National Evaluation of the Area Based Childhood Programme

The Area-Based Childhood programme (ABC programme) is an area-based prevention and early intervention initiative targeting investment in evidence informed interventions to improve outcomes for children and families in Ireland.  The programme is delivered in thirteen different areas of disadvantage around the country and was funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) and the Atlantic Philanthropies between 2013 and 2017.

CES has been involved in supporting implementation of the programme together with Pobal.  In 2013 CES was tasked with carrying out the national evaluation of the ABC programme by the programme funders.  The final evaluation report is now complete and will be published over the coming months. Summaries from the evaluation report will also be produced.

CES approached the evaluation in the following ways:

Designing the evaluation framework

The evaluation framework focused on three aspects of the programme:

  • Outcomes - what contribution did the programme made to improving outcomes for children and parents?
  • Implementation - how did the programme contribute to changes for practitioners and service managers locally and nationally?
  • Costs – what were the costs of interventions that were delivered?

The framework was designed by CES during 2014, with the support and advice of an Expert Advisory Group.  CES conducted literature reviews and consulted with the programme funders and a wide range of groups and experts, including representatives from ABC areas. 

Implementing the evaluation framework

Involving practitioners in collecting data was a critical aspect of the evaluation. CES developed a shared outcomes measurement framework which allowed practitioners across the different areas to use the same questionnaires to collect information on outcomes for parents and children.  Practitioners collected the data as part of their daily work. The CES evaluation team quality assured and carried out the analysis on the data that practitioners collected.

The team assessed implementation of the programme by collecting evidence through online surveys, focus groups and interviews with key local, regional and national stakeholders. They also completed secondary analysis of key documents.

Finally, the team collated cost data collected in the ABC areas to assess the costs of the interventions provided through the programme. 

Outcomes, implementation and cost data collected throughout the evaluation period were analysed by CES to develop findings and learning from the ABC programme to better understand how it contributed to changes in outcomes.

Capacity building for the ABC areas

During the evaluation CES offered ongoing support to the ABC areas, where requested, in the collection and use of their local outcomes data.  CES shared data and local outcomes findings with the ABC areas to promote the continued use of evidence and data.

Communicating learning from the ABC programme

CES was responsible for writing and presenting findings at different stages, and has shared these with programme funders, the ABC areas and other stakeholders.