In this guest blog, Gary Smith, member of the Fife welfare reform inquiry team, reflects on the experience and impact of the collaborative action research activities.
We established the Welfare Reform PIT (Partnership Innovation Team) in March 2015. Initial membership was comprised of practitioners working within the field of welfare reform, organisations within this field, and representatives from Fife Council's policy and research teams. This disparate mix of backgrounds and viewpoints was ultimately a key factor in the success of the group, after some initial concerns were overcome.
The group was initially somewhat slow to come together and find a focus. In some instances, operational staff and staff who traditionally worked in an office-based role had not worked together before, while pinpointing an appropriate research question for the group also took time. Once the group bedded in, members established a good working relationship. Momentum was also generated by the decision to adopt an inquiry question that examined how data-sharing and knowledge of available resources could be improved across Fife.
As the group continued their exploration of the inquiry question, desk research and participant research indicated that information-sharing was a key issue that affected work around welfare reform in Fife.
|Kirkcaldy welfare reform event|
One aspect that united PIT participants was their desire to make a positive contribution to the issue of welfare reform, with this enthusiasm helping to maintain momentum through periods of staff changes and other impediments to the timescale. In particular, as the PIT came to the latter stages of its working life competing priorities and staff changes reduced the membership to a small core, but work continued to be progressed.
Many PIT participants highlighted the benefits that their membership of the group had brought them, believing that dissemination of the PIT's findings across Fife could benefit other local welfare reform and anti-poverty groups, assisting them to "focus on key issues and build/enhance partnership working." This has been perhaps the most tangible legacy of the PIT: the improved communications across agencies and between different parts of the Council. While this has always occurred, to an extent, the work of the PIT helped to solidify and strengthen this, demonstrating the benefits that arise from such an approach.
Dr Gary Smith is a Partnership Analyst with the Communities Directorate at Fife Council.
See all the outputs form the Welfare PIT inquiry on the What Works Scotland website, including reports from the Kirkcaldy welfare reform event.
Views expressed by guest bloggers may not reflect the views of What Works Scotland.