The Department of Children and Youth Affairs and The Atlantic Philanthropies
An evaluation of the outcomes, implementation and costs of an area-based approach to tackle disadvantage. The evaluation drew from data over a four-year period, and services in thirteen areas around Ireland. The evaluation found that the Programme made a positive contribution to the lives of children and families, and shares learning about effective approaches in services and practice.
The ABC Programme is delivered in thirteen geographic areas of disadvantage around Ireland, and involves the use of evidence-based interventions and services to benefit children and their parents.
Programme funders wanted to find out what changed for the children and families engaging with the Programme as a whole, the changes for practitioners and service providers, and the costs of the interventions across all sites.The evaluation focused on the first four years of the programme (2013-2017), during which the Department of Children & Youth Affairs and The Atlantic Philanthropies invested some €30.7m. Since 2017 the Programme is funded by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, and is now managed by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.
Understand the challenge
A key challenge for this complex evaluation was how to create a national report using data from individual ABC areas. Programme funders were interested in three questions:
Design the approach
The CES evaluation team, led by Dr Claire Hickey, was guided by the funders and an Expert Advisory Group as they set about designing a shared outcomes measurement framework. The involvement of practitioners was recognised as key to gathering the data about outcomes for children and families engaging with ABC services around the country.
Success of a shared outcomes framework required a standardised approach to surveys and questionnaires, but also strong buy in from busy practitioners on the ground. The team worked with the ABC sites to support practitioners, providing training and other supports so that they could collect the data from the parents and families they worked with. The evaluation team quality assured the data and analysed it. The team conducted surveys and held focus groups to get an understanding of the changes for services and practitioners.
Given the complexity and volume of data produced, the team developed a range of resources from the evaluation report to share findings with different audiences, including policy makers, practitioners, service providers, parents and families who participated in the evaluation. Resources included summaries and briefings, tools, posters and learning papers.
The evaluation found positive changes for the parents and children participating, practitioners working in new ways, along with new and better relationships between practitioners and agencies.
Findings were used to inform both policy and practice for children and young people. Findings were used to inform public policy for children and young people on prevention and early intervention. They also informed the establishment of new initiatives, including the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youths What Works Programme, aimed at enhancing capacity, knowledge and quality in prevention and early intervention for children, young people and their families.
The ABC evaluation team included specialist expertise in research and evaluation, along with experience of community and voluntary sector organisations. The team engaged with the Area sites over the course of the evaluation, and drew on communications expertise within CES in producing briefs and resources.