What does this project involve?
The Guiding Young Minds (GYM) programme aims to support young people with experience of trauma to modify their potentially challenging behaviour, reduce gang involvement, anti-social behaviour and violence. Delivered by ASSIST Trauma Care, the 6–12-month programme provides intensive mentoring and trauma-informed therapeutic support to young people identified as frequently truanting, at risk of gang membership, exposed to adverse childhood experiences, or displaying high impulsivity and/or hyperactivity.
Why did YEF fund this project?
As the YEF’s Toolkit explains, mentoring and trauma specific therapies are associated with a positive impact on reducing serious youth violence. However, there are gaps in the evidence base relating to both approaches, particularly in relation to interventions delivered in an English or Welsh context. YEF, therefore, funded a feasibility and pilot evaluation of GYM, a programme that uses both mentoring and trauma-focused therapeutic support.
The feasibility study aimed to ascertain what factors supported or interfered with the successful delivery of the programmes, whether the intervention’s recruitment, retention and reach were feasible, and service users’ views and experiences of the intervention. 71 children participated in the intervention during the feasibility phase, and 15 participants (including 4 professionals, 8 parents/carers and 3 children) took part in interviews for the feasibility study.
The pilot study then aimed to further describe the referral and screening process, assess retention, ascertain the readiness for a larger scale evaluation, evaluate the implementation process, and assess the direction and magnitude of changes in child behaviour and family-functioning outcomes. 18 participants (including 5 young people, 5 adults with parental responsibility, and 8 professionals) were interviewed for the pilot, while quantitative data for 74 families involved were analysed. Data collected related to the delivery of the programme, demographic data, and some core measures (including the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), a measure of behaviour, and the SCORE 15 Index of Family Functioning and Change). 65% of the young people enrolled in GYM identified as White; 27% as Mixed ethnicity; 4% as Black; and 4% as Asian.
The evaluation was undertaken from February 2020 to April 2022. Both the feasibility and pilot studies took place during the coronavirus pandemic, requiring both the delivery and evaluation teams to adapt to challenging circumstances.
|During the feasibility phase, the use of credible and relatable mentors was consistently identified as a strength. COVID-19 impacted service delivery in the feasibility phase, reducing the level and quality of engagement with children and their families. GYM practitioners responded flexibly, providing more virtual contact.|
|GYM’s recruitment, retention, and reach were found to be feasible. In the feasibility phase, 98 children were referred to the programme, of whom 71 went on to engage. Eighty-nine per cent of those engaging with GYM were still in contact with the project by the end of the feasibility phase or had completed the programme and been discharged. The small number of children and parents/carers interviewed were overwhelmingly positive about GYM, praising the support provided by mentors.|
|The pilot study found that the referral and screening processes worked appropriately, with little risk of bias. Retention in the intervention was also very high during the pilot phase, with 93% of enrolled families continuing to participate after 12 months. While programme retention was high, completion of core measures was poor, with less than a third of the families that completed measures at baseline completing them 12 months later.|
|In the pilot phase, the evaluator found that GYM was broadly implemented as intended (despite changes made due to COVID-19). The degree of personalisation of the approach, particularly the open-ended mentoring, may make it difficult to ascertain the ‘dosage’ of the intervention in future evaluations.|
|The evaluator judges that GYM has the potential to be evaluated in a large randomised controlled trial. However, several challenges would first need to be resolved, such as whether data collection can be improved.|
What will YEF do next?
YEF has opted not to proceed with further evaluation of ASSIST at this stage.