It is impossible to assess the effectiveness of many recent initiatives aiming to improve outcomes for vulnerable young people according to a research review.
Asked, by the current government, to review 10 Labour initiatives in a bid to help inform future policy, Professor Janet Walker of Newcastle University and Professor Cam Donaldson of Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “The most depressing conclusion from our review is that despite substantial social resources having been spent on pilots, pathfinders, evaluations and the roll-out of programmes, there is no hard evidence as to their effectiveness.”
The initiatives examined included family group conferencing, children’s trusts pathfinders, family intervention projects, intensive family support projects, youth inclusion and support panels and budget-holding lead professional pilots.
The authors found that none of the projects met the five criteria needed to assess cost effectiveness and all of the evaluations struggled to measure outcomes.
“The initiatives frequently relied on qualitative assessments of change and failed to promote the kind of robust evidence that is required to inform policy decisions. Practitioners tended to confuse outputs with outcomes and did not always understand the vital links between assessments, interventions and impacts.”
The authors said, at most, the 10 initiatives had simply identified building blocks for any new programme. These included a wider adoption of the common assessment framework (CAF), the establishment of multi-agency teams (preferably co-located) such as teams around the child (TAC), identification of a lead professional to co-ordinate service delivery, the need for commitment from all agencies, appropriate training for new roles and a more integrated commissioning process.
“Underpinning the development and implementation of the key building blocks must be a highly skilled and competent social care workforce, and any new workforce strategy needs to find ways of reducing high workloads and the competing demands on practitioner’s time. It is also evident that more needs to be done…to develop robust measures of the effectiveness of social care interventions.”
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