Implications for future programme development
The findings from this chapter indicate that the discussion about the outcome of the Literacy Screener is of essential importance. The follow-up can perhaps be improved by having this discussion conducted with someone who the client sees more often and who has built up a relationship of trust with him or her. This is important not only because of the feelings of shame which often accompany low literacy, but also because such a person is better able to judge how the language lessons have practical added value for the client. Furthermore, such a person has the opportunity to emphasise the importance of language lessons on a frequent basis (and the client does not need to make an immediate decision).
One of the reasons why service users with an unsatisfactory score on the Literacy Screener do not take part in language lessons is that they are too busy (with work). At Aksept, the language lessons are integrated in the guidance that clients receive, which means that they do not require any extra time either for the organisation or for the clients. Sometimes, the language lessons are organised on the work floor. The availability of language lessons during working hours can make them more accessible for service users.
In practice, the pilot organisations do not register whether an improvement in language level takes place. This was included as an aim in the original GOAL project plan in the Netherlands (developing a monitoring system to measure improvements in the advice-to-action-to-impact ratio of guidance services). All four organisations provide customised language lessons, therefore the improvement in clients’ language skills is very diverse. Thought needs to be given, in consultation with the organisations, about how progress with the language lessons can best be registered and made visible.
Implications of policy
In the Netherlands, no formal criteria have been established for the programme staff members who perform the Literacy Screener and who conduct the discussion about the outcome. In practise, these components of the Dutch intervention are performed by different people. Sometimes these are people that the clients see only once. For a good follow-up, it would perhaps be more beneficial if the discussion about the outcome of the Literacy Screener is assigned to a person who the client sees more often and with whom a relationship of trust has been built up. Furthermore, the pitfall of single contact is that the responsibility for the subsequent steps is lost with the ending of the contact.
Implications for policy
As outlined in chapter 8, it is important that extra focus in the Dutch approach to low literacy is given to the follow-up to the literacy screening. Support from the Reading and Writing Foundation is crucial in this, amongst other things, so that strict working arrangements about the follow-up are made within and between organisations. (Because of the diffused model it is crucial to make strict agreements about who does what and when.) An important question that needs to be answered is what must be asked of organisations in order to make the follow-up a success.
Central government has the task of creating a political environment in which both individuals and organisations become more aware of the personal and social importance of tackling low literacy. A requirement for this awareness is that people look further than just the short-term. At the social service in the municipality of Emmen, for example, the focus of the client managers on a (fast) outflow into work is not beneficial for a successful follow-up of the identified language problem. Looking further than just the short-term is also advisable for those with low literacy. The clients of the municipality of Emmen, whose native language is Dutch, are of the opinion that they do not need language lessons because they can manage perfectly well themselves. In the short-term that is perhaps so, but this can change in the long-term. For example, because of the (repeated) loss of a job or the loss of a partner. An attention point for central government is the embedding of its long-term vision (which they have a clear idea of) in organisations and individuals and the facilitation of this. For example, for social service clients, it is perhaps a help to involve employers in government efforts to improve language levels: for example, within the context of corporate social responsibility, they could offer people with low literacy the opportunity to take language lessons during work time.