This report presents the interim findings from a process evaluation of Elements 1 and 2 of the Scottish Government Whole Family Wellbeing Funding (WFWF) in its first year of operation. It explores the early journey of change of Children's Services Planning Partnerships (CSPPs) since receiving this funding, and early evidence of implementation in respect to funding administration, and the design and set-up of funded activities. Findings are based on research carried out between September 2022 to February 2023. A full evaluation report of Year 1 will be available in early 2024.
Annex 4 of this report contains a full glossary of terms and acronyms specific to the WFWF.
Background and evaluation objectives
In Scotland, family support is a range of services to help families meet their individual needs, to thrive and to stay together. The vision is for holistic family support to be readily available to all families that need it. The Scottish Government wants to ensure that families are able to access the help they need, where and when they need it. This supports the ambition to create a Scotland where more children will only know care, compassion and love, and not a 'care system.'
To support this vision, the WFWF is a Scottish Government investment of at least £500m over the lifetime of this Parliament (2022-2026). A critical part of this investment is helping Children's Services Planning Partnerships implement whole system transformational change. This funding will focus on the system changes required to shift investment towards early intervention and prevention activities, to ensure families can access support before they reach crisis point.
In September 2022, the Scottish Government commissioned IFF Research, an independent research and evaluation agency, to undertake an evaluation of the implementation of Year 1 of Elements 1 and 2 of WFWF. The overarching aims of this evaluation are to:
- Provide an overview of types of activity the Element 1 and 2 funding is being used for.
- Understand local delivery partners' views on how Element 1 and 2 funding has been used.
- Understand children, young people and families' experiences of family support services that have received Element 1 and 2 funding, and the extent to which this has achieved short-term outcomes (as far as possible).
- Provide evidence for policy and practice to inform future improvement of the WFWF and whole system transformational change.
The interim data which the findings in this report are based on are:
- 14 qualitative interviews with 25 strategic leads and managers of WFWF funded activities in six case study CSPPs (see Annex 3). These interviews explored the needs and existing activities of CSPPs, their plans for using the WFWF, any early experiences of implementation, and expectations of implementation going forward. Two of the six case study CSPPs are involved in both Element 1 and 2, the remaining four are only involved in Element 1.
- Analysis of 30 CSPP WFWF initial plans for Element 1 funding. The analysis was to support the Scottish Government and the IFF team's understanding of how CSPPs intended to use their initial funding allocation, and to help inform the design of other evaluation activities. For example, how to best monitor progress over time, to inform annual report guidance and the case study research materials.
CSPP views on Scottish Government's support role
The WFWF was welcomed and appreciated by CSPPs. CSPP strategic leads and managers shared the Scottish Government's vision for the funding and agreed with its aims and objectives, particularly its emphasis on early intervention and prevention. The funding was described as an innovative opportunity for them to develop better ways of working to support the whole family, increase current offerings and upscale holistic family support models.
The Scottish Government's communication with WFWF leads and support provided to CSPPs was perceived by strategic leads and managers as helpful to the delivery of WFWF activities. CSPP strategic leads and managers appreciated having a direct, named link into Scottish Government, and praised the WFWF leads for their timely responses and commitment to finding answers to their questions. Element 2 CSPPs initially had a different contact for each of Element 1 and 2. They felt that having the same contact may bring about efficiencies to their ways of working. As a result, Scottish Government allocated a single point of contact for CSPPs with both Element 1 and 2 funding as of autumn 2022.
There were a few areas where CSPPs requested more opportunities for knowledge sharing between CSPPs and support from the Scottish Government. These included collecting data to evidence the performance of their WFWF activity, and how to plan for the sustainability of their WFWF-funded support beyond the funding period.
Experiences of designing and planning WFWF funded support
The overarching aims of the WFWF align well with how the strategic leads and managers described their CSPPs' overall direction of travel and view of their priorities locally. All CSPP visions for the WFWF mirrored the focus of the funding on improving provision of early intervention and prevention.
To decide on their WFWF priorities and activities, CSPPs consulted with CSPP partners and children, young people and families, and interrogated existing data to understand local need.
WFWF implementation and progress to date
All six case study CSPPs focused on getting the right resource and staffing in place for newly created roles that will be involved in the development and delivery of WFWF activity. Most CSPPs experienced pressures in recruiting the appropriate staff. CSPP strategic leads and managers reported the main difficulties to be a lack of local applicants and the temporary nature of the funding, meaning CSPPs could only recruit staff on less appealing fixed-term contracts. To overcome this, a few CSPPs decided to fill WFWF-related vacancies with existing staff rather than by advertising new roles. At the time interviews were completed by February 2023, four of the six case study CSPPs had recruited all or nearly all their roles, and the vacancies for the remaining two CSPPs remained.
Four of the six case study CSPPs have progressed to starting delivery of new support funded through the WFWF or expanding existing service provision. Essential for implementation progress was the role of a dedicated lead for driving forward the WFWF and leading on coordination across CSPP partners and the third sector. Those CSPPs focusing on expanding existing provision felt that this also gave them an advantage to progress at pace.
WFWF monitoring and outcomes
The intended outcomes of WFWF are summarised in the logic model developed by Scottish Government (see Annex 1). Of those intended outcomes, the most common outcomes CSPPs intend to deliver with their WFWF activities are to embed holistic whole family support; (re)design whole family support; and improve children, young people, and families' access to support. The less common intended outcomes are to; innovate; develop a holistic workforce approach; and invest locally in planning system change. The final evaluation report will discuss progress towards these outcomes.
CSPPs understand the importance of evidencing their progress and outcomes for WFWF, beyond Year 1. Most CSPPs included plans for monitoring and/or evaluation activity in their initial plans beyond the evaluation delivered by IFF. This ranged from CSPPs using existing data to evidence outcomes to collecting baseline data.
Scoping how best to monitor performance, including the exact metrics relevant for their WFWF activities, continues to be a main activity for CSPPs. For some, their plans involve building their analysis capacity, either through hiring or freeing up capacity from analysts or data officers. For others, their plans include implementing new IT software to better track and measure outcomes.
CSPPs identified some risks to their ability to effectively measure their progress towards achieving WFWF outcomes. Risks include practitioners having the time and skills to record information needed and collect qualitative evidence of children, young people, and families' experiences to help explain statistical analysis they plan to undertake; monitoring many different services and supporting and linking these together to assess whether WFWF is bringing about a systems change; measuring less tangible outcomes, such as collaboration between partners, service integration and shared accountability across partners; and attributing any changes observed to WFWF.
Conclusions and considerations
As a process evaluation running in parallel to the development and delivery of WFWF, early insights can help improve and enhance WFWF as it is developing. Based on the evidence in CSPPs' initial CSPP plans, and the discussions with six case study strategic leads and managers, the IFF team offer the following considerations and opportunities for how the Scottish Government and CSPPs can continue to work collaboratively together to deliver the vision of the WFWF. These considerations reflect evidence gathered to date from the evaluation and therefore should be considered within this context of the early stages of the WFWF.
CSPPs and the Scottish Government are encouraged to work together to:
- Support CSPPs to explore the sustainability of their WFWF activity and plan longer-term spending, beyond the funding payment milestones and embedding activity into business as usual.
- Continue to find ways for CSPPs to share knowledge, best practice and learning with each other from their WFWF activity. Examples of topics CSPPs suggested covering include:
- Ways of engaging and working in collaboration with third sector partners and the channels/forums CSPPs are finding most useful to do so quickly and effectively;
- Ideas and solutions to support with recruitment, including around hiring staff using time-limited WFWF;
- Ideas about how to assess the quality of their data and the ways they could use it to inform their monitoring, practically and relative to their capacity for doing so.
- Continue regular communication between the Scottish Government and CSPPs on key information for CSPPs about the WFWF, for example, timescales for future stages of the WFWF, and about how and when this can best be communicated to meet CSPP needs.
- Continue to work together to support CSPPs to articulate their intended outcomes of the WFWF. This would be a useful step before then considering how best to measure these with either existing evidence or through new evidence collection.
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