Helping local authorities to support members of the Armed Forces community
The Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust’s Strengthening Delivery Programme had a positive impact, and local authorities that received grants to implement and improve service delivery viewed the funding as essential to the gains achieved. Researchers will now evaluate the continuation programme.
What is the issue?
The Armed Forces Covenant is a pledge by the government to ensure that members of the U.K. Armed Forces community do not suffer from disadvantage due to their (or their family members’) service. The Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust funds a variety of programmes through which local authorities (LAs) can implement and improve delivery of the pledge, such as signposting services or increasing the awareness of the Covenant more generally.
The Trust commissioned RAND Europe to evaluate the impact of the completed Strengthening Delivery Programme (SDP) and review any lessons to improve the sustainability and future impact of similar programmes.
In addition, RAND Europe will conduct a process evaluation of the Sustaining Delivery of the Armed Forces Covenant programme, which will provide continuation funding for SDP grantees to conclude any remaining activities and ensure their sustainability. This second programme is due to begin in late 2021.
How did we help?
RAND Europe conducted an evaluation of the SDP’s impact and the extent to which it contributed to an improvement in the implementation of the Covenant in the areas where funding was awarded. This included an assessment of the risks and barriers to local Covenant implementation.
The research team captured lessons learned and good practices that could help improve the sustainability and future impact of local efforts to implement the Covenant. Researchers also examined to what extent the grants supported under the SDP led to sustainable changes in terms of what they achieved.
Our approach included contextualising the policy and political landscape within which the SDP was implemented and grounding the evaluation in a logic modelling approach.
What did we find?
- The SDP had a positive impact across different strands of activities.
- Grant-holders viewed the funding as essential to the gains achieved during this period, as it facilitated various activities, such as awareness-raising events, the development of training materials, the building of referral/signposting pathways, or the setting up of new (or improvement of existing) support services.
- The SDP funding resulted in improvements by helping to jumpstart the delivery of the Covenant (by employing a dedicated resource or training LA staff) or by furthering previous work and deepening existing partnerships (by setting up support hubs or developing regional action plans). This suggests that the funding model used, in which the Trust funded different activities based on the priorities perceived by each individual LA cluster, enabled progress at different stages of Covenant implementation.
- Most activities or services funded by the SDP continued beyond the end of the grants, either through embedding Covenant delivery into mainstream processes or through achieving additional funding, thus indicating sustainability.
- The main barriers faced by grant-holders included difficulties in obtaining reliable data on the Armed Forces community and in mapping the support landscape; restrictions created by COVID-19; and lack of resources and of dedicated personnel.
- In terms of mitigation strategies, having a dedicated resource to drive implementation of the Covenant was viewed by most grant-holders as essential. In addition, challenges were also overcome through having good relationships with partners; ensuring good project management; and maintaining the flexibility to adapt to new needs and challenges.
What can be done?
To address some of the barriers identified in the report, RAND Europe provided recommendations intended to help LAs improve the provision of services to the Armed Forces community, as well as to highlight areas where the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust might be able to better support and empower its grant-holders in future funding programmes.
- LAs may benefit from having the right individuals in place, ideally in dedicated posts, to improve delivery of the Covenant.
- LAs may benefit from exploring barriers to private-sector implementation of the Covenant.
- The Trust and LAs may benefit from identifying best practices for collecting data about the Armed Forces community.
- As part of future funding programmes, the Trust may benefit from
- providing additional support to grant-holders and
- continuing to offer applicants the option of clustering, while also providing guidance on how to best form and utilise clusters.