Report: Evaluation of the SHiFT Feasibility Study

CEI's feasibility evaluation of an innovative youth justice approach has just been published by the Youth Endowment FoundationSHiFT aims to support children and young people (aged approximately 11-25) who are caught in a destructive cycle of crime, to reduce reoffending and improve wellbeing.

Our evaluation, informed by implementation science models including the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research, assessed the early implementation and feasibility of SHiFT and how the SHiFT approach and its implementation could be strengthened. 

The study found that SHiFT was feasible to implement and was reaching the intended group of young people. The approach had high acceptability to stakeholders, particularly for its potential for flexible, creative, child-centred working that was not constrained by standard service remits such as service thresholds or age and geographical boundaries. It was well aligned with local cultures, values and priorities, and with wider strategic directions in youth justice, and the available evidence indicated that the intended practices were being used. 

Designed by a group of social innovators, the programme is delivered by Practices of trained Guides with backgrounds in youth justice, social work, education, and youth work. Practices are hosted by organisations that partner with SHiFT (often Local Authorities) and Guides work as ‘insider-outsiders’ to maximise their potential for high impact working and system change. The SHiFT programme seeks to deliver highly flexible, creative, intensive, child-centred personal support, doing 'whatever it takes to help children and young people (up to the age of 25).

One of SHiFT’s four Co-Founders was Sophie Humphreys OBE, who also instigated the Pause programme which works with women who have experienced, or are at risk of, repeat removals of children from their care, providing intensive support to break this cycle. SHiFT uses the same 'Breaking Cycles' approach, aiming to find the 'hook' that is a young person's motivation to stop offending, building a therapeutic relationship, tailoring support to the young person, and showing persistence in helping them to move forward to a different future. 

YEF funded a feasibility study of early implementation of SHiFT in two pilot sites (where Host Organisations for the Practices were both Local Authorities) in London. SHiFT Guides are employed by the Host Organisation, and are supported by the SHiFT national team to help to ensure that the principles and innovative practices of SHiFT are followed. 

Our project with SHiFT began with a series of workshops with the national team to develop a detailed logic model setting out assumptions about how SHiFT works, which we supported with some targeted dives into published evidence. The workshops also pinned down the specific impacts for young people that were intended. We researched available validated measures relating to those impacts, selected three with the team to be used in SHiFT's data system, and ran a data workshop to troubleshoot challenges in data collection. SHiFT Guides also use an 'Exploration Tool' to identify children's needs, strengths and aspirations and to track changes across seven domains of life. 

The early evaluation highlighted the importance of pre-implementation planning to ensure SHiFT is well supported by the Host Organisation's infrastructure (policies, practices, decision-making forums, management systems etc.) and is positioned clearly within the local service systems. This is challenging to get right in operating models where staff are employed locally but working to a model that is 'held' by a central team - and where the approach is intended to constructively disturb and challenge the existing system. We recommended establishing an implementation team in each site, representing functions across local Host Organisation and national SHiFT team, to lead pre-planning, and to assess and plan strategies for readiness. 

The flexibility of the model made it difficult to have a clear and consistent narrative of how SHiFT is differentiated from, and adds value to, services as usual. This was being addressed with a further specification of the practice model, more training for SHiFT Guides, and more engagement and clearer communication with local services. 

We were glad to have the opportunity to work alongside SHiFT in the evaluation, and we look forward to seeing the future development of this approach - in an area of work where child-centred and effective innovation is much needed.  

Download the report

Suggested citation:

Smith, S, Mann, G & Lewis, J. 2022. Evaluation Report: SHiFT Feasibility Study, Centre for Evidence and Implementation.