It’s now six months since I joined the Fulfilling Lives national evaluation team. My background is in community and criminal justice research, so I have a degree of familiarity with the target group. I have evaluated initiatives to help re-engagement on release from prison, to provide pathways to education and ultimately employment, and to help with accommodation and independent living. Offenders often have chaotic lifestyles and multiple needs including experience of homelessness, alcohol and/or drug dependency, and/or mental health issues. You can often find childhood trauma, special educational needs or attachment issues as well. What struck me time and time again when listening to offenders and their workers tell me their stories was the lack of coherent support available to people who are in desperate need of help.
The latest national evaluation report on the Fulfilling Lives (Supporting People with Multiple Needs) programme, published today by CFE, shows continuing high demand for help. The 12 funded projects have successfully engaged with nearly 3,000 people affected by homelessness, substance misuse, offending and mental ill health.
Beneficiaries who remain with the programme show clear signs of progress, but this takes time and substantial resource. Project staff often need to spend extended periods of time with beneficiaries and have to be flexible to cope with chaotic lives. However some beneficiaries have needs for which they will always require support. What constitutes success varies from person to person and in many cases, success is about developing strategies, resilience and understanding to effectively manage their needs.
The report includes clear messages and promising practice, providing recommendations not just for those who work to support people with multiple needs, but also for service commissioners and funders.
Read the full report here: http://mcnevaluation.co.uk/wpfb-file/annual-report-2017-v1-final-pdf/
At the centre of the Fulfilling Lives (Multiple Needs) programme is evaluation and here the workforce is on the frontline. For it is they who source, collate and complete the two key measures – the Homelessness Outcomes Star and the NDT Assessment – with the service beneficiaries. Frontline workers say something they enjoy about the programme is the move away from a purely target driven approach. To make the most of this we need to make sure that the essential evaluation is not a chore. Not tasks that are completed as an add-on to a day’s work but ones that are integral to the way of working alongside beneficiaries and peer workers.
Thus, we need to know what it is about the projects that captures the imagination and creativity of practitioners. Ask what is it they like about the work alongside beneficiaries which will secure as full an evaluation picture as possible? It is my contention that it is knowingly being part of a virtuous circle – one which takes theory into practice, evaluates that practice and thereby shapes a better informed and improved theory that can go on to influence wider practice, which is so rewarding. Pride – for both frontline worker and service user – is in curiosity satisfied. In the Fulfilling Lives (Multiple Needs) overall programme then, evaluation of just how each individual beneficiary achieves their aspirations should be accumulated, lead to system change and improve the lives of many people, families and communities with multiple and complex needs. Evaluation, and the curiosity that fuels it, are vital to generating that positive feedback loop on which the projects depend for their results.
In my experience curious practitioners have:
- Clarity of programme and project purpose
- Detailed understanding of their job role and responsibilities
- The skills and training required to make good use of the evaluation tools
- Time to collect the data and information needed
- An ability to make evaluation an engaging part of their relationship with beneficiaries
- Involvement in the analysis and assessment of data and information
- Encouragement to bring their wider knowledge and experience to support and/or challenge data and information
- Support to ask difficult questions about the reliability of data and information
- Knowledge and understanding of the common pitfalls in research and evaluation
- Feedback on what the data and information is revealing across projects
Essentially the outcomes of evaluations should help not hinder, be practical for practitioners and challenge in a way that stimulates further curiosity. Evaluations must be inquisitive about the interventions and approaches. The more we know about what works, and why, the better. In this way the best workforce can be recruited, trained, supported and retained. What follows is not just an effective service but one that is sustainable and replicable because it is founded on research. For, as we all know “research is formalised curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose”.
What we need to know from project beneficiaries, frontline workers and their managers is what will assist us all to undertake really effective evaluations? How can we make sure we make the best use of the evaluation tools we have? Do drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or call on my mobile 07947 680 588.
 Zora Neale Hurston
Helen Gavaghan, Senior Engagement Worker at Inspiring Change Manchester (ICM), gives an inkling of some of the things workers do to support people to think about change. She says some ‘traditional’ approaches need challenging and staff freed up to be open about working with both their own and their client’s lived experience. She concludes by suggesting learning about what it is that staff are doing is collected and brought together as a tool-kit for other practitioners.
In the Fulfilling Lives (Multiple Needs) projects, when considering the learning that is being fed back overall, I feel there could be more detailed examination of what the frontline project workers do that makes a difference to people’s lives. I believe that there is some valuable learning that could be collected and shared and, if it isn’t, may be lost. General explanations of the approach, such as “building trusting relationships” and “avoidance of judgement” are fine – but I believe are in no way getting down to the specifics and nuances of the great work that is going on.
The National Expert Citizen’s Group is a group of individuals with lived experience of homelessness, substance misuse, mental ill health and offending behaviour. The group is comprised of individuals from the 12 funded project areas for the Big Lottery Fund’s ‘Fulfilling Lives: Supporting people with multiple needs’. CFE Research facilitates the group. Members from the group have been accepted to run a workshop at the 2017 Multiple Needs summit in Milton Keynes. Sarah Robinson, the group’s facilitator (and research manager on the programme’s National Evaluation), will be supporting two group members to lead and present at their first national conference.
It is, perhaps, self-evident that people with complex needs frequently require correspondingly multiple and complex responses…. wrote Henwood and Hudson in their 2009 CSCI study Keeping it personal. Now as Carers’ Week passes we have, in the Care Act, the strongest rights yet for carers. When put together with the duty of assessment for young carers, in the Children and Families Act, the legislative framework is suitably reflective of the very complexity identified for policy makers five years ago. It is a challenge for the Fulfilling Lives: supporting people with multiple needs evaluation to explore, understand and share how project investment resolves the problematic issues of real life complexity. Those involved in caring relationships shaped by homelessness, criminal behaviours, substance misuse and fragile mental health are potential benefiting contributors to making the most of that significant investment. The evaluation process has to identify both the benefits and contributions of carers to the success of Fulfilling Lives. Continue reading
The parliamentary ‘ping-pong’ is over, amendments agreed between the Lords and the Commons and the Care Act has Royal Assent. Everyone – local authorities, NHS bodies, public, voluntary and private organisations – are busy assessing the potential impact of the new law on what they do. How will it help/hinder; what are the gaps; what are the costs; what will we do now and what can wait; which clauses take priority; who is going to do what and how will we cope? The questions go on and the project and risk management training is put to the test. Projects will be making similar judgements themselves and the national evaluation team too will be considering how it might impact on our work on Fulfilling Lives; Supporting people with multiple needs. Continue reading
The Big Lottery Fund is today (12th Feb) awarding £112 million across England to end ‘the revolving door of care’ faced by thousands of people with multiple problems including homelessness, mental ill health, addiction and reoffending.
The grants of up to £10 million to 12 areas across the country will help to improve and create better coordinated services to prevent people living chaotic lives being passed between charities and services, which often cannot individually deal with their wide range of needs. Continue reading