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Overarching Evaluation of the Parenting Fund

Background

A research team consisting of staff from the Policy Research Bureau and the Tavistock Institute has been funded by the Department for Education and Skills to undertake a national evaluation of the Parenting Fund. The research team has considerable previous experience of conducting studies of parenting, including services for families, and of evaluation studies including those of grant allocation and fundholding activities.

The Parenting Fund was first announced in the Government's 2002 Spending Review and is the most recent in a long line of area-based family support initiatives launched since 1997. Voluntary organisations offering support to parents receive grants from the fund. These are divided between Major Grants (which may have either a regional of national focus) and Local Grants for projects located in one of 18 designated geographical areas of England.

Some unique and innovative features distinguish the Parenting Fund from previous initiatives which similarly aim to support families. These include a one-off grants distribution process, the appointment of a voluntary sector service to manage the fund (the 'Fundholder') with the support of a private sector consultancy, and the development of a strategic approach to provision and increased access for parents currently less well served. In addition, only voluntary sector organisations may apply for funding.

What does the research focus on?

While the impact of the funded projects on parents and children will be important, the Fund's main objective is to build capacity in the parenting and family support sector. Thus the evaluation will measure the extent to which the Fund is successful in: developing a strategic approach to provision; strengthening the voluntary sector infrastructure; and increasing parenting provision, specifically by filling gaps in the availability of parenting support and improving access for and take-up by groups not currently well served. As such it will concentrate on process, outputs and short-to-medium term outcomes rather than on longer term outcomes such as improvements in parenting skills or improvements in child behaviour.

What does the research involve?
The research is divided into two distinct strands.

Strand A, Evaluation of the Fundholder, will be undertaken by the Tavistock Institute. The aim of this strand is to gather feedback and lessons that arise from central government's commissioning of a voluntary agency to run the programme. This part of the evaluation will involve four components and will consist of: a two- stage telephone survey of successful and unsuccessful applicants to the programme; a review of programme documents; observation of programme activities including the selection process; interviews with key stakeholders; review of monitoring processes and programme support; and interviews with key informants in other, similar programmes.

Strand B, Evaluation of the Funded Projects, will be undertaken by PRB. The aim is to ascertain how and to what extent funded projects contributed to the Parenting Fund's objectives. This strand will consist of six components and will include: the development of a service typology through analysis of all funded projects; the selection of a sample of Major and Local Projects (the latter in six selected Parenting Fund areas); analysis of their objectives; two-stage mapping of parenting services in the six selected areas; and information-gathering from the selected Major and Local Projects and workshops with stakeholders.


Timescale and final products of the research

The evaluation will last for two and half years, beginning in January 2005. We will provide regular reports to the Department for Education and Skills and at the end of the research a major report for publication will be produced.

For further details, contact Judy Corlyon jcorlyon@tavinstitute.org.

Last updated March 2007