Call for greater role for research and evidence in child and community services

April 3, 2014: Research and evidence should play a much greater role in informing planning and funding decisions about services for children, families and communities – according to a new report.

The report Leading Community Change: Delivering Better Outcomes in an Irish Community strongly recommends that child and community services be incentivised to re-align delivery and resources towards evidence-informed models.

The report says that acknowledging limited or no outcomes, and introducing change should be seen as positive rather than a failure.

The report says that training should be provided to policy makers and influencers to improve understanding and use of research to inform decisions.

The findings are set out in a comprehensive report on work coordinated by the Childhood Development Initiative (CDI) in Tallaght West from 2007-2013. During this time CDI developed, coordinated and evaluated seven prevention and early intervention programmes with a budget of €16m that targeted 5,000 children and families.

CDI CEO Marian Quinn said that the Tallaght experience highlighted the need for much greater emphasis on how national and community based children’s organisations and services work together.

“The report calls for a national framework, to which all Government departments and agencies sign up, that provides the protocols and policies for interagency collaboration, including referral processes and information-sharing to maximise the effective utilisation of resources to support children’s well-being.”

“Some Children’s Services Committees (CSCs) have developed such protocols and CDI recommends that a national information-sharing protocol is agreed and included in the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People.”

CDI’s work was part of the Prevention and Early Intervention Programme (PEIP), a Department of Children and Atlantic Philanthropies co-funded project to improve outcomes for children in disadvantaged areas. Other programmes were run in Ballymun and Dublin 17.

The Leading Community Change report was launched by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald, who said it provided a wealth of learning which would be useful not only for the children’s sector, but across the community, voluntary and public sectors as a whole.

“We are continuously working to improve children’s services and community work. This report provides very useful guidance on how we can continue further in this process. We will be reviewing the findings and encourage other organisations to also do so.”

Further recommendations in the report include:
• Those with line management responsibilities in the child and family sector should be provided with training in relation to mentoring, enabling reflective practice, effective needs assessment and planning processes.
• Senior staff should be supported in developing a positive organisational culture, in diffusing leadership across structures, in assessing team requirements and in logic modelling (a framework that focuses on the achievement of agreed outcomes), utilising evidence to inform planning and assessing impact.
• The commitment to using evidence to inform planning and service delivery, should underpin decisions across all Government departments and agencies and this principle should underpin the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People, in order to ensure the best return on investment in prevention and early intervention services.
• Departments should commit to giving serious consideration to the implications of the CDI and other evaluations, for professional training, service planning and service integration.

Newly appointed CDI Chairperson Suzanne Guerin thanked the Minister for her supportive comments and said she was delighted that the scope and scale of prevention and early intervention work had been expanded in the €30m Area Based Childhood (ABC) programme which is being co-funded to 2016 by the Department of Children and The Atlantic Philanthropies.

CDI is currently coordinating a range of interventions in Tallaght West as part of the ABC programme.

Further Information
Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.
The full Report and Policy Brief are at
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