52 evaluations, Ten years of learning for children and young people

52 evaluations, Ten years of learning for children and young people

Research, evidence, evaluation

Government departments in Ireland and Northern Ireland and The Atlantic Philanthropies


One of our first tasks at CES was to synthesise evidence from a significant, ten year investment in prevention and early intervention in services for children and young people in Ireland and Northern Ireland. We summarised findings from 52 independent evaluations and produced reports, briefings and resources to inform policy and practice.

The challenge

Large scale research and evaluation studies such as Randomised Controlled Trials can provide reliable, robust data and insights for both policy makers and practitioners.  Over a twelve-year period (2004-2016), services for children and young people in Ireland benefited from the Prevention and Early Intervention Initiative - a significant investment from The Atlantic Philanthropies and government. Independent, robust evaluations were conducted of 52 different programmes and services aiming to improve different aspects of children’s lives:   child behaviour, learning, attitudes to inclusion and diversity, child health and parenting. CES was tasked with synthesising findings from the evaluations, translating the findings into accessible, useful formats for policy makers and service providers.

What we did

Understand the challenge

Summarising the breath and depth of knowledge generated over a ten-year period from the Prevention and Early Intervention Initiative was a complex task. The Prevention and Early Initiative involved community and voluntary sector organisations delivering international evidence based programmes, along with other programmes adapted to meet the needs of local communities. Programmes were aimed at different age groups, were delivered in a variety of settings, and used different methodologies to evaluate their outcomes.

Design the approach

CES engaged with service providers over a ten-year period, and launched initial findings in 2014 in the report Ten Years of Learning - Prevention and Early Intervention Approaches in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Reports were updated to reflect the final evaluation data, and from 2016 to 2019 CES published ‘On the right track’, a complete series of thematic reports focusing on child health, behaviour, learning, parenting, inclusion and diversity. A series of summaries was produced highlighting key messages for funders and service commissioners and common features of effective programme design and delivery. Infographics were produced to communicate the strength of the evidence base behind each programme.

Supporting progress

Prevention and early intervention have been part of CES’s story since we were established in 2008. In addition to evaluation synthesis, CES supported the archiving of all of the evaluations through the Digital Repository of Ireland. Further funding from the Atlantic Philanthropies was used to develop the Child, Youth and Family Database – a tool for practitioners with information about the standard measurement tools used in researching and evaluating the services and programmes.

We continue our involvement with prevention and early intervention through our work with the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

The impact

Reports from this work have been widely cited by academics and professionals and have informed subsequent philanthropic investments in Ireland and Northern Ireland, along with policy initiatives and programmes. Reports informed Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures (The Policy Framework for Children and Young People in Ireland) and the Early Intervention Transformation Programme (EITP) in Northern Ireland. CES also drew on learning from this investment to support implementation of the HSE Nurture Programme, and the Reaching Out, Supporting Families Programme in Northern Ireland.

Further resources and information is available here.

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The Team

Majella McCloskey

Director, Evidence Informed Policy and Communities

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