In conversation with our grantees: Amber Foundation

Jun 25, 2024

Amber Foundation supports homeless young people aged 18 to 30 with accommodation and a tailored programme covering employment, health and wellbeing, and raising aspirations. With four centres in the South of England, it is helping young people to move on to sustainable work, a secure home and a fulfilling future. 

We have granted Amber Foundation two awards to date through our What Works programme to take an innovative approach to evaluation, while building their capacity and supporting their fundraising efforts. 

Amber’s CEO Paul Rosam reflects on the difference our support is making to the organisation and to the wider youth homelessness sector. 

Tell us about Amber Foundation and its impact on young people’s lives

We’ve been going for around 30 years and we like to think what we offer is quite simple and common sense. The young people on our programmes are all quite different, many struggling with addiction and mental health conditions. The commonality is that they have all experienced homelessness. It takes real time to work through previous trauma so we take people through a residential programme of up to a year, which includes employability support, giving them the time and space to rebuild their lives. 

Young people on our programmes move through three teams. The first is stability, which focuses on practical support with things like getting ID, Universal Credit applications and seeing a dentist. The middle is development, looking at aspirations and what the future might look like as well as what they want to try. The goal here is to help them become independent and move into their own accommodation and employment or education. Our employment support is very experiential including volunteering, work placements and work trials with local companies and connections. Some of the employers we work with are Kier, Screwfix and H&M. Finally there’s move on, where we support them with applying for jobs, finding a place to live and budgeting. We have a rent deposit scheme through Every Youth that can help them move into independent accommodation. 

How has the support from Youth Futures impacted your work? 

It has really helped us to transform our level of data maturity, to make a step change in terms of how we gather and use data. This, in turn, has helped us to get our referrals right, changing the way we engage with young people and understanding better who the young people are who will most benefit from our support. 

What that means in practice for the young people is that they’re not wasting their time when they come to us. It also means we have the funding to do what we know is needed. Half of our income comes from funders and we need to raise about £1.7 million each year. This means we have to engage with really sophisticated funders. For example, working with the criminal justice system, we need to be able to demonstrate our impact with that group. 

Youth Futures funded our new database, including the training and roll out of it, as well as funding a staff role that enabled us to embed it and capture really useful and important data. An independent data maturity evaluation has recently had really pleasing results for us, showing that our use of data is some of the best in the voluntary sector. 

The current evaluation we’re doing with you is looking at our impact over time and asking whether the outcomes we capture when people leave are being sustained. Its enabled us to employ somebody not only to capture that data from people who’ve come through and left our programmes, but also to provide basic advice and guidance to them as well. 

What evaluation methods are you using? 

First, we had independent evaluators at Cordis Bright provide an overview of how our programme works with learning and recommendations from that. They ran a process study of the programme to develop and test our Theory of Change and understand more about residents’ outcomes. One of the recommendations made was that we could do better in terms of our follow-up support for people when they leave and this has now informed the next evaluation. 

The people we work with and the way we work meant a ‘traditional’ economic impact evaluation of the programme, such as a randomised controlled trial (RCT) or a quasi-experimental design (QED), would not be appropriate. The new funding is enabling us to work with the National Centre for Social Research to deliver a theory-based impact evaluation of the programme, using methods that are well suited to understanding the impact of interventions operating in complex systems. The study will explore the education, employment, and training (EET) and housing outcomes achieved by residents, how the Amber programme contributes to these outcomes, and other conditions that support outcome achievement and sustainment.   

What benefits have you seen to the wider youth homelessness sector?

While it’s not directly part of the project Youth Futures is supporting, we have also been able to collaborate more closely with other members of Every Youth, a coalition of organisations working to end youth homelessness. We’ve been able to push to get really good employment outcomes data with DWP, pool it and look at how we’re doing as a group of organisations, so it really is having a wider impact across the whole sector. 

What would you say to other organisations about working with Youth Futures? 

Sometimes when you do evaluations there are unseen costs with this further down the line in terms of technology or staff resources.

Your support is really comprehensive and wide ranging and enables us to do our core work, while building capacity in our organisation.

You have enabled us to operationally improve what we do as a result of what we’re learning.



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