Developing an Outcomes Model for Disabled Children in Scotland

This project focused on better understanding ‘outcome models’ for all children and young people and for children and young people in the diverse and challenging context of disability.

Appendix A Methodology: Objectives, Scope, and Approach of the Project

This section outlines the remit for the project and outlines some issues that arose early in the work that framed the approach to the data collected.



The overarching aims of the project as outlined in the Research Specification10 were:

  • To identify and develop an outcomes model based on the principles of GIRFEC for disabled children and young people in Scotland.
  • To identify a suite of appropriate measures to monitor and report on progress towards achieving these outcomes for disabled children and young people as part of the overall model for improving children and young people's outcomes.


The specific objectives of the project were:

  • Develop a map illustrating the short, medium and long-term outcomes for disabled children and young people, based on the eight SHANARRI well-being domains.
  • Provide suggestions for future development and measurement of progress. (op.cit., Section 7)

However, this is not about defining original or new outcomes or about developing new ways of documenting them. The Research Specification goes on to say:

"There is currently a range of available indicators which have been developed with significant input from stakeholders and it is not the purpose of this study to introduce another set but rather to work with what has already been identified and provide a greater understanding of whether / how they can be used in the context of monitoring outcomes for disabled children and young people." (emphasis added) (op.cit., Section 6)

Consequent issues

In looking at the initial data suggested, at the literature around disabled children and young people and around outcomes, as well as through some initial conversations with public officials and key stakeholders, it quickly became evident that there were a number of issues that would frame much of the work.

We had started with a simple working definition of outcomes but this had to be developed and expanded in the light of the Literature Review and of the data collected during the research.

In particular it became apparent that the use of the term "outcomes" is becoming widespread if not universal, consequent upon Scottish Government policy in addition to changing perceptions of good practice. As a result there are many ways in which "outcomes" are being interpreted and developed. In the first instance, the meaning of the term depends on the context in which it is being used.

Understanding this has been helped by the use of a simple model involving several "levels" of outcomes according to whether they are at the level of Scottish Government policy, local authority work, the work of service delivery agencies or practice with individual children and young people.

The Research Specification (Scottish Government, 2012) is accompanied by a list of Scottish Government initiatives to consider, to which the Children and Families Analytical Services (who commissioned the work) subsequently added others.

These are primarily initiatives framed by the Scottish Government outcomes approach and in fact refer to social policy or organisational outcomes. However, on looking at the core literature for the project (again based on lists from the Research Specification, the Tender Document and suggestions from the Research Advisory Group), it is immediately clear that there are many initiatives being developed, by local authorities, by charities, by universities (often in partnership with each other) and by others.

Since this work was intended not to duplicate such initiatives, but rather to identify and document them (in order to complete a map of work in progress), it was necessary to document the range of outcomes work in progress with disabled children and young people, and this became the focus of the survey on which the main data collection was based.

It also became evident early on, partly as a consequence of our making known the project and the early compilation of contacts, that a number of people and organisations were in the process of developing outcomes models for use across Scotland with particular groups of disabled children and young people. Anxiety was expressed by some of these parties that our work would duplicate other pieces of work currently in progress. However, many of these projects involved extensive consultation with relevant stakeholders over lengthy periods, and included direct work with disabled children and young people themselves. This in fact provided further evidence of work in progress and helped sharpen the focus of the research.

Revised strategy

Consequent upon these early findings, the focus of the work was reframed not only to make it more achievable, but also to ensure that its own outcomes had some credibility. This involved identifying and documenting:

  • Who's doing what in developing outcomes for disabled children and young people.
  • What models of outcomes looked like in practice.
  • What overlaps, commonalities and gaps appeared in these models.
  • What issues were consequently identified in relation to developing outcomes models further, for both policy and practice.
  • How the various approaches to outcomes modelling connect to GIRFEC, again in policy and practice.

Doing so would meet the objective listed earlier of "developing a map illustrating the short, medium and long-term outcomes for disabled children and young people based on the eight SHANARRI well-being domains". It would also provide suggestions for "future development and measurement of progress". These would be important steps towards developing an outcomes model in relation to disabled children and young people in Scotland.

The Study

We started the project knowing that many people were developing outcomes models, and that some of these were for use with disabled children. We did not know however, who was doing what nor what types of models were being developed. The literature review, which focussed both on disabled children and young people, especially in Scotland, and also on outcomes development work, did not greatly extend our knowledge in this area.

As outlined in the project proposal, we planned a survey of what was being done in the field. The first phase was a questionnaire distributed to 286 people and organisations working with children and/or disability across Scotland. The purpose of this survey was to involve key stakeholders, secure their interest and permission to participate, and to collect baseline information about their work and how/whether it involved outcomes.

A total of 78 people responded positively. 10 local authorities were involved - either completing a survey, taking part in a face to face or phone interview or providing information. In terms of organisations primarily concerned with children and young people's welfare, 4 agencies were involved in the study - some providing multiple survey responses. 11 organisations which would primarily be classed as disability organisations participated. Most were not concerned with a specific disability or condition or working only with children and young people. Other agencies/organisations involved in the study included University academic staff, NHS agencies, and other national bodies. One national network organisation was also involved.

A second more detailed questionnaire was distributed to this group and we received replies from 39 people. The data was collected using a Survey Monkey questionnaire, with the alternative of a downloadable version in Word.

Additionally, ten people were interviewed, either by phone or face-to-face.

From the point of announcing the work and distributing the first survey, we received a steady flow of inquiries, which continued throughout the project with most of the inquiries from people seeking to be involved in the project in some way. It also triggered some expressions of anxiety from people who were developing outcomes models, or who knew of such work, that this work would duplicate work already underway.

The data collected provided us with an understanding of the different ways in which outcomes were being approached in different contexts and of the ways in which this was being related to GIRFEC.

Together with data from the interviews, the survey data also provided us with the material for a series of case studies of the different contexts in which outcomes models were being developed, some of which are summarised in Section 5 and Appendix B, but which also inform and/or support the discussions in the other sections.


Email: Fiona McDiarmid

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