It can often be difficult for local services to evaluate or generate data about what they are achieving in their work with children and families. We’ve been supporting children’s social care services to evaluate practice models or interventions though our Practice in Need of Evidence (PINE) programme and are now excited to be developing these partnerships through our Pine Progression Fund (PPF). This next stage of the work aims to provide successful PINE partners with the opportunity to progress the evaluation of their interventions further through a feasibility study.
PINE supported organisations to run evaluations of their promising practice interventions, helping to build evidence generation capacity in the children’s social care sector. We enabled organisations to conduct their own evaluations by providing support from our Practice and Research teams and through guided online resources. The programme not only helped organisations create good quality evidence for their interventions, but has also been key in helping us to spot and incubate innovative children’s social care practices in England.
Many PINE partners have shown enthusiasm for evaluating their service further and the PPF provides the expertise and resource to take the next step in evaluation.
We offered those organisations already involved in PINE the opportunity to apply for the PPF. This provides successful applicants with a grant to cover a fully funded feasibility study, alongside associated delivery and implementation costs. It also pairs each organisation with an external evaluator to support the evaluation process.
We’ve now awarded grants to the following three projects and matched each with an evaluator:
Fathers’ Parenting Group
- Delivery partner: Southwark Council
- Evaluator: Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families
- Delivery partner: Mediation Now
- Evaluator: Coram
SEMorE (sleep, diet and exercise)
- Delivery partner: Coram
- Evaluator: Centre for Evidence & Implementation
Southwark: Fathers’ Parenting Group
Southwark’s Father’s Group parenting programme is for fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers and men that have caring/parental responsibilities for children, with the aim of improving fathering by encouraging child-centred parenting strategies, increasing awareness of child development and co-parenting, understanding the role of a father and increasing awareness of the impact exposure to conflict has on children. The programme has been designed by a male Parenting Practitioner in Southwark Family Early Help (FEH) Service, based upon his previous experience and knowledge of designing a domestic violence perpetrators programme.
Southwark: “It was always our ambition in Southwark, if validated positively from the original PINE study, to explore running a full-scale impact evaluation. While we are aware other local authorities and communities are delivering evidenced based parenting programmes similar to ourselves, very few offer a father’s only group. We would be keen to offer the opportunity to circulate our intervention model to other authorities.”
Mediation Now: Kinship Mediation
The core of Mediation Now’s intervention will involve providing specialist mediation for 20 kinship care families. They will also provide mediation training for 70 professionals, including social workers, contact centres, CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) and local charities, in the hope that this will lead to an increased number of appropriate referrals. Balancing a parent’s understandable wish to see their child, with the carer’s concerns about parental neglect, is often difficult and leads to further conflict. The hypothesis of this programme is that Mediation will reduce conflict between adults involved in the kinship network, and therefore improve outcomes for children.
Mediation Now: “Under the Practice in Need of Evidence programme, we benefitted hugely from working with WWCSC to deliver and evaluate mediation services to 50 families in the child protection process. We found that:
- Social workers and other professionals generally do not understand mediation and were not making appropriate referrals.
- Kinship carers (when a child lives with a relative or friend who isn’t their parent), together with the child’s parents, were the most likely cohort to attend and make agreements at mediation.
We are excited to continue working with WWEICSC on this project.”
Sleep quality, diet and exercise (SDE) are the ‘big three’ correlates of Mental Health Disorders. The intervention consists of embedding experienced Mental Health Practitioners in 2-3 local authority fostering services, working with frontline managers and social workers to identify and support young people who need to develop healthy SDE behaviours and habits. The intervention involves working directly with the young person, along with their foster carer and social worker. Sessions will combine practical support (e.g. doing exercise with the young person) and emotionally focused motivational work. They will be supported in this by sessional personal trainers and a nutritionist.
Coram: “We are looking forward to engaging more young people with care experience in sleep, diet and exercise activities complementing and supporting other interventions aimed to support mental health and wellbeing. We are also looking forward to learning from the perspectives of young people, their carers and linked professionals as to the positioning and impact of this accessible intervention in their support. We hope to find out more about its reach to a diverse group of children within the care system and engagement with local authority partners in the Coram innovation incubator to generate enough evidence to scale up provision.”
Delivery of the three interventions and feasibility studies will begin in September 2023, and the final research reports will be published by February 2025.