North Tyneside joined the PINE programme to evaluate their integrated and co-located Early Help MASH team, which is part of their Front Door service. Here, Juliet Morris, Improvement Manager, and Kirsty Parsons, Performance Manager, reflect on their experience of conducting a self-evaluation of the service through PINE. If you’d like to learn more about North Tyneside’s PINE project, check out their evaluation documents on our website.
Our team joined PINE after hearing about the programme from a WWCSC roadshow – we’d heard that PINE helped organisations evaluate promising areas of practice. We wanted support in helping us to understand differences in outcomes for children and families who had been referred to our Early Help MASH triage service, and we wanted to investigate the perceptions of staff on the effectiveness of the model overall. Never ones to rest on our laurels, we also wanted to see what could be done to improve the service!
At the time of joining the programme, our Strategy and Transformation team already had a standard project toolbox which instructed internal users to follow a series of fixed steps – it listed instructions for generating surveys, running focus groups and interviews, and conducting data analysis. But we were missing the flexibility and know-how to launch a full, rigorous evaluation which could generate the range of insights we were wanting to investigate.
We found the structure of the PINE portal really accessible and helpful – it broke down the different elements of an evaluation into structured, bite-size chunks. The advice and guidance provided by the Practice and Research teams at WWCSC as part of the programme was invaluable – they helped us think backwards from the outcomes we wanted to the activities we were delivering, which really helped refine our subsequent research questions, and ensured that we were investigating the right components of our intervention.
It’s great that this service is being offered for free by WWCSC; the PINE programme is much more cost-effective than recruiting an evaluation consultant would be – all that a site needs to provide is commitment and effort towards the evaluation. The PINE programme also helped us to build the capacity for evaluation within our service – we have the know-how to run further evaluations of our activities.
Through the PINE evaluation, we wanted to understand:
- Whether the Early Help MASH service was able to identify children and families who were in need of additional support, and whether the team were able to refer them to the appropriate service. We investigated this by comparing standard measures for social care involvement between families who were referred by the Early Help MASH service, compared to those referred by other agencies. These measures included data around escalation to children’s services, rates of CIN plans and re-referrals.
- The mechanisms by which the service led to better outcomes. How did professionals work together? How did meetings impact decision-making? These mechanisms were investigated through a series of interviews.
- How the service could be improved. How did different professionals feel about the service, and were there any methods by which better collaboration could be enabled? What were the chief barriers and enablers to an effective Early Help Multi-Agency model? This aspect of the evaluation was similarly investigated through a series of interviews with different stakeholders.
The analysis showed that there are strong signs of promise that the Early Help MASH service is identifying children and families in need of support, and that Early Help Assessments might be contributing to a reduction in social care involvement for those families. It’s been really helpful having the assurance that the service is likely supporting the outcomes that it was set up to address.
Following this evaluation, we’re going to focus on addressing the barriers to collaboration that were identified through the qualitative data – namely, that professionals were often unaware of the roles and responsibilities of their colleagues within the service, which sometimes caused confusion. We are committed to continuous improvement of our service so we’re going to re-evaluate the service on a regular basis going forward, as part of North Tyneside’s improvement cycle. The small sample size and the lack of data around health and education outcomes within this evaluation has left plenty of scope to repeat this research in a more ambitious way. No doubt we’ll be incorporating the learning from the PINE programme by using the tools and skills gained with each iteration!
If you’re interested in evaluating your own initiatives through PINE please visit our website to find out more.