthest from work, facing multiple barriers, are not given any priority. This is wrong and runs the risk of permanently excluding a group from employment and opportunities to live fulfilling lives. The response should start with the offer of a job guarantee to all those young people out of work for more than six months or who face multiple barriers in obtaining and securing employment.
  • Scale of investment required: The last major national government programmes were the New Deal for Young People which ran from 1998-2003 and cost £1.5billion and the Future Jobs Fund which ran from 2009-2011 and cost £1billion. Both had significant effects proportionate to those of Talent Match. We would advocate the development of a programme of similar ambition but designed to the challenges of today’s economy. Any new programme should ring fence at least a quarter of its budget to support those furthest from the labour market. Whilst the newly launched Youth Futures Foundation is an important start, its £90 million endowment may simply not be big enough for the challenges we face.

Finally, addressing youth unemployment cannot be left to project-based funding models. It requires investment in organisations and partnerships at a local level committed to changing the fortunes of nearly 7 million young people in the UK.


We are extremely grateful to all those who have helped in the course of the evaluation. We are particularly grateful to the staff, young people and board members of the 21 Talent Match partnerships who have given their time freely to support the evaluation. A mention should be made of partnership leads and those involved in setting up the Common Data Framework (CDF). We trust that in time the considerable benefits of the CDF will be seen in terms of contributing to a robust evidence base on which to design future policies and programmes.

A wide range of staff and committee members at The National Lottery Community Fund have helped, supported and advised upon the evaluation. Their time has been invaluable. We are particularly grateful to Jolanta Astle, Sarah Cheshire, James Godsal, Scott Hignett, Scott Hyland and Roger Winhall. We are also grateful to former National Lottery Community Fund colleagues Matt Poole, Linzi Cooke and Scott Greenhalgh who provided invaluable assistance at the start of the Talent Match Evaluation.

Lastly, we would like to thank the evaluation team at Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Birmingham, the University of Warwick and Cambridge Economic Associates: Duncan Adam, Gaby Atfield, Dr Sally-Anne Barnes, Nadia Bashir, Dr Richard Crisp, Dr Chris Damm, Dr Maria de Hoyos, Dr Will Eadson, Professor Del Roy Fletcher, Dr Tony Gore, Professor Anne Green, David Leather, Elizabeth Sanderson, Emma Smith, Louise South, Professor Pete Tyler, Sarah Ward and Ian Wilson. We would also like to thank our former colleague Ryan Powell who supported the original evaluation design and engagement with all the partnerships.

Peter Wells (Evaluation Director) and Sarah Pearson (Evaluation Project Manager)

Evaluation Blog #13: “Keeping a job is hard”

Helping achieve sustained employment outcomes through in-work support

Employment support programmes have traditionally focused on pre-employment and employment entry. Yet connecting people to jobs is not just about job entry: it is also about sustaining employment and, ideally, progressing in work.

For individuals facing particular labour market disadvantage – including those with little or no experience of employment, lacking in confidence and/or dealing with other issues – the transitions between the steps on the ‘employment pathway’ illustrated below can be particularly challenging.


Provision of in-work support is one means of de-risking the transition between employment entry and staying in work. It encompasses:

  • Practical measures to assist young people to sustain employment – such as help with transport to work, assistance with organising caring responsibilities, job-relevant training;
  • Guidance on work-related matters;
  • Supporting with non-work related issues that impinge on their ability to hold down a job from an adviser/mentor on a formal or informal basis; and
  • Assistance provided to an employer to support a young person’s job retention.

Evidence from Talent Match (a Big Lottery Fund strategic programme developing holistic approaches to combating worklessness amongst young people facing multiple barriers to securing work) demonstrates how in-work support can play a beneficial role for both young people and employers, as well as contributing at a larger scale to reduced spending on out-of-work benefits and increasing tax revenues.

Our thematic study on in-work support involved case study interviews with young people, employers and key worker/ other staff working in four Talent Match partnership areas. This approach enabled us to provide detailed narratives of specific cases of in-work support ‘in the round’ – including supporting a young person with hidden disabilities in employment, helping a young person lacking key life skills with independent living and employment, and assisting a young person lacking confidence in their current job and with planning their next job move.

The young people who were beneficiaries of in-work support valued:

  • Practical support on employment entry and in the initial stages of employment.
  • Advice on appropriate workplace behaviour and dealing with work-related issues.
  • Managing working relationships.
  • Ongoing social and emotional support.
  • Support in thinking about the next job.

Based on their experience the key workers/ individuals providing in-work support emphasised that:

  • In-work support – for young people and employers – needs to be tailored to particular cases – and so may vary markedly.
  • It is important for a key worker to provide a ‘sounding board’ for a young person’s work and non-work concerns when in employment, but to re-iterate the (reasonable) expectations of the employer.
  • In some instances it is keeping open the channel of communication with the employer (and the young person) that matters, rather than necessarily the communication itself.
  • It is important to advise the young person about courses of action to take in particular circumstances rather than taking action on their behalf.

Employers particularly valued a ‘go to’ person with whom they could discuss specific issues as they arose. This communication channel meant they were ‘not on their own’.

The study reiterates the value in viewing in-work support as an integrated element in a package of assistance from pre-employment and employment entry through help with sustaining employment to employment progression. Preventative measures can be taken before job entry (such as reasonable workplace adjustments) to anticipate common problems likely to arise.

But in-work support goes further. It can embrace reactive troubleshooting when challenges occur in employment and providing a ‘sounding board’ for young people and employers. It can assist young people on their employment path and researching and applying for relevant next opportunities.

Anne Green, City-REDI, University of Birmingham https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/profiles/business/green-anne.aspx), working with Sally-Anne Barnes, Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick (https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/ier/people/sabarnes/), Tony Gore (https://www.shu.ac.uk/about-us/our-people/staff-profiles/tony-gore) and Chris Damm, CRESR, Sheffield Hallam University (https://www.shu.ac.uk/about-us/our-people/staff-profiles/christopher-damm).

Evaluation Blog #12: How Key Workers can help young people progress towards work

Key workers are central to the Talent Match (TM) delivery model and provide intensive support over a long period. Previous research from the TM evaluation has confirmed the importance of one-to-one support, advice and guidance for young people.

The term ‘key worker’ is used to describe an individual providing one-to-one advice and support to a TM beneficiary. There are various terms used by partnerships to describe the key work role, including mentor, coach, support worker, adviser and advocate.

Case study research (see https://blogs.shu.ac.uk/talentmatch/files/2015/03/tm-key-worker-report.pdf) undertaken as part of the TM national evaluation explores the approaches, capacity and capabilities of TM key workers across the partnerships and in-depth in four TM partnership areas: Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire (D2N2); Greater Manchester; Lincolnshire; and Middlesbrough. The research draws on 22 interviews with partnership leads, key workers and young people at various stages of their TM journey.

We found different approaches to key working. TM partnerships started out with different approaches and delivery models and recruited key workers accordingly. Whilst some have emphasised a ‘youth work’ approach, others placed more onus on careers information, advice and guidance (IAG). However, all key workers spoke about adopting a person-centred approach:

“So, it’s flexibility, it’s being there to be a whole person-centred focus rather than having to try and fit someone in a box is really important.” (Key worker)

A lot of its holding hands, giving them that real one to one approach.” (Key worker)

In keeping with the ‘test and learn’ ethos, as TM evolved some partnerships have changed their approaches to meet the needs of young people. For some partnerships, there is an increasing emphasis on careers guidance support over time as young people move closer to the labour market as a result of TM support.

Key workers use a combination of experience, skills, local knowledge of services and the labour market as part of their role. A range of skills and attributes were identified as essential and necessary for those is in the key worker role:

  • communication skills
  • empathy and compassion
  • experience of working with young people
  • patience and
  • resilience (including the capacity to mentally manage difficult situations).

One key worker spoke of their attributes of empathy and nurturing as essential to their role and part of building a relationship with a young person:

So, I think it’s very important to have my kind of characteristics where you build up a friendship, build a relationship first and then get onto the nitty gritty, this is what we should be doing, can we push you a little bit further.” (Key worker)

The role of the key worker and their open and flexible approach helps young people to develop emotionally, personally and socially to ensure they are ready to progress into the labour market. This is in-line with a youth work approach which provides a strong foundation for a supportive relationship to develop. As the TM initiative has developed the need for a careers guidance approach has been recognised to support young people in the next part of their journey into the labour market. One partnership lead highlighted the need for key workers to focus on employability as well as the relationship building more typical of youth work:

I think youth work is primarily about engagement and constant contact and interaction and knowing how to get that person out of wherever it is they are and come and meet them, so probably more engagement type things, whereas I think employability background does that to some degree […] but it’s far better in asking the right questions of the young person in terms of employability. If this was purely a welfare-based project, it was just about sorting out young people’s lives and problems, I think a youth working background would be much more valid but as I keep saying to the mentors and people on the team, this is effectively an employability programme.” (Partnership lead)

For those designing employability programmes, evidence from TM supports the need for a holistic approach taking into account the emotional and personal well-being, as well as personal development of a person.

Within the TM context, the holistic approach draws upon youth work and careers guidance approaches. The youth work approach creates an open and safe environment for a young person to start their journey to employment. Then drawing upon the practices of careers guidance, a young person can be supported in developing their knowledge and understanding of the labour market and the opportunities available to them. It is this combination of approaches that can offer support to address the often complex and multiple barriers some furthest from the labour market face.

As part of their everyday practice key workers need to draw upon multiple skills and ‘tools’, as well as knowledge of local labour markets, employers, learning opportunities and services.

By Sally-Anne Barnes (https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/ier/people/sabarnes/) Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick, working with Anne Green (https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/profiles/business/green-anne.aspx), City-REDI, University of Birmingham.

N.B. The key worker research and report were undertaken with Elaine Batty and Sarah Pearson from Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University.

Evaluation Blog #11: The role of employers in Talent Match

Young people lie at the heart of Talent Match (TM) and rightly so. But if those young people are to enter and sustain employment it is important that the role of employers is centre stage too.

Employers represent the so-called ‘demand-side’ of the labour market and are gatekeepers to jobs. So Talent Match Partnerships need to understand how their local labour market works, whether and how vacancies are advertised and employers’ recruitment and selection policies. They must work with employers if they are to achieve their employment targets.

From the outset of the TM programme the Big Lottery stressed the importance of strategic involvement of employers and employers’ organisations in TM partnerships on an ongoing basis. This could be through direct involvement in the core partnership or an employer forum, so taking a role in strategic decision-making or providing strategic advice. It could also entail provision of operational advice or expertise on specific issues via involvement in other activities.

In contrast, employer engagement focuses on the practical issues of making contact with employers to raise awareness of TM and to encourage them to offer jobs, work placements and other employment-related opportunities to young people. Employer engagement can be:

  • proactive (demand-side led): finding out where there are vacancies and directing young people to those vacancies; or
  • reactive (supply-side led): identifying the job preference of a young person and finding a vacancy that ‘fits’; or
  • a mix of both.

Recent case study research as part of the TM national evaluation explores the role of employers in four TM partnership areas – the Black Country, D2N2, Staffordshire and Worcestershire. It draws on interviews with partnership leads, core partners, delivery partners, young people and employers themselves.

It highlights the importance of reputation and trust with employers. This means that young people need to be ‘work ready’ and matched to opportunities that represent a ‘good fit’. This is important for young person concerned, for the employer and for the TM partnership.

The corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda and local community spirit can be important ‘hooks’ for employers to be involved and engaged in TM. But it is important that young people are seen by employers as capable, valuable employees on their own merits, and not as ‘charity cases’.

The precise approaches adopted by TM partnerships to employer involvement and engagement vary in accordance with resources and experience. But this is a topic where there is plenty of scope for sharing experience of what works well (and less well).

Professor Anne Green, Institute for Employment Studies, University of Warwick

Evaluation Blog #10: Policy directions and young people

There are ongoing debates about how policies impact on different generations. The main message is that position of younger generations is worsening. An Intergenerational Fairness Index shows a 10% deterioration in the prospects of younger generations relative to older generations between 2010 and 2015 – although the rate of deterioration is slowing. The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee is sufficiently concerned about the plight of the younger generation relative to those now approaching retirement to have launched an Intergenerational fairness inquiry to examine questions concerning the collective impact of trends in welfare, public expenditure and the wider economy.


Despite recent falls, unemployment remains higher for younger than for older people. And younger people saw greater than average reductions in real wages following the recession. These labour market trends set the context in which Talent Match (TM) partnerships operate.


A recent review as part of the TM evaluation highlights current developments and directions in youth employment policy in England. These have implications for the work of TM partnerships going forward.


From April 2017 young people seeking to claim Universal Credit and those finishing school must either ‘earn or learn’. Within the first three weeks of claiming out-of-work benefits claimants will take up an ‘Intensive Activity Programme’ involving training in interview techniques, practising job applications and job search.


One means of setting young people on a trajectory to sustainable employment is via the expansion of apprenticeships. For young people with little or no work experience and lower qualifications, traineeships are seen as a route to employment or apprenticeships through provision of work preparation and work experience. While apprenticeships and traineeships may be positive routes for some young people they remain unaffordable for others.


Young people aged under 25 are excluded from the new National Living Wage to be introduced from April 2016. It remains to be seen what impact this will have on young people as employers adjust to the new legislation, but it will mean that young people struggling to live independently will not benefit automatically from this ‘raising of the wage floor’. Some young people aged 18-21 years will also be disadvantaged by withdrawal of automatic entitlement to Housing Benefit. To some commentators these policy changes may be viewed as indicative of intergenerational inequity.


The challenge for TM partnerships is to navigate a course through these national policy changes, alongside local developments, to support young people furthest from the labour market.


Professor Anne Green, Institute for Employment Studies, University of Warwick

Evaluation Blog #9: Findings from 2015 Evaluation Reports

A suite of new reports have been published from the Talent Match Evaluation. These latest reports are available here https://blogs.shu.ac.uk/talentmatch/

We have presented the main findings in the infographics attached to this blog.

At the end of June 2015 Talent Match had engaged 6,910 young people of whom 643 had secured employment. Those engaged are likely to be white males (Figure 1). Nearly three fifths live with their parents/guardian and around half will have at least A*-C GCSEs (Figure 3). Although a small proportion of total beneficiaries, significant numbers (compared to the general population) will have experienced homelessness, have a criminal record or been in local authority care (Figure 4).  Of those on the Programme: 23% have a disability; 14% have a disability which limits their activities; and 18% have experienced mental ill health. Although most report common labour market barriers (lack of work experience, lack of jobs or lack of qualifications), significant proportions face barriers which require far more intensive and wrap-around support (such as childcare, gaining basic skills and addressing having a criminal record) (Figure 5). 

Although it is too early to determine the overall impact of the programme it is possible to reflect on where the main challenges lie for the programme. The following are the key issues the programme faces:

  • Targeting of those furthest from the labour market: the new evidence from the evaluation shows that on the whole these groups are being targeted. However, there is significant variation between the groups supported by the 21 partnerships.
  • Sustaining the involvement of young people: this remains a key part of the programmes as well as for most partnerships. We found that there is variation between partnerships as to the extent of involvement in project delivery.
  • The local coordination, capacity and capability to deliver the programme: the likelihood of further devolution to city-regions in England will bring different challenges to the programmes, especially those inside and outside the initial plans for devolution and city-deals. A key challenge will be how to ‘coordinate the local system’ to avoid duplication with local and national system.
  • Innovation: in the mental health theme report we have published provides an example of genuine innovation in the configuration and delivery of youth mental health services. A key point here is the extent to which a local partnership can reshape the local system of support to disadvantaged young people.

We will be returning to these themes in future reports and blogs.

Professor Peter Wells, Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR), Sheffield Hallam University

TM Infographic

Evaluation Blog #8: Rethinking Mental Health and Youth Employment?

On November 18th former London Mayor Ken Livingstone responded to criticisms from Labour MP Kevan Jones by publicly stating that he was “obviously very depressed and disturbed” and “should see a GP”.  Jones has a history of mental ill health.  Sadly, such incidents and damaging attitudes are still very common in UK society, and not just in the often disconnected and childish world of politics.  Such views and behaviours discourage open and honest conversations about mental health and feed stigma.

Livingstone’s initial refusal to apologise highlights the way that mental health still lags behind other areas in terms of social attitudes.   This is perhaps surprising given that mental ill health is on the rise in the UK.  Every year, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem. Each experience is different as is the nature of support needed.  Mental health and well-being is a complex issue which often requires specialist support.  Unfortunately, as mental health concerns grow mental health services have been cut in recent years as part of the Government’s austerity drive (although £600m of additional funding was announced by George Osborne in Wednesday’s statement on the UK economy – a ray of light in these dark times for public services).

Youth mental health issues in particular are a growing concern.  This is especially the case for the longer-term unemployed.  Since the start of the Talent Match (TM) programme a very large number of those working with beneficiaries have reported mental health issues as a key barrier to work.  But, poor mental health and well-being can impact on all aspects of everyday life, not just work.  Many TM key workers have seen a much higher than anticipated number of young people facing some form of mental health or well-being issue.

The rate is difficult to pinpoint as some people find it difficult to talk about openly (for one reason, see Livingstone comments above).  Data from Talent Match beneficiaries show that 18 per cent have experienced mental ill health, but this undoubtedly an underestimate.

Recent case study research as part of the TM evaluation focuses on mental health and well-being in response to these concerns.  It took place in three TM partnerships: Leeds City-Region; Liverpool City-Region; and New Anglia.  The research draws on interviews with TM beneficiaries, delivery partners and other TM folk in trying to aid understanding.  It focuses on the experiences of TM beneficiaries facing mental health issues, support services available through TM and how partnerships are responding. One surprising aspect of the research was the way that many young people spoke so openly about mental health.  Perhaps attitudes are changing through the generations?

The report highlights the difficulties partnerships face in accessing mental health services such as counselling.  But it also details the invaluable support of TM key workers in helping people through very difficult circumstances.

Ultimately though, big changes are needed, requiring changes in social attitudes as well as systems.  Mental health services strike me as one area where less funding would certainly not produce better services, given current waiting times for accessing support.  However, the novel and “big-thinking” approach of TM Liverpool outlined in the report offers a positive example that could perhaps be copied elsewhere. It could also alter the way we think about “youth” mental health, and for the better.

Ryan Powell, CRESR
26 November 2015



Evaluation Blog #7: Talent Match Theories of Change and Logic Models


A principle of the Talent Match programme is ‘test and learn’: the programme seeks to support young people into employment but also inform policy and practice locally and nationally.

Two tools partnerships can use to help do this are logic models and theories of change. Both are similar, use much of the same terminology but have some key differences.

Logic Models

Logic models are very much tools to understand the linear relationships between the costs or inputs of a programme and its outputs, outcomes and impacts (these terms are defined at the end of this note to help with consistency in interpretation). The use of logic models can help partnerships, Big Lottery Fund and the evaluation around the efficiency of programmes (what is directly achieved as result of a certain investment) and effectiveness of programmes (the extent to which the programme achieves its objectives).

The diagram below provides a very simple logic model for the Talent Match programme. Something the evaluation team is working on at the moment will be to better understand the activities of partnerships and how these lead to different outputs and outcomes. As we collect more data and have evidence from our comparator study the evaluation will be able to able to estimate what impact Talent Match has made, and what its value for money has been.

Theories of Change

Of course programmes such as Talent Match are difficult to fit into linear logic model type analysis. For this reason the Big Lottery Fund are keen to answer various ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions. In particular how particular projects work and what makes them work in practice in specific local contexts. This is at the heart of the ‘test and learn’ approach. This is where theories of change can be very useful. Although they use some of the terminology to logic models (activities, outputs, outcomes, impact etc), they are very much about Partnerships setting out what are the key things which they believe make a difference.

The diagram below shows an example of a Theory of Change approach. It draws on some of the types of projects many Partnerships are funding although it is not based on any particular Partnership. We built this around five projects and worked  to establish  why those projects were chosen and then worked forward to highlight possible outputs, outcomes and impact.

We could have added much more detail to the theory of change. What appears of most importance is identifying some of the key assumptions, rationales and evidence which lie behind the activities and projects. Examples here might include the training and skills of staff, using a particular approach to working with employers, or continuing to support vulnerable young people once they enter employment.

Further Resources

There are lots of resources available on theories of change and logic models. We found the work by New Philanthropy Capital (www.thinknpc.org/publications/theory-of-change/) and Nesta (www.nesta.org.uk/sites/default/files/theory_of_change_guidance_for_applicants_.pdf) to be good starting points. We also think that NPC’s Journey to Employment framework (www.thinknpc.org/publications/the-journey-to-employment/) can help partnerships understand more around possible interventions. The government’s main guide to evaluation is The Magenta Book (www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-magenta-book) which contains extensive guidance on logic models (pp.21-24) theories of change (pp. 55-60).

If you would like further information please get in touch.

Evaluation Blog #6: Wellbeing and Talent Match – some early indicators

There is a growing consensus that wellbeing and other so-called intrinsic factors are important in determining positive employment outcomes for young people. The Young Foundation (http://youngfoundation.org/publications/framework-of-outcomes-for-young-people) points to a growing evidence base linking social and emotional capabilities, such as determination, self-control, persistence and self-motivation, to positive outcomes for young people.

Talent Match aims to develop interventions which are holistic, person-centred and take a long term approach. If a young person has not yet gained employment but their social and emotional capabilities have developed they may be closer to achieving employment than previously, whilst also improving their life in other ways.

In the Talent Match evaluation the UK official measures (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/user-guidance/well-being/index.html) of wellbeing are used to understand how intrinsic factors may be important to securing job outcomes. At each stage of data collection young people are asked four subjective questions regarding their well-being:

  • Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?
  • Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?
  • Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?
  • Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?

An initial inspection of the Talent Match CDF data suggests that individuals who remain on Talent Match for at least six months improve their wellbeing. This is shown in the following figure.

Figure 1: Changes in the Self-Reported Wellbeing of Programme Beneficiaries


Source: Talent Match Evaluation, 2015

Figure 2 below largely supports this picture: the largest proportion of Talent Match beneficiaries report improvements in wellbeing. However, this is not the same for all. For just under a third of beneficiaries, their experience on each of the wellbeing measures gets worse.   Indeed, engagement in the programme may surface an individual’s previously hidden vulnerability.

Figure 2: Self-Reported Well-being – individual change

Source: Talent Match Evaluation, 2015

We should note some health warnings with these data. They are intended to reveal a possible issue rather than to explore the extent to which the Talent Match programme affects these wellbeing measures. This issue will come later.

The evaluation team are currently undertaking a thematic study on mental health and young people and are aiming to report in October. We would welcome comments on mental health and the programme and more broadly around interventions to support the wellbeing of young people being supported.

Elizabeth Sanderson and Peter Wells

Evaluation Blog #5: Making partnership work (and can we really take the benefits for granted?)

It is often taken for granted that partnership is essential for the delivery of programmes to tackle worklessness. Partnership is seen to offer wide-ranging support for clients with multiple needs as well as the possibility of permanently influencing the way mainstream partners work. It seems self-evident that no single organisation can do this alone.

Yet the evidence base shows that it is tricky to do partnership well and effectiveness varies by sector. A review of evidence from past programmes undertaken by CRESR for the Talent Match Programme last year(http://www.shu.ac.uk/research/cresr/sites/shu.ac.uk/files/tm-evidence-review-partnerships.pdf) showed that partnership with public agencies such as Jobcentre Plus is not necessarily straightforward. They do not always provide the anticipated support and referrals or, where they do, sometimes refer clients mandatorily onto voluntary employment programmes. This does not work well if clients feel they are being forced to participate. Effective partnership with Jobcentre Plus depends on clear communication of aims, ethos and agreed referral terms.

The voluntary and community sector is a core part of Talent Match partnerships. Evidence from other programmes cited in the review shows that organisations with local roots and established relationships with target groups make them natural partners. However, smaller organisations can be ‘squeezed out’ if faced with hurdles such as complex and lengthy bidding processes or ‘end-loaded’ payment structures. One clear implication is that smaller, niche organisations may need capacity-building support to become partners in Talent Match.

Involving the private sector is critical for Talent Match to provide clients with opportunities among local employers. Previous evidence shows employer engagement initiatives have had mixed levels of success. Employers are not so keen to get involved if they have not had a say in the design of programmes, are unclear about objectives or do not feel like their needs are understood. However, they can prove willing partners where projects undertake early outreach work using specialist employer engagement staff, particularly if working through established employer networks. Past evidence also shows it is better to engage well with a small number of employers well than take a wider less targeted approach.

All this only matters, of course, if partnership actually makes a difference. There is little evidence to show it does but this may reflect the difficulty in evidencing this rather than a lack of positive change per se. Looking at one exception, the evaluation of the New for Deal for Communities (NDC) regeneration programme found that partnerships involving more agencies experienced better neighbourhood outcomes.

The exception of NDC suggests partnership is essential to making Talent Match work. Partnerships are already well under way and some of this may be old news. But it is likely that some of the lessons from the past will still have value in forging new links. Here, good practice around developing shared objectives, creating partnership structures and building relationships is likely to resonate. Plus Talent Match can also leave its own legacy by offering up further insights for future programmes. The benefits of partnership should never be taken for granted. But this only makes it all the more important to continually reflect on what makes partnerships tick and how they can be strengthened to better support young people into work.