Young people overcoming barriers

Young people overcoming barriers


Led by: Dundee City Council CLD service


One to one support from youth workers to young people at risk, delivered as part of a local authority CLD service and with other partners, has been shown to have extensive positive impacts on their lives, preventing future harm and cost in multiple ways.


Xplore is a partnership organisation with charitable status, funded through the Dundee Partnership. It acts as part of Dundee Council’s wider CLD Youth Work service, alongside local community based teams, and delivers outcomes which relate to Dundee’s Single Outcome Agreement. It was established in 2000 to provide a wide range of services to support young people aged 11-18 who were at risk of becoming socially excluded, and to help them re-engage with learning, address negative peer pressure, reduce offending or antisocial behaviour and make healthy lifestyle choices. It has a team of three Senior Youth Workers leading nine full-time youth workers linked to all of Dundee’s secondary schools and their Learning Communities (plus a Project Co-ordinator and three specialist posts)

Actions taken

Xplore’s core service is 1:1 support to individual young people.  This is enhanced by specific teams offering Peer Mentoring, an Essential Skills group work programme, and support for ‘More Choices: More Chances’ work. Xplore aims to give a complete range of support to the young learners who are referred to it.

The support provided is personalised, and is led, planned and evaluated by the young person. Young people set their own goals and targets and in discussion with workers assess their progress towards these.  Home visits and a four week assessment period ensure that the young people and their family or carer fully understand the service, allow the young person to decide whether to become involved, and ensure that support is appropriately targeted. Workers meet young people where they are comfortable, ensure that the time suits them, and identify any additional support needs that they have.

Xplore’s core support is to young people who are at risk of social exclusion due to their social, emotional and behaviour issues. A positive 1:1 experience allows them to develop strategies to overcome barriers to their progression, including setting boundaries, creating acceptable behaviour standards, adopting coping strategies at school, valuing learning and celebrating their achievements. The objectives are for the young people to:

  • Engage in positive learning opportunities
  • Improve their health and well-being and be active
  • Reduce offending or anti-social behaviour
  • Develop employability skills.

In 2011/2012 Xplore dealt with 453 new referrals and 810 young people in total, of whom 91% engaged with the service. Reasons for referral could be multiple, and included:

  • 51% Behaviour
  • 74% School attendance
  • 50% Mental health and well-being.

29% of these were self-referrals. 44% were from Education, 8% from the School Community Support Service, and 19% from other sources including Social Work, NHS, parents, and voluntary organisations.

 Partnership and strategy

Xplore works alongside partners in communities, Social Work, NHS, Education, Skills Development Scotland and the voluntary sector to ensure that it is are supporting the needs of each individual young person with a holistic support package.

Xplore works to a Performance Framework which forms part of the CLD Service Plan and in turn links explicitly to the Dundee Partnership’s Strategic Outcome 3: “All young people in Dundee will be safe, nurtured, achieving, active, respected, responsible and included”.

Evidence of impact

Evidence is recorded in a project database, Performance Frameworks and Annual Reports, and includes stakeholder evaluations, participant evaluations and young people’s testimonials.  For the 810 young people involved in 2011/2012 positive outcomes were recorded for 85%, including:

  • 378: improved health and well-being
  • 460:  engaged in learning opportunity
  • 299: reduced offending or anti-social behaviour
  • 248: gained national  or local accredited awards
  • 116: entered Further Education
  • 21: gained employment.

In addition, a Social Return on Investment Study has been used to quantify the financial value of Xplore based on the views of stakeholders and participants about its impact.

76 stakeholders were interviewed (more than 50% of them from Education).  88% of them thought that Xplore makes a ‘very significant’ or ‘significant’ difference to young people Only 5% thought that it makes little or difference.

80 young people were interviewed, and assessed their own progress in the following areas:

Numbers reporting:

Bad/ Very Bad

Good/Very Good

























Health & Wellbeing      















* behaviour in the home, school, and community

** includes exclusions, truancy, and non- attendance

74 out of 80 interviewees reported positive improvements in three or more of the above areas[1]. The responses indicated that only a small percentage of those interviewed felt they had the capacity to make changes to their circumstances unsupported, and that only the intervention by Xplore and others had made change possible.

The main surprise for the team in the SROI research findings was the high number of young learners who felt that engagement with Xplore, and the changes they were making in their lives, meant that they now felt more employable. Employability had not been seen as the focus of much of the work. But obviously these young people saw that the changes they were making would have an impact later in life.

The main financial proxy used in the SROI calculation came from the findings in a University of York paper which indicated that the costs over a lifetime to a young person and public finance of becoming ‘NEET’ can be as high as £56,301 (B Coles, C Godfrey [et al] (2010) ‘Estimating the life-time cost of NEET: 16-18 year olds not in Education, Employment or Training’[2]).

Other sources included:

  • The Princes Trust (2007) ‘The Cost of Exclusion: Counting the Cost of Youth Disadvantage in the UK’[3]
  • Brookes, M, Goodall, E and Heady, L (2007) ‘Misspent Youth: the Cost of Truancy and Exclusion’ New Philanthropy Capital[4].

Overall Xplore was calculated to produce a Social Return on Investment of £14 per £1 spent.

Case Study

Jack was referred to Xplore by his Guidance teacher as he was having problems with his school attendance, which had reduced to virtually zero. He was spending his time in bed in the house, with little or no socialising and no friends. Jack had expressed a desire to come back into full time education, but there was no evidence that he could achieve this, and he made no effort to do so.

It was hoped that with Xplore’s support there would be an improvement in Jack’s social skills and he could widen his interests and increase his confidence. It was also hoped that through regular 1:1 support Jack would engage in some positive learning and social experiences.

Initially Jack was collected from his home. After some time he built up the confidence to travel independently to his 1:1 sessions. Incremental goal setting was used as a strategy to work on this.

Over time, it became apparent that Jack wanted to work with animals, and a volunteering opportunity was set up for him to work with the Cats Protection League. Jack gave up his personal time over the weekend in order to volunteer on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

During the time that Jack worked with Xplore, he demonstrated a major change in his level of motivation and his interest in engaging with other people. The change in Jack’s outlook on education has also had a positive impact on his relationship with his mum and sister. He has more things to talk about when he is with them, and also enjoys spending time with the new friends he has made.

It is clear that Jack has built his confidence to take on new challenges. Not only is he gaining good experiences when volunteering, he is also giving back something to his community and gaining a great sense of self-worth by doing so.


[1] At 92.5%, this is higher than the project’s overall recorded 85% figure for positive outcomes, so for the sake of robustness the SROI calculations were based on the lower figure.  

[2] Available at

[3] Available at

[4] Available at















[1] At 92.5%, this is higher than the project’s overall recorded 85% figure for positive outcomes, so for the sake of robustness the SROI calculations were based on the lower figure.



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