What does this project involve?
STEER is a six-month mentoring, coaching, family support and case management programme that aims to reduce offending amongst at-risk young people. Delivered by the Salford Foundation, STEER targets 10-17 year-olds who are at risk of involvement in crime because they have an association with a peer or family member(s) involved in serious violence, organised crime, or gangs, and have demonstrated certain risk factors (such as exhibiting violent behaviour). Delivered by trained youth workers, the programme involves four weeks of initial interactions and assessment, followed by 24 weeks of weekly one-hour, face-to-face, one-to-one mentoring. Young people also receive an additional one hour of weekly casework support, and parents and carers are offered 14 hours of Family Support Work.
Why did YEF fund this project?
As the YEF’s Toolkit strand on mentoring explains, mentoring is associated with a moderate impact on reducing violent crime. On average, mentoring reduces violence by 21%, all offending by 14%, and reoffending by 19%. We also know that mentoring programmes have tended to have larger impacts when they work with children at higher risk of involvement in crime. We have a moderate confidence in the impact of mentoring, and there are a very limited number of robust evaluations undertaken in an English and Welsh context.
YEF, therefore, funded a pilot evaluation of STEER, that aimed to ascertain whether the programme should progress to be evaluated in a large, efficacy, randomised controlled trial (RCT). The evaluation explored whether recruitment, randomisation, retention, and data collection worked in practice, whether the evaluation tools used in the pilot were appropriate, what sample size may be required for a future study, and whether the programme was implemented with fidelity to the STEER model. To answer these questions, the evaluation used a pilot, two-armed, RCT.
Following referral, young people were randomly assigned either to a treatment group or a control group. The treatment group received STEER and young people in the control group attended two meetings with a STEER practitioner (after randomisation and 6 months later) where they received signposting to existing services and had any safeguarding needs identified and addressed. Participants completed a questionnaire prior to randomisation and six months later (i.e., following the delivery of the programme for the treatment group and the final signposting and safeguarding meeting for the control group). Both the baseline and the six-month questionnaires included the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), and the Self-Reported Delinquency Scale (SRDS), and the six-month questionnaire also included the Social Support and Rejection Scale (SSRS). The findings were also informed by monitoring data on delivery collected by the Salford Foundation which included background data on participants. Interviews were also conducted with nine young people, nine STEER staff, and eight wider programme stakeholders.
As of 2 May 2023, 50 young people had been recruited to the treatment group and 51 to the control group. Baseline outcomes measures for 97 young people had been received. Data on the ethnicity of young people was available for 95% of participants. Of these, 79% identified as White British, 6% as mixed/multiple ethnic background, and 4% as Black/African/Caribbean/Black British ethnic background. Although caution should be applied when interpreting data due to the small numbers involved, the demographic data suggested that there were slightly smaller proportions of young people from ethnic minority backgrounds in STEER compared to the local 10-17 year-old population. Key programme stakeholders reported that this is mostly linked to under-representation in identification and referrals, and that during the efficacy study they will continue to explore and address this with partners.
The pilot ran from January 2022 to May 2023.
|Recruitment, randomisation, and retention processes were successfully delivered. 168 young people were referred and 73% of those eligible consented to participate. 91% of the young people who started STEER continued to engage with STEER at the time of report writing. Take-up of the family support element was lower than anticipated (10%).|
|The questionnaires were effectively administered, appeared to be reliable, valid, and practical, and outcome data collection rates were high. For example, all items in the SDQ had an 89% completion rate or higher at baseline and a 95% completion rate or higher at after six months.|
|STEER was delivered in line with the Theory of Change. Across the cohort, all mandatory and optional topics were covered in one-to-one sessions (as reported by STEER staff and demonstrated in monitoring data).|
|The RCT design was generally acceptable to stakeholders. This was supported by the level of trust that stakeholders had in Salford Foundation, and the demand for support for the target cohort. A small number of wider stakeholders had concerns regarding randomisation.|
|STEER is ready to move to an efficacy RCT. The project met each of the progression criteria and does not require significant change ahead of larger scale evaluation.|
What will YEF do next?
YEF is proceeding to a further evaluation of STEER with an efficacy RCT.