Language selection


Search veterans.gc.ca

4.0 Evaluation Findings

This section presents the findings, conclusions and recommendations relating to the evaluation of outreach, the application process and the service delivery framework as it relates to the NVC.

4.1 Outreach

4.1.1 Outreach Strategy

Outreach is an effort by individuals in an organization to share their ideas or practices with other organizations, groups, specific audiences or the general public. Outreach often encompasses an educational aspect but, it is increasingly common for organizations to incorporate engagement of particular groups rather than solely disseminate information or provide an education component.

In 2008, feedback from various individuals and groups indicated a need for re-invigorated outreach efforts to ensure that NVC clients are aware of the programs and supports available to them. In response to this need, an outreach strategy for the NVC programs was developed. This strategy focused on three key audiences: clients and potential clients, media and Parliamentarians. These groups were recognized as having unique information needs that should be addressed through various outreach efforts and communication tools.

External activities were supported by an internal outreach to educate VAC staff to the needs of CF clients and help fill gaps in their knowledge about resources available to injured and releasing members. Highlights of the strategy included:

  • an identified network of speakers across the Department;
  • training sessions for this network of speakers;
  • standardized presentations with case scenarios tailored to specific groups;
  • improvements to the NVC sections of the intranet and internet;
  • identifying Ministerial/Parliamentary opportunities for outreach;
  • VAC features in various publications such as Salute!, and The Maple Leaf; and
  • tracking of outreach activities and results.

Regions determined their outreach priorities based on needs and resources. This approach encouraged flexibility; however, the risk of delivering inconsistent information existed. A national outreach steering committee was struck to discuss tools, best practices and to promote consistency. Staff noted the benefit of this forum. With organizational realignment in the spring of 2009, roles and responsibilities for outreach were less defined and the role of the national committee faltered. Best practices and innovative approaches were not being shared as the committee has not met since September 2009.

Each region was to develop an action plan taking into account regional priorities. However, these regional action plans were developed to varying degrees and without specific direction and resourcing, implementation varied across the country. Currently, the district offices incorporate NVC outreach activities into their workload to the extent possible. There is a limited budget to cover costs for travel and overtime for staff to conduct outreach activities making it challenging in some areas to respond to all requests or to be proactive in terms of outreach. Some staff identified that they are struggling to balance service delivery with outreach activities.

In the spring of 2010, the 2008 Outreach Strategy was in the process of being reviewed and re-invigorated. This updated outreach strategy will focus on Veterans, still serving CF members, families; Veterans organizations; and Canadians/Parliamentarians. This new version of the strategy will build on current outreach activities as well as incorporate new initiatives.

VAC’s Policy, Programs and Partnerships (PPP) Branch and the Communications Division will be responsible for updating the strategy and Service Delivery and Commemoration (SDC) Branch will have a large role in coordinating and implementing the strategy at the local and regional level. For this strategy to be effective further development and input from staff at the local and regional level will be required. An integrated approach with clearly outlined roles and responsibilities is necessary for staff to carry out their roles and to ensure coherence and consistency of information and messages across all channels of communication.

A performance measurement strategy for NVC Outreach has not been developed. Such a strategy is required to monitor and assess the results of outreach activities. Development and implementation of a performance measurement system would support informed decision making and facilitate action to further improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the NVC outreach.

Conclusion

In 2008, an NVC Outreach Strategy was developed but not fully implemented. Outreach is a shared responsibility among PPP, Communications Division and SDC. PPP and Communications developed the strategy. SDC and Communications, particularly at the district and regional levels, are involved in the coordination and implementation of activities. Roles and responsibilities were neither clear nor defined, and dedicated financial resources were not available for outreach activities. In addition, district offices had limited resources to cover travel and overtime costs associated with outreach. Therefore, the number and locations of activities were limited. Although there is value in local areas tailoring activities to their perceived regional needs, a national focus and direction is required to ensure consistency and appropriate coverage for the various unique client groups. Sharing of best practices and innovative approaches were limited. Due to these factors, the strategy was only implemented to varying degrees across the country. Finally, there was no performance measurement strategy is in place to support informed decision making to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the NVC outreach.

Recommendation 1 (Essential)

It is recommended that the Director General, Program Management Division, in consultation with the Service Delivery Management Division and the Communications Division, fully implement an outreach strategy with clearly outlined roles and responsibilities and is supported by adequate resources and a performance measurement plan.

Management Response:

Management agrees with this recommendation.

It is acknowledged that there is a need to enhance the current New Veterans Charter (NVC) Outreach Strategy (approved in 2008) to address the gaps that have been identified in awareness and understanding of the NVC programs and services, which are creating barriers to access. NVC Outreach will be a major component of an enhanced VAC Outreach, which has the following objectives: to raise awareness of services and benefits provided by VAC among key target audiences, to provide easier access to information on VAC services and benefits in language that is easy to understand, and to educate clients about how to apply and access VAC services and benefits.

Program Management Division, in conjunction with the Communications Division and the Service Delivery and Commemoration Branch will develop an enhanced VAC Outreach Strategy that will be adequately resourced to make information about VAC programs and services (in particular NVC programs and services) more client- and less program-focussed. Roles and responsibilities will be clearly outlined. The Outreach strategy will employ a multi-channelled, phased-in approach to reach our clients, with targeted activities at various times, and will focus on proactive, positive clear messaging about VAC's (with emphasis on NVC) programs and services.

The approach to external audiences will be multi-faceted, capitalizing on the existing partnership with the CF and RCMP, as well as the networks of major Veterans' organizations, and opportunities available through Commemorative and other events. It will engage VAC's senior management cadre, and target the unique outreach needs of specific client groups, including CF members, Veterans, Reservists and their families, as well as traditional Veterans and their caregivers. VAC will collaborate with DND in the development and delivery of specific messaging for each of these client groups, and in identifying out new outreach opportunities.

A performance measurement plan will be developed and outreach activities and messaging will be adjusted based on feedback and monitoring.

Management Action Plan
Corrective Action(s) to be taken OPI (Office of Primary Interest) Target Date
1.1 Consistent with the Department’s Transformation agenda and the recommendations of the Independent Assessor, Program Management Division, in conjunction with Service Delivery and Commemoration Branch, and Communications Division, will assign resources to develop the enhanced strategy, action plans for implementation, and targeted messaging for key audiences. Program Management Division Complete
1.2 The 2008 NVC Outreach Strategy will be updated to address gaps in awareness and understanding that have been identified; establish a multi-faceted, phased-in approach to reach our clients; provide clear messages about VAC, in particular, NVC programs and services. This updated strategy will ensure outreach products and activities are being expended in an appropriate manner and targeted to specific audiences. Program Management Division December 2010
1.3 A performance measurement plan will be developed and outreach activities and messaging will be adjusted, based on feedback and monitoring. Program Management Division March 2011

4.1.2 Outreach Activities

During the period when a CF member is transitioning from military to civilian life, they may require the provision of transition services and support. In response to these needs the Department has provided a range of services including the Transition Interview. The Transition Interview is a one-on-one interview between a releasing member and a VAC employee to identify transition issues and make appropriate referrals to address any unmet needs.

Transition Interviews are scheduled in coordination with the Department of National Defence (DND) and are viewed as an important outreach opportunity to explain VAC services and benefits. The Department has been very successful in ensuring that almost all medically released members (94% in 2009-2010) received a Transition Interview. Table 4.1 provides additional detail regarding Regular Forces Releases and Transition Interviews. However, it was noted that there are still gaps in providing this service for some voluntary releasing members and Reservists. Staff indicated that the release period for a voluntary releasing member can be as little as 30 days which creates some difficulties in scheduling a Transition Interview. For Reservists, the release process is different than for Regular Force members and VAC was not always aware when Reservists were releasing. However, DND is making changes to align the two release processes, which is expected to improve transition services to Reservists.

Table 4.1 - Transition Interviews by Release Type
Regular Force Releases* Medical Other Total Release Total Transition Interviews Percentage of Releases Receiving a TI
2008/2009 1,058 5,065 6,123 4,760 78%
2009/2010 915 4,322 5,237 3,864 74%

*Does not include Reservists as release data for this group is not available.

Spouses/partners are invited to attend the Transition Interview. The family, as well as the releasing member may be experiencing transition issues or have questions on VAC’s services and benefits. Unfortunately, due to a number of factors such as child/work responsibilities and military culture, few spouses/partners participate in the interview. The importance of spousal attendance at the Transition Interview especially for members with Occupational Stress Injuries is recognized and in these situations, staff make an additional effort to encourage spousal attendance.

The opening of the Integrated Personnel Support Centres (IPSCs) has improved the exchange of information between VAC and the CF and has provided an opportunity to improve partnerships with various stakeholders. Feedback from both VAC staff and DND personnel are very positive about how the IPSCs are working and the resulting service improvements for clients.

Transition Interviews were supported by staff who felt the interviews are a good method of reaching releasing members. Information from focus groups also supports this conclusion. A number of participants indicated information they received during the Transition Interview assisted with their transition to civilian life. Focus group suggestions for improvement included the Department providing more information on the purpose of the interview in advance so that members could be better prepared with questions. There was also support for VAC contacting releasing members six months to one year after the interview to provide additional transition support. Members are very busy during the release process and may not have time to focus on VAC`s information.

In addition to Transition Interviews, CF members are provided with information on VAC services and benefits in pre-deployment and post-deployment briefings as well as Second Career Assistance Network (SCAN) briefings. VAC has developed standardized presentation decks for staff to use during outreach presentations. These decks are tailored to meet the information needs of the various client groups served by the Department and have helped staff deliver a consistent and tailored message across the country. However, not all staff were aware of the availability of these information decks nor how to access the most current versions. Stakeholders noted that presentations with less detail and a more experiential focus would increase engagement for members who would identify with the situation being presented. Additional presentation material for groups such as families and other client groups have been developed but were not finalized. Also staff expressed frustrations with technology issues when coordinating presentations with DND. This included problems with VAC encryption not being compatible with DND presentation equipment. Some staff expressed the need for training on public speaking, program knowledge and military culture in order to improve their confidence and effectiveness in presenting VAC outreach messages.

In addition to Transition Interviews and presentations to CF members, VAC staff were involved in a variety of additional outreach activities ranging from preparation of media information to homeless initiatives. Engagement of staff in outreach activities was high and a number of suggestions on additional activities have been compiled and are presented in Annex D.

Analysis of comments from staff, stakeholders and focus groups revealed that VAC client groups are varied and unique. There does not appear to be one best channel to provide information or outreach messages, so there is a need to use a multi-channelled approach. Individuals require messages presented in a wide variety of formats and channels to ensure VAC is reaching all those who may benefit from the NVC programs.

Focus group participants frequently suggested that VAC share information with CF members earlier in the release process so they can better prepare for release. In fact, these suggestions included timing options for a Transition Interview as early as two years prior to release. In addition to focus group comments, stakeholders and staff provided a wide variety of opinions regarding the opportune time to present NVC materials and messages. The consistent trend noted from all groups was that repeated messaging is essential. Clients’ receptivity to program information is based on individual needs and unique circumstances so VAC must provide multiple opportunities that allow them to internalize the message.

It was noted that NVC outreach activities were not specifically directed to previously released members. VAC’s homeless initiatives have provided an opportunity to reach out to a sub-section of this group as do briefings to Veteran organizations and publications such as the Salute!, etc. However, NVC outreach activities require additional thought and effort to engage this particular client group to ensure they are aware of our programs.

Another gap identified was outreach to families. When a Veteran has transitioning issues, the impact can be profound on the family and its functioning. Families are often instrumental in having the Veteran seek assistance; therefore outreach to families is critical. Stakeholders noted that it is important for families to have access to clear and concise information particularly during times of crisis. Additionally, it is important that families are aware of VAC programs and services so they know how and when to contact the Department.

Staff across the country expressed frustration regarding the lack of availability of professional print material such as brochures. This print material was viewed as an important tool to assist in messaging and allow clients to share information on the Department’s programs for families and others. Many of the frequently used brochures were out of print forcing staff to make copies of any remaining originals or print off brochures from VAC`s website. These copies look less than professional, and require valuable time and resources to produce.

Focus group participants reinforced the importance of brochures. Many participants noted the NVC tri-fold brochure was an effective method of introducing the NVC programs. There was consensus that the information in the brochure was clear and easy to understand, and most agreed that it contained all the information required. Nearly all participants felt that it contained sufficient information to point people in the right direction in order to obtain additional information. It is clear that brochures are used as a segue to further conversations regarding the NVC.

The Department has a strategy, activities, and tools to promote NVC programs. However, it is difficult to determine the consistency and effectiveness of outreach efforts as there is little evaluation or research in this area. Following presentations there are tools available to seek participant feedback but these were being used sporadically and therefore are of limited value. Individual presenters may ask for feedback and incorporate suggestions into their future outreach activities but these suggestions were not consistently shared across the country. As described above, VAC has not developed a performance measurement strategy for outreach nor does it track the associated costs. As a result, VAC is currently unable to measure the efficiency or effectiveness of the various outreach communication tools.

Many individuals have expressed concerns regarding VAC`s Internet site with focus group participants noting difficulties finding information and a lack of detail. Overall, participants felt that general information about programs was clear and complete. However, clients seeking more detailed answers sometimes found the information available too vague. Others noted the language could be bureaucratic and difficult to understand. Regarding the completeness of information, some clients observed that VAC staff could be more proactive in volunteering information regarding programs even if not requested. This comment was also noted in feedback from advisory groups and other stakeholders. In terms of accuracy, a number of participants said they have, on occasion, received inconsistent or contradictory information from VAC Call Centre agents. Overall, problems regarding the clarity, completeness, or accuracy of information tended to be linked to specific elements of the programs, as opposed to the programs in general. Regarding proactive communication, it is interesting to note that Australia has instituted a structured approach to communicate with clients. There was a time where the Australian Veterans’ Affairs was criticized for not being transparent in communicating their services and not proactively telling Veterans what is available to them to maximize their benefits. Now, the Australian Veterans’ Affairs ensures all information is on their website (rules, legislation, and fact sheets) and they have a formal structure to communicate with Veterans groups. There is now a structure in place for client interactions in that it must be, frequent, open and in a manner they understand. Also when clients approach the Department, staff must inform clients regarding all of their eligibilities.

Conclusion

The Department participates in a wide range of outreach activities, most of which were initiated and supported in the district and regional offices. Transition Interviews and the functioning of IPSC’s were identified as effective methods of reaching out to releasing members but there remain gaps in these activities and they do not address the outreach needs of previously released members and families. VAC messaging needs to continue to be consistent, multi-channelled and presented at multiple points in time to ensure clients avail themselves of VAC programs when appropriate. The Department would be in a better position to target messaging if more information was available on the efficiency and effectiveness of various outreach activities.

Recommendation 2 (Essential)

It is recommended that the Director General, Program Management Division, in consultation with the Service Delivery Management Division and the Communications Division, plan, coordinate and target NVC messaging to ensure resources are being expended in an effective manner to reach key audiences.

Management Response:

Management agrees with this recommendation.
It is acknowledged that there is a need to enhance the current New Veterans Charter (NVC) Outreach Strategy (approved in 2008) to address the gaps that have been identified in awareness and understanding of the NVC programs and services, which are creating barriers to access. NVC Outreach will be a major component of an enhanced VAC Outreach, which has the following objectives: to raise awareness of services and benefits provided by VAC among key target audiences, to provide easier access to information on VAC services and benefits in language that is easy to understand, and to educate clients about how to apply and access VAC services and benefits.

Program Management Division, in conjunction with the Communications Division and the Service Delivery and Commemoration Branch will develop an enhanced VAC Outreach Strategy that will be adequately resourced to make information about VAC programs and services (in particular NVC programs and services) more client- and less program-focussed. Roles and responsibilities will be clearly outlined. The Outreach strategy will employ a multi-channelled, phased-in approach to reach our clients, with targeted activities at various times, and will focus on proactive, positive clear messaging about VAC's (with emphasis on NVC) programs and services.

The approach to external audiences will be multi-faceted, capitalizing on the existing partnership with the CF and RCMP, as well as the networks of major Veterans' organizations, and opportunities available through Commemorative and other events. It will engage VAC's senior management cadre, and target the unique outreach needs of specific client groups, including CF members, Veterans, Reservists and their families, as well as traditional Veterans and their caregivers. VAC will collaborate with DND in the development and delivery of specific messaging for each of these client groups, and in identifying out new outreach opportunities.

A performance measurement plan will be developed and outreach activities and messaging will be adjusted based on feedback and monitoring.

Management Action Plan
Corrective Action(s) to be taken OPI (Office of Primary Interest) Target Date
2.1 Consistent with the Department’s Transformation agenda and the recommendations of the Independent Assessor, Program Management Division, in conjunction with Service Delivery and Commemoration Branch, and Communications Division, will assign resources to develop the enhanced strategy, action plans for implementation, and targeted messaging for key audiences. Program Management Division June 2010
2.2 The 2008 NVC Outreach Strategy will be updated to address gaps in awareness and understanding that have been identified; establish a multi-faceted, phased-in approach to reach our clients; provide clear messages about VAC, in particular, NVC programs and services. This updated strategy will ensure outreach products and activities are being expended in an appropriate manner and targeted to specific audiences. Program Management Division December 2010
2.3 A performance measurement plan will be developed and outreach activities and messaging will be adjusted, based on feedback and monitoring Program Management Division March 2011
Date modified: