This report presents findings from a pilot evaluation of the No Recourse Early Action Model (NOREAM) programme, an early intervention approach aimed to support families with precarious immigration status and “No Recourse to Public Funds” (NRPF) immigration conditions. Driven by early action principles, the model aims to prevent families from experiencing destitution by assisting them to progress across support domains relating to housing security, immigration status, income and employment, as well as health, care and wellbeing. In addition to the support offered by social workers, an integrated housing and immigration advisor provided specialist guidance to families who engaged with the programme with relevant needs. The NOREAM programme was designed and delivered by Hackney Council in collaboration with the University of Wolverhampton.
The pilot took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a significant impact on delivery and the evaluation. This is an important caveat to the findings.
The evaluation was designed to answer the following key research questions:
Theory of Change:
- What was the Theory of Change of the NOREAM programme?
Implementation of the programme:
- How has the NOREAM programme been implemented?
Indicative evidence of impact:
- How do targeted outcomes change over time for families participating in the NOREAM programme?
Resource use and costs:
- What are the service use and costs associated with the NOREAM programme?
Readiness for trial:
- What is the readiness of NOREAM to be tested in a rigorous, experimental trial involving its delivery in multiple sites?
The pilot evaluation adopted a mixed methods approach to address the research questions, which involved:
- Theory of Change workshops
- Interviews with participants and staff
- Surveys with participants
- Analysis of administrative and monitoring data
Theory of Change
- The NOREAM Theory of Change remained largely consistent throughout delivery
- In response to the challenges of balancing statutory cases with early intervention cases, the staffing structure changed, resulting in one full-time social worker delivering NOREAM as opposed to two part-time social workers.
Implementation of the programme
- The NOREAM programme was found to be feasible to deliver in line with the core principles and intentions of the delivery
- Many families received meaningful support, guided by the delivery manual, and reported improved outcomes.
- The programme faced multiple barriers when attempting to reach the target population of migrant families with “No Recourse to Public Funds” (NRPF) conditions.
- Delivery staff noted that they experienced limited collaboration from charities, community organisations and individuals due to concerns that engagement may trigger child safeguarding interventions from children’s services and reporting families with irregular immigration status to the Home Office.
- Programme staff articulated a high level of acceptability and appropriateness when reflecting on the programme.
- Some external stakeholders felt the delivery of NOREAM could discourage statutory services from taking an early intervention approach but widely supported the underlying principles of the model.
Indicative evidence of impact
- Evidence suggests that NOREAM has the potential to enable families to progress across a range of support domains, with qualitative interviews with parents/carers suggesting that this often resulted in the improved wellbeing of participating families.
- Families were signposted to new services and saw improved outcomes from engagement with external services as a result of NOREAM staff support.
- The one-off grants of around £500 per child provided to the families by the service were found to offer families critical financial support when facing food insecurity alongside other challenges.
- The programme social workers struggled to support families to complete the outcome measures independently online, due to varied IT literacy and levels of engagement during COVID-19, resulting in limited quantitative insights.
- There was a perspective among some external stakeholders that the delivery of NOREAM may be used as a means to prevent families from accessing statutory support. However, there was no evidence to suggest that families’ experience of statutory provision was negatively impacted.
Resource use and cost
- Analysis of resources required to adapt the intervention has not been undertaken. A questionnaire has been developed to collect this information in the future, should a further, fuller evaluation be commissioned.
- A future evaluation may consider implementing a schedule for tracking contacts with services such as housing officers and immigration support, and a sampling approach to data collection via a social worker time use study (diary for a seven-day period or similar).
Readiness for trial
- It will be important to clarify the space NOREAM occupies in relation to wider LA service delivery, how it interacts with existing NRPF teams and the threshold between early intervention and section 17 support.
- It will be important to carefully consider which Local Authorities are appropriate for NOREAM delivery if the model is taken to scale.
- The NOREAM manual and further guidance documents should be made as accessible as possible to ensure that they are read by social workers and inform practice.
- Local authorities should also take active steps to promote a cross-borough MAP strategy to ensure the service can fulfil its potential and be implemented as intended.
- A process should be established to ensure that families who are randomised into the waitlist control group are not prevented from receiving statutory provision should their circumstances worsen.
The findings suggest a few refinements to address issues of feasibility and plausibility:
- To stabilise the operating model and provide a guided framework to measure fidelity of the programme delivery
- To develop clear thresholds between NOREAM provision and section 17 statutory support
- To increase engagement of community organisations, including relevant third sector services, as well as education and health care providers
- To improve level of community outreach with the target population, including level of engagement across differing demographic groups
- To improve data collection system and processes.