Ecorys reviews Nottingham Priority Families Programme

17 February 2016

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.

Ecorys to review effectiveness of Nottingham Priority Families Programme

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.


How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

11 April 2019

Amey Consulting has leveraged data insights to assist Network Rail with the improvement of its South-Eastern route. Using the Quartz tool, which monitors train movement, Network Rail will now be able to commit to data-enabled interventions to quickly improve underperforming train stations.

With rail services in the UK coming under strain from the demands of modern commuter life, while the infrastructure and service delivery of the nation’s railways has come in for sustained criticism in recent years, a period of regeneration is on the cards at last. Network Rail is the owner and infrastructure manager of most of the railway network in Great Britain, and has subsequently tapped the consulting industry on a regular basis to help find areas of improvement.

The group recently drafted in consultancy BearingPoint to conduct a thorough organisational evaluation and advise Network Rail (High Speed) on attaining a ‘fit for purpose’ organisational standard – for which the consultancy was nominated at the 2019 MCA Awards. Meanwhile, ArupArcadis and Aecom have been contracted to help Colas Rail and Babcock Rail implement a decade-long framework for Network Rail, aimed at supporting the delivery of the next generation of rail systems, with the contracts said to be worth as much as £5 billion

How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

As Network Rail further aims to improve its performance and customer service offering, another area it has sought help from the consulting sector for is its South-East route. The network of railways connects London with the southern parts of the country, as well as with Europe, making it the busiest in the country, with more than 500 million passenger journeys per year. This crucial expanse of rail was plagued with small minute delays, which were impacting millions of passengers every day, while reducing the efficiency and capacity of the overall network – something Amey Consulting was selected to help solve.

Amey Consulting soon determined that with the sub-threshold delays to services only lasting for 1 or 2 minutes, most were not the subject of detailed root cause analysis, and this made their corrections almost impossible – with dire consequences. Without addressing these delays, passenger satisfaction would fall, while the capacity and efficiency of the network would be reduced, stinging the income of Network Rail even before a host of delay-related fines would hit the company.

In order to help the client gain a better understanding of where, how, when and what these small delays occur, Amey Consulting looked to demonstrate the value of data-led consulting, with a significant reduction in delays within the first month of rolling out changes to key stations. The consultants embedded themselves in Network Rail’s team, helping them learn the key skills needed to support and apply data-driven solutions.

Agile transport

This involved the deployment of the Quartz tool. The system utilises to-the-second train movement data to present the performance of individual stations across the South-East route. It allows users to effortlessly understand station performance with a high level of detail, and use this information to identify losses caused by small-minute delays. The granular data allows for targeted actions to drive efficiency savings and performance improvements. More importantly, it allows users to understand the impact of small process changes on performance. 

Steve Dyke, an Executive Partner at Amey Consulting, said of the project, “We looked to identify the physical root cause on the infrastructure, building a case for change then managing that project implementation and tracking the benefit/value.  In doing so we are working to define a data performance improvement service to the operational and infrastructure owners.”

Just as important for the project as the technology, however, was teaching the Network Rail team how to leverage it after the consultants were gone. The Amey Consulting team worked to develop an agile working culture within Network Rail’s South-East division, helping staff to be confident in using data to improve the journeys of millions of people per year by attacking the problem from the ground up.

Dyke concluded, “This is less about the tools and about the approach to managing performance.  It meant using by-the-second analysis, data science, and then agile development to visualise and identify areas where improvements can be made.  We then worked with NR to change the way they approached the management of the infrastructure changes.  So rather than pass the information down the value chain, any of which could have been missed, we managed the change end-to-end.”

The project was so successful that Amey Consulting was also among those honoured at the recent MCA Awards. The firm scooped the Performance Improvement in the Public Sector prize for its work with Network Rail, at the 2019 ceremony in London.