One of the aims of the national Fulfilling Lives programme is to share learning about people with multiple and complex needs and the interactions they currently have with support services, and something which helps to produce this learning is research and evaluation.
My name is Caroline and I am the Research and Evaluation Assistant at Fulfilling Lives Newcastle Gateshead. I want to try and share an impression of what we do in Research and Evaluation at Fulfilling Lives because I think ‘research’ is often seen as a mystery. It’s important for everyone to know how we collect and use information so it can be scrutinised to increase quality, and to ensure it is of greater use to people within the Multiple and Complex Needs (MCN) sphere.
Getting to grips with data
On the first day of every month we analyse changes in caseloads, demographics, and referral information for Fulfilling Lives clients. This is distributed to people working within MCN in Newcastle or Gateshead as well as the Fulfilling Lives Communications Team, who produce a monthly newsletter partly based on its findings. This newsletter is then shared on our website and social media platforms.
If it is January, April, July, or October, I complete quarterly reporting over the first two weeks of the month. During this time my head is stuck in various spreadsheets. I am focussing on extracting, checking, and compiling the data that our funders, the Big Lottery Fund (BLF), require us to collect.
This data consists of general information about our active clients, their most recent: Homeless Outcome Star (HOS; a support planning tool which helps people see progress), New Directions Team Assessment (NDTA; a tool used to measure ‘chaos’ in a persons’ life), Service Use Data (SUD; number of interactions with different, often emergency, services and what evidence was used to collect this), and Service User Records (SUR; whether a client has managed to engage with non-emergency services).
Our clients are people and do not fit in prescribed boxes so much of my work during this time is spent investigating nuances in information that need to be checked before sending off to the Big Lottery Fund’s chosen research body for this; CFE Research. In this way I serve as a conduit between our Service Navigators, who input the raw data, and the national statistics produced by CFE Research on Multiple and Complex Needs. This data is then used to look for national trends; are there patterns in service user experience irrespective of locality? This is something the local Fulfilling Lives projects can then explore in greater detail.
Once this report has been submitted there is another deadline to consider; that of progress reporting. Progress reporting highlights work that the Fulfilling Lives team has done during the interim of the quarter. It encompasses quarterly reporting data, monthly summary data, reports and evaluations and case studies, sometimes with a theme. When this report is complete it is distributed to people involved in Multiple and Complex Needs sphere within Newcastle and Gateshead. It also goes to the Fulfilling Lives Communications Team who pick out the most useful aspects for a quarterly newsletter.
What’s the story?
During the interim between reporting quarters, my work is less prescribed and can depend on external, and internal, push and pull factors. It can depend on the local and national context; for instance, our work on Universal Credit has been the result of national changes made by the government, with Newcastle specifically chosen as a ‘test and learn’ city. This work has begun a productive partnership with DWP.
I’ve also provided a contextual background for reports such as that for Fulfilling Lives clients who were leaving prison led by our Research and Evaluation Lead, encompassing case studies and background information for prison leavers. The report specifically focussed on people who had experience of leaving prison and trying to find accommodation which was shared in a recent progress report. A System Broker first highlighted the need for this report when reports from Service Navigators identified accommodation as a consistent barrier for prison leavers experiencing Multiple and Complex Needs. A Strategic Task and Finish Group is now in place to take forward the recommendations in the report and bring about change.
I am sometimes required to complete ad-hoc statistics and one of the most recent was for a Social Impact Bond (SIB) for our Lead Partner Changing Lives and Core Partner Oasis Aquila Housing. The SIB required, among other things, data to inform the strategy of a project, such as the time taken for Fulfilling Lives Navigators to engage with a client after referral. This bid was successful and work has begun – congratulations!
Another type of report I’ve been able to complete has been an analysis and evaluation of Multiple and Complex Needs training which was delivered to a range of service workers by one of our System Brokers. This is part of one of Fulfilling Lives main work streams: Workforce Development. I collected surveys from attendees after they had attended two training sessions and analysed the difference in their quantitative responses, and the themes in their qualitative responses. I then completed an evaluation on this training which is being used by a System Broker to develop their training further. You can read the evaluation report here.
Find out more about what our Research and Evaluation has been looking into recently on our website.