The Nottingham City Council and community stakeholders have developed a programme to reach out to priority families with the aim of mitigating long term family and social problems. The holistic programme has so far engaged 1,200 families and has been extended into Phase II. To evaluate the effectiveness of the programme and its value to the various stakeholders, Ecorys has been commissioned to perform an 18 month evaluation.
Priority families is a term that designates a family that has complex needs and problems stemming from or related to: domestic abuse and violence; children not in school; unemployment; problems with children's health and mental wellbeing; and crime and anti-social behaviour.
The issues are often, due to the nature of personal behaviour and the family structure, associated with each other. Approaching the issue one problem at a time has therefore been shown to be ineffective as the inter-related issues tend to produce relapse. To tackle the issue in a more comprehensive manner, the Nottingham City Council developed the ‘Priority Families Programme’, which takes a holistic approach to the situation by supporting each family member. The Council is supported by a wide range of community stake holders that often have otherwise separate interactions with the families, including the regional Police force, Nottingham City Homes, Department of Work and Pensions, Schools and Academies, Probation, NHS and Crime and Drugs Partnership. By working together with the community as a whole to support the families find a way through their respective issues, often with a preventative approach, long term harm to family members and the wider society may be mitigated.
Since 2012 the initiative and its partners have supported 1,200 families, and according to council bosses the programme can be labelled a success. “I’m delighted that we have improved the lives of so many families. Our programme has introduced a new way of supporting our families which is really making a difference in the City. We’re seeing great results: families like it, workers like it; it’s really paying off,” comments Nicky Dawson, Priority Families Programme Co-ordinator in Nottingham. Building on the results of the first four years, the initiative has now entered Phase II, which runs between 2015 and 2020. The second phase involves an expanded scope, and aims to support further families (around 3,900 families) with a much broader range of needs and problems. New issues like domestic violence and the health and wellbeing needs of children will also come under the microscope.
To independently assess the performance of the programme so far, the City Council has commissioned Ecorys to delve into the programme’s return on investment, both in terms of monetary benefits, as well as its impact on society. The firm has prior experience providing assessments of family related programmes in the UK, including evaluations of the national Troubled Families programme for DCLG, Improving Futures (for the Big Lottery Fund) and the ESF Families with Multiple Problems programme for DWP, as well as evaluations of a number of local family programmes.
The assessment of the Priority Families Programme has begun earlier this month and will take 18 months to complete. The main aim is to identify how the outcomes of citizens is improved by the local delivery of the programme. The evaluation of the programme will include a data-review and cost-benefit analysis, as well as an analysis of how the programme is being implemented through a survey of practitioners and site visits. The side of the family will also be explored through a variety of measures, including longitudinal family case studies, a family questionnaire and a Family Advisory Panel – which provides key insights into the family’s perspective and their long term outcomes.