Context and aims
In the area of outreach to service users with low literacy, gains can be made in the Netherlands. That is why this aspect forms the core of the Dutch GOAL intervention. This involves expanding identification sites and screening of people who potentially have low basic skills in an accessible setting. Relatively new identification sites are, for example, prisons, with two participating in the pilot.
In order to find more people with low literacy, the Dutch GOAL pilot has the objective of finding new locations that can deploy the Literacy Screener: organisations where people come for a completely different reason and where the work activities are not primarily associated with low literacy. Within the GOAL pilot, four organisations (sites) are involved: a social service, an agency specialised in services related to labour participation and two prisons. The two prisons form a relatively new identification site within this pilot.
This evaluation study offers leads for improving the guiding process - low literacy screening and referral to a suitable language course in organisations where tackling low literacy is not the main task - and for implementation on a larger scale in the Netherlands.
Strengths and achievements
Reaching the target group of service users with low literacy forms the core of the Dutch GOAL intervention. During the lifetime of GOAL, the four pilot organisations together have conducted 1525 screenings with the Literacy Screener and identified 465 potential cases of low literacy.
An important first result is that the participating organisations are thinking about how they can organise the recognition and referral (and education) of those with low literacy within their mainstream work processes, and understand the importance of this guidance service. A strong point is that, with the aid of this evaluation study, these findings can be disseminated further. The study has helped to identify what is required for proper implementation of the Literacy Screener in organisations where tackling low literacy is not the main task.
Challenges and barriers
The identification of those with low literacy is in itself not sufficient, we can only speak of outreach if those with low literacy are also helped in a suitable manner and are ‘not left to fend for themselves.’ In three out of the four pilot organisations, the identified number of people with low literacy who then enrol for a language course is still low.
Within PI Lelystad, things go wrong in the referral between the department operating the Literacy Screener and the department in which language lessons are given. The lack of a common vision and an integrated approach hinders the design of a good follow-up for clients. The municipality of Emmen is also confronted with this problem; client managers who provide guidance for social service clients with regard to employment, do not see tackling low literacy as part of the guidance they provide (in contrast to the counsellors from Aksept).
It is the experience of the municipality of Emmen and of PI Achterhoek that the clients themselves often do not decide to enrol for language lessons. In both organisations, the competition with work is an obstacle; clients give priority to (finding) work rather than to taking language lessons. Contrary to the municipality of Emmen, the clients of PI Achterhoek are generally more forthcoming about having problems with the Dutch language. In the municipality of Emmen, where the target group largely consists of native Dutch speakers, this is not the case. People with an unsatisfactory score on the Literacy Screener do not acknowledge the result and are not open to taking a course to improve their language skills. Only people for whom Dutch is not their native language are open to taking language lessons.
In the municipality of Emmen, nearly half of the clients taking the Literacy Screener recorded an unsatisfactory score. This is high when compared with the national average of 30 per cent. This is perhaps due to the dialect spoken (from an early age) in this area. This can in turn be linked to the opinion of the clients that they do not require any help with regard to language.
Lastly, the prisons experience specific difficulties in the follow-up owing to the special nature of the organisations. Because of the limited number of language volunteers, they have a limited capacity for language lessons and it is difficult to fit the language lessons into the daily programme followed by the prisoners