The final section of this chapter draws out the main implications in respect of future programme development. In terms of programme development it offers some lessons that may prove helpful to those seeking to establish similar services.
Unlike previous chapters, the current chapter does not include a Policy Implications section: the key influences of policy on service quality are instead discussed in the Conclusions chapter (Section 12.7), as are key policy messages.
Implications for future programme development
The programme-level factors highlighted in this chapter give rise to a number of implications for future programme development. In terms of outreach, partnership development and maintenance is resource intensive, but “reaching in” to other services is likely to provide better access to potential clients than direct outreach does. Guidance services targeted at low-educated adults will not meet those adults’ needs if they only offer “off-the-shelf”, institution-centred counselling approaches. In this process, the provision of information that is tailored to the client’s personal context, challenges, interests and capabilities is essential, as is the appropriate level of support. An aim is to empower clients to set their own objectives and make their own decisions. This provides benefits within the counselling process itself and in other aspects of life.
Quality services are dependent upon a high level of counsellor competence and commitment. Programmes should be structured so that counsellors can develop and improve their competences, ideally through a combination of formalised professional development, informal workplace learning, and access to support materials such as guidance manuals. The collection of client monitoring data can support the counselling process while also providing valuable evidence for monitoring and evaluation purposes. An overabundance of counsellor commitments can have negative impacts on service quality, as can a service model in which staff provide only a few hours of counselling a week because counselling is merely a “bolt-on” to their primary responsibilities.
Counselling models should strike the proper balance between programme resources and clients’ level of need. Programmes that are built around a model where only one guidance session can be offered would do well to target counselling only to those clients who can be expected, because of their higher levels of motivation and clarity of direction, to be able to move forward with after only one session. Programmes focused on higher need clients should be aware that such clients are likely to be resource intensive and may be slow to make measurable gains, particularly in terms of “hard outcomes” such as enrolments in adult education. Programmes that need to demonstrate high level of measurable impact may wish to to focus on easier target groups, i.e. “low-hanging fruit”. However, all counsellors should be aware that the counselling journey sometimes include backward steps alongside forward ones.
On a broader level, one of the strengths of the GOAL pilot was its cross-national nature. Programme coordinators met at regular intervals throughout the pilot to discuss local implementation experiences and findings. These meetings played an important role in encouraging cross-national learning during the life of the pilot. Future programmes would benefit from a similar cross-national model, where feasible.