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Children and families

Evaluating support for children and families
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We learn how best to support children and families in need through out research and programme evaluations. Our reports highlight what works well and what works less well . It helps us fund better programmes and helps you to plan successful projects.

We've seen that the following factors can be particularly important for successful projects:

  • understanding families' needs
  • providing support that fits
  • working flexibly
  • working in partnership.

Understanding families’ needs

Taking time to build trusting relationships, with a consistent point of contact can be really valuable. Considering the needs of each family as a whole also helps to tailor support effectively. Together, they help to provide a safe and accessible environment that allows families to choose.

Providing support that fits

  • We have learnt that one size does not fit all. Projects are most successful when they are able to adapt to meet children’s and families’ needs best. This might not always be how they thought they would help their beneficiaries at the start.
  • Providing a range of services and activities can help projects meet different needs. Services that can be adapted to meet specific needs can be particularly effective. This can also help families to make the best use of their own resources.
  • Projects working in partnership with other services can combine specialist knowledge and services. This can complement each other's expertise, especially if it involves early intervention. Helping families to access this support can then act as an early intervention measure.

Working flexibly

  • Being able to respond quickly to emerging needs helps projects consistently support children and families in the best way. Monitoring and evaluating services is one way to improve performance and outcomes.
  • Maintaining strong networks can help to ensure the best collaborative working. Projects also need to make the best use of staff and volunteer skills.

Challenges

Our Supporting 21st Century Life programme has met some challenges in supporting families in Scotland. Identifying these helps us and you to address them in the future. They include:

  • higher demand for services than capacity allows
  • demands placed on resources away from front-line work, such as seeking funding
  • demonstrating impact which attributes causes and effects.

More about the research

Supporting 21st Century Life

Our Supporting 21st Century Life programme focuses on improving the quality of family life in Scotland. It helps families most in need by taking early action to give children a better chance in life.

In 2012, we appointed Ann Sanders to review 23 family support projects we had funded and to:

  • Determine what has worked well and less well within the different approaches used in the projects
  • Inform our future approach to supporting parenting and families
  • Support our contribution to the development of the Scottish Government’s National Parenting Strategy.

Building Quality Childcare

We invested £5m in 89 childcare projects across Northern Ireland through Building Quality Childcare. In 2007 we commissioned Horwath Consulting Ireland and the University of Central Lancashire to evaluate the programme.

Integrated Children’s Centres

Integrated Children’s Centres supported children and their families throughout Wales. They provided early years education, childcare, open access play, community education and training.

We commissioned the National Foundation for Educational Research’s Welsh Unit to evaluate the programme between 2008 and 2009.

New Opportunities for Quality Childcare

We funded new and existing childcare projects in Scotland through New Opportunities for Quality Childcare. Following a £15.3m investment, we commissioned SQW to evaluate the programme in 2005. In parallel, SQW also evaluated our Capability Scotland: Play for All programme.

Out of School Hours Childcare

The Out of School Hours Childcare programme was launched in 1999 by the New Opportunities Fund. It supported the creation, development and sustainability of out of school hours childcare provision.

We commissioned SQW to evaluate the programme.

Publications

Supporting 21st Century Life

Supporting 21st Century Life evaluation

Building Quality Childcare

Building Quality Childcare evaluation
Building Quality Childcare evaluation summary

Integrated Children's Centres

Integrated Children's Centres evaluation
Integrated Children's Centres evaluation summary

New Opportunities for Quality Childcare

New Opportunities for Quality Childcare evaluation
New Opportunities for Quality Childcare evaluation summary

Out of School Hours Childcare

Out of School Hours Childcare first year report
Out of School Hours Childcare first year report: Annex
Out of School Hours Childcare first year report summary
Out of School Hours Childcare second year report
Out of School Hours Childcare second year report summary
Out of School Hours Childcare third year report
Out of School Hours Childcare third year report: Annex
Out of School Hours Childcare third year report summary
Out of School Hours Childcare interim report (2004)
Out of School Hours Childcare interim report: Annex
Out of School Hours Childcare interim report summary
Out of School Hours Childcare final evaluation
Out of School Hours Childcare final evaluation: Annex
Out of School Hours Childcare: Lessons learnt and themes for the future
Out of School Hours Childcare: Provisions for children with special needs and special educational needs
Out of School Hours Childcare: Provisions for children with special needs and special educational needs summary

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