An external and independent evaluation of Parentis was completed in November 2008. The executive summary is included below and the full report is available by clicking on the link at the foot of this page.
This report presents findings from the external evaluation of the pilot of the Parenting Skills Programme (Parentis) offered in Gillingham, Medway, Kent. The Parenting Skills programme comprises a number of different courses, including Baby Massage (BM) and Parenting Skills (Parenting) for different age ranges. The study was conducted between 2006 and 2008 by Information by Design (IbyD), an independent research and evaluation company.
Internal Monitoring and External Evaluation
Strong internal mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation meant that the focus of the external evaluation did not include ‘output’ monitoring in terms of, for example, the number of programmes offered, number of participants on courses, or facilitator training. These are monitored, and reported separately by the internal team. The objectives for the external evaluation were to measure the programme not just in terms the planned outputs from the programme – but primarily in terms of the Every Child Matters (ECM) framework of 5 positive outcomes, capturing primarily the longer-term impact of the programme and demonstrate the value of the programme. For the evaluation nationally validated questions were used in a robust mixed method qualitative and quantitative approach.
Analysis of the two impact questionnaires for Baby Massage (BM) demonstrates that participants found the programme very helpful, with indications of improved social capital and well-being, reductions in participants having issues with their baby, and improvements in participants’ closeness to their baby. By the end of the programme, participants showed high recognition of the key learning outcomes of the Baby Massage programme, and a high recognition of many aspects of the ECM framework.
The longer-term, outcomes evaluation demonstrated that some time after the programme, participants remained positive about their experience on the BM progamme, had good recall of the programme, and remembered the key learning outcomes. Participants were able to give many examples of being able to use the skills developed and used over the longer-term, and felt that the programme had positively changed the way they behaved with their children, on their interaction with the child and in some cases, on the child’s interaction with them. Participants agreed that the programme had helped them – giving them greater confidence, the ability to relieve the child’s distress/discomfort, and to relax the child. All of the parents were positive in their response to the programme – with most stating that they would recommend it to others. There was also overwhelming support for Dads to attend BM.
In the Parenting courses, participants found that the programme was very helpful to them, there were improvements in measures of social capital and well-being and participants had fewer issues with their children. A high proportion of participants felt they got help with many of the key learning outcomes of the Parenting programmes and there was a high recognition of many aspects of the ECM framework.
In the longer-term, all of the parents who had attended were positive about the course, mentioning a range of benefits including improved social cohesion and social networks, reduced isolation, learning opportunities, signposting, improved confidence and improved self-management. Positive comments were given about facilitators and the vast majority enjoyed the course, and continued to recall the key learning outcomes from the programme. Participants were still using the skills they had developed, and gave examples of where they had positively changed their behaviour, and the positive impact of the programme on the way they interacted with their children. Some mentioned that their children had improved at school. There was some evidence of Parentis routing participants into work and training. All of the respondents agreed that Parentis had helped them - mentioning improved understanding, increased self-awareness and self-confidence, improved ability to deal with situations that arise, and reduced isolation. All of the parents recommended the programme to others, and there was overwhelming support for Dads to attend Parentis.
Stakeholders were positive overall about Parentis, and referrers and facilitators alike made a number of comments about the benefits to parents, facilitators, and schools. There were a number of indications that the programme supported multi-agency working and integration of services, although not without challenges. The vast majority suggested that Parentis was a success. The key role of Parentis was the supportive role it played to both parents and organisations, and stakeholders also noted an extensive range of ‘added value’ services, which Parentis had provided. The majority of respondents felt that activities offered were appropriate to, and had impacted on, the community served - in some cases addressing specific problems. Some suggested that Parentis had helped with the achievement of targets for their own organisations, or those set out in the Local Area Agreement (LAA) or local plans including safeguarding children, the parenting strategy, teenage pregnancy, anti-social behaviour, schools working with parents and outside agencies. Many of the respondents felt that there would be a long-term impact to Parentis – but some suggested that to get a long-term benefit, a long-term commitment was needed. Stakeholders warned against charging parents for attending and against charging schools and other services. The majority of respondents agreed that Parentis had improved communication and family relationships, reduced isolation and improved self-esteem and confidence. They also agreed that the provision has reduced the need for more serious interventions by empowering and building the capacity of parents and carers at an early stage, and had supported the ECM agenda. The majority of stakeholders were keen to see Parentis expanding. Stakeholders had found some barriers to participating in Parentis including childcare, funding and staffing issues.
Cost Benefit Analysis
Initial work on the costs and benefits of Parentis demonstrates that there are fixed and variable costs, and some costs and benefits of the programme are visible, but some are hidden. The programme overall appears to have had many hidden benefits, which need to be taken into account when considering the costs, and further work is needed to develop this analysis.
Conclusions and Recommendations
This pilot Parentis programme has developed rapidly, developing a Parenting programme in the Medway area, which appears to be well suited to local need. Programme systems and procedures meet local need, and there is a rigorous system of evaluation encompassing strong internal monitoring procedures. The key recommendations are:
There is a need to continue to ensure that the evaluation methods ensure rigour and reliability, in line with nationally validated measures, and internal monitoring continues to act on all information received.
Staffing levels need to be maintained and enhanced to ensure that the day-to-day administration tasks can be completed in a timely manner.
There is a need to determine clearly what measures need to be collected in order to continue to demonstrate the benefits of Parentis to local agencies and funders.
As the programme develops beyond the pilot stage, further work is needed to ensure that both the short and longer-term impact of the programme is measured by the use of appropriate research techniques.
Full consideration needs to be given to the ways in which the attendance of working and non-working men in this area can be promoted, and how men can be fully engaged in the different programmes.
There are many visible and hidden benefits to attending Parentis – such as reduced isolation, learning, signposting and improved confidence. Clear decisions need to be made about the measures which need to be used and how these measures impact on local organisations’ targets.
There is a need, as the programme develops beyond the pilot stage, to be clear about both the geographical reach, and the target groups for Parentis, and to ensure that all local organisations have clarity about what Parentis is able to deliver.
Further work is needed on this area to provide a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis for Parentis, with agreed measures, which can be monitored internally.
There is a need to consider whether, and how, Parentis can receive core funding from local stakeholders who have an interest in developing the skills of parents and carers.
In summary, the programme has developed well, and provides a key and critical resource, which not only allows parents in the Medway area to develop their parenting skills, but also allows them to develop skills and techniques around the Every Child Matters framework, with clear ‘added value’. For full information about our evaluation click here.