National Development Project Fund (NDPF) - evaluation: final report

Evaluation of ten projects funded by the National Development Project Fund (NDPF) - part of our investment in services to support people with problem alcohol and drug use.

4 Conclusions

The Scottish Government established the National Development Project Fund (NDPF) to implement the priorities of the Rights, Respect and Recovery strategy and help address problem drug and alcohol use in Scotland. Ten projects were awarded NDPF funding in January 2019 specifically to address gaps in advocacy services, family inclusive services and support, and start-up investment for new approaches to treatment, support and recovery. This final report of the evaluation has highlighted learning from the projects and, as far as possible, evidenced their impact. The evaluation focused on learning of national significance that could help inform the support provided for people with alcohol and drug problems across Scotland. 

Conclusions regarding the overall impact of the NDPF are difficult. As noted, timing and gaps in monitoring reports limited the available evidence for the evaluation. It was also noted that the ten projects were diverse not only between, but also within, the three priorities, and there were only two projects for the family inclusive services and start-up investment priorities which limited the conclusions that could be taken from their delivery. There were six NDPF-funded advocacy projects, including five that directly delivered advocacy to people with alcohol and drug problems, and there was therefore more scope to draw out lessons from these projects. 

Based on the evidence presented in monitoring reports and consultation with service providers, people using these services and other stakeholders, the NDPF-funded advocacy services provided valuable support to people with alcohol and drug problems. The services helped people from the target group connect, re-connect or address issues with alcohol and drug services, and provided emotional and practical support to sustain their recovery. They also helped people access other support for issues often connected to their alcohol and drug problems such as housing, debt, and benefits. NDPF-funded advocacy services also provided valuable learning related to the benefits of having workers with lived experience and workers specifically dedicated to supporting people with alcohol and drug problems (as opposed to advocacy workers supporting people with a range of issues). Based on the NDPF experience, these elements could form the core of advocacy services for people with alcohol and drug problems across Scotland.

It was shown that some of the NDPF-funded advocacy services provided additional support, individually and in groups, which aimed to further support people's recovery. This raised questions about the respective roles of advocacy services, alcohol and drug support services, and recovery communities that, we suggest, would benefit from discussion involving all parties and the Scottish Government. Guidance on the role of advocacy services in the alcohol and drug setting could be a useful output from these and any subsequent discussions. These issues would also benefit from discussion involving the above stakeholders, in our view. These issues could have been discussed at the networking and information sharing sessions which were planned as part of the Fund and welcomed by the funded organisations at the outset. The impact of staff changes and responding to COVID-19 within the Scottish Government contributed to these sessions not taking place. These issues were also factors in the gaps in monitoring information which limited the evidence available for this evaluation, remaining unfilled. 

Although more limited, conclusions can still be drawn from the other two NDPF priorities. NDPF funding confirmed the need for additional financial support, from the Scottish Government and other funders, for family inclusive support services and start-up investment. The funding highlighted that families, including kinship carers, can be hidden and have limited support options. It also demonstrated that start-up investment is useful and otherwise in short supply. It can also involve risks and may not always be as impactful as envisaged but is, nonetheless, likely to produce useful learning. 

Overall the evaluation has shown the National Development Project Fund has produced learning and impacts of national significance that could be applied to help address problem drug and alcohol use in Scotland in the future. Learning related to advocacy services should be particularly useful to the Scottish Government and partners in terms of future policy and funding.



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