Jane Harris of Cordis Bright and James Devereaux of Blackpool Fulfilling Lives take an in-depth look at the project's final evaluation report. Watch here.
Cordis Bright has been the independent evaluation partner for Blackpool Fulfilling Lives since March 2014. We have followed the development of the project over its seven-year life and have evaluated its progress as it has evolved from a fledging local partnership to playing a central role in developing a better system of services and support for people experiencing multiple disadvantage. We have produced five evaluation reports over the life of the project, with the early reports focusing on partnership development and relationship building and the most recent exploring in more detail which models of support work best for people facing multiple disadvantage. Our reports contain useful practical learning about the role of the navigator, who forms a relationship of trust with a small number of clients and acts as link between services; how to achieve systemic change at a local level; the role of people with lived experience in planning, commissioning and delivering services; the Housing First model, and the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of services such as Fulfilling Lives. We have been privileged to work in partnership with teams of peer researchers and the talented staff of Blackpool Fulfilling Lives to co-produce these evaluation reports.
Extracts from the Cordis Briefing held on 12 November 2020.
We were pleased to see the publication of Department for Education Round 2 Children's Social Care Innovation Programme evaluation reports. They contain a wealth of evidence concerning innovation across children’s social care.
Cordis Bright delivered four evaluation reports as part of Round 2 of the programme, including evaluations of three projects focusing on improving outcomes for children, young people and their families affected by domestic abuse and violence. These were the evaluations of Doncaster Growing Futures, Slough Children’s Services Trust Innovation Fund programme and Newham NewDAy. In addition, we delivered the evaluation of the Ealing Building My Future programme which supports young people with SEND to achieve improved outcomes.
Across these evaluations there were some key ingredients which may help the success or otherwise of future programmes. These included: programmes having strong, visible leadership with practitioner and staff buy-in; robust, evidence-informed theories of change/logic models; robust training needs assessments and strategies that can cope with high staff turnover; clear communication across the system including about programme progress; an understanding that some times costly interventions are the right thing to do but may not achieve substantial cost savings in the short or even intermediate term but may do so in the long-term; the importance of developing innovation in relatively stable contexts and systems.
We evaluated three whole family domestic abuse programmes as part of the Department for Education's Children's Social Care Innovation Programme. This document identifies six key messages common across all three evaluations:
1. A robust needs assessment can help decide on priorities and benchmark future performance.
2. There is a need and demand for whole family approaches to tackling domestic abuse.
3. As well as whole family, approaches are likely to be most successful if they are whole system.
4. Whatever intervention or programme is chosen, a robust theory of change is crucial.
5. Making the case for investment in domestic abuse interventions requires robust measurement.
6. Effective evaluation can help to shape services in real time.
We hope these will be helpful for other areas or programmes examining how best to maximise the impact of interventions designed to tackle domestic abuse.
Growing Futures was a partnership approach and way of working led by Doncaster Children’s Services Trust (DCST) which aimed to improve the outcomes of families, particularly children and young people, affected by domestic violence and abuse (DVA), through transforming the services that work with them.
Download our evaluation report below. Growing Futures was part of the Department for Education's Children's Social Care Innovation Programme.
There is a need and appetite among those affected by domestic abuse (DA) for a response to DA which considers the needs of the whole family, and the wider context in which DA is taking place. Historic approaches have not effectively met this need.
A clear theory of change, visible leadership, realistic project planning and transparent decision-making will help to support innovation in a complex system.
High levels of staff turnover are a key challenge facing children’s services. It is essential that this is accounted for when designing and implementing new approaches. Programmes should be well documented, with regular updates provided to staff on progress and relevance to the wider service. Relevant training should be delivered consistently and included when onboarding new staff.
Interventions which focus on understanding the dynamics and relationships within families can support family members to make positive changes but require active follow-up and appropriate step-down provision to help sustain this progress.
Engaging victims and perpetrators of DA in intensive programme-based work can be difficult to deliver at scale. This is in part due to a disparity in the amount of resources available and the amount of resources required to deliver the work effectively, as well as challenges in engaging all victims or perpetrators who are referred.
Embedding staff from other services, such as the police, housing, and mental health, within children’s services can help to improve the speed and appropriateness of the response to families’ needs.
Ensuring courses are safely accessible for victims is vital. Making support available at times which suit women who work and offering support for those who might otherwise rely on their partners for transport are key considerations.
Cost-benefit analysis estimates that the Slough Children’s Services Trust’s (SCST) Innovation Programme costs more to deliver than was saved through reduced time young people spent at each statutory status following the interventions. However, this analysis did not consider other benefits to young people and their families that the programme may have contributed to.
It may be challenging for DA interventions to realise short- or medium-term cost savings, even if they were to result in better outcomes and longer-term cost savings. Interventions can be time-intensive, require consistent training, and sustained input. They also intend to provide more support than was previously available. Certain benefits take longer to realise and are difficult to quantify, such as the future impact of witnessing domestic abuse as a child.
Download our full report below. Slough Children's Services Trust Innovation Programme was part of the Department for Education's Children's Social Care Innovation Programme.
There is local demand for a range of proven interventions that improve outcomes for families facing domestic abuse. Newham NewDAy was designed to help meet some of this demand.
There is interest in programmes that provide support to children and young people, victims-survivors, users of abuse, and the whole family, and are structured in a way that tackles barriers to take-up. There are benefits to interventions that operate in multiple domains, for example the home, school, and community, and that take non-judgemental, consent-based approaches. In parallel, there is also concern amongst some stakeholders working with families (for example some social workers) about safeguarding and management or risk. As a result, making the case for such approaches requires ongoing work, especially providing clear and robust guidance to all partners about the safe management of risk and how an approach like NewDAy fits into the spectrum of support for families facing domestic abuse.
The challenges faced by families experiencing domestic abuse are often longstanding, entrenched, and complex. Developing a model for intervention requires a robust analysis of need, significant time, substantial investment of resources, and room to adapt in light of lessons learned. It also requires a clear understanding of the model of practice and the theory of change.
A highly-skilled, multi-disciplinary team providing intensive support to individuals, couples, and whole families in partnership with other professionals (such as social workers and school staff) can facilitate a reduction in risk, increased emotional and social wellbeing, and improved educational attainment (i.e. about 6 months). A longer period is needed to assess whether this change is sustainable in the long term.
To be effective, domestic abuse interventions need to be operating in a wider environment which is stable, well-functioning, and effectively led. Without this, there is a risk of low referrals, low take-up, and high attrition, as well as slow adoption of effective practice within mainstream social work and other practice.
Careful consideration should be given to ensuring effective governance arrangements. The right balance needs to be struck between involving the full range of partners to reflect the multi-faceted impact of domestic abuse, and ensuring governance is manageable. Clarity is needed from the outset about respective roles and responsibilities.
The cost-benefit analysis shows that over the course of one year, NewDAy saves 72% through reducing service use compared to a historical comparison group (n=74). When the running costs of NewDAy are factored in, NewDAy is operating at a net cost of 15% per year. A longer period would be needed to assess whether this impact is sustained in the long term.
You can download a full copy of our report below. Newham NewDAy was part of the Department for Education's Children's Social Care Innovation Programme.
Building My Future (BMF) was developed by Ealing Council and its partners in recognition of the need to provide support to young people with additional needs (i.e. learning difficulties, autism, and/or Asperger syndrome) at an earlier stage. The aim was to improve outcomes in relation to wellbeing, education and participation, and to prevent the use of expensive, and potentially unsuitable, special school provision.
The highly-skilled, multidisciplinary, multi-agency BMF team was greater than the sum of its parts. By removing the need to refer young people to different services, the BMF team was able to provide more tailored, holistic and responsive support than would have been the case if services were only working in partnership.
Qualitative evidence shows that BMF brought about improvements in:
These improvements are not materialising immediately in quantitative data, especially in relation to a comparison group of young people with similar needs. This picture may change if evaluation is conducted over a longer period with a larger cohort.
Quantitative data presented a mixed picture about whether BMF achieved a positive fiscal impact. The majority of stakeholders were confident that cost avoidance could be achieved over a longer time period.
BMF trialled working with some young people with more complex needs who were already in contact with services (e.g. Looked After Children). There is emerging evidence that this cohort also benefitted from BMF and presented a greater potential for cost savings. The blend of skills within the team may need to be adjusted to respond to the higher level needs of this cohort (e.g. more clinical or educational psychologists).
Sustaining BMF was challenging because: (a) timescales for local authority decision making, the evaluation, and funding were not aligned; and (b) the local authority was juggling reduced funding, plus increased demand for services and complexity of need. Maintaining the team with fidelity to the model was a challenge since Ealing Council was not able to offer job certainty to in-demand professionals, resulting in early departures of key team members that could not be back-filled.
Download our full report below. Ealing BMF was part of the Department for Education's Children's Social Care Innovation Programme.
We worked with the Department for Education and local authorities to establish a robust understanding of the fees being paid for residential care placements and to explore which factors contribute to these fees.
The research examined weekly fees paid by local authorities for looked after children accommodated in open registered children’s homes. The study excluded secure and unregulated provision. The research examined whether correlations exist between fees paid and characteristics of: (a) the child; (b) the children’s home provider; and (c) the commissioner.
A summary of our findings can be downloaded below. For more information visit the Department for Education's website.
The Cordis Briefing is a subscription service for independent sector providers of adult social care and supported housing.Learn more
The Cordis Pulse is our monthly digest of policy, practice and research developments.Learn more
A spotlight on our experience in helping to tackle domestic abuse and violence against women and girls.Learn more
A spotlight on integrated health and social care: what works, how to evaluate it, and lessons learned.Learn more
A spotlight on our work in the criminal justice sector, covering children and adults. Recent experience has focused on serious youth violence and gangs.Learn more
A spotlight on our work aimed at improving outcomes for vulnerable children and families.Learn more