Case study

Healthy Valleys' healthy evaluation!

South Lanarkshire based community-led health organisation, Healthy Valleys, has successfully implemented an evaluation method called Family Impact Star to gather evidence of the impact of their Grassroots Project. Healthy ValleysThe project supports pregnant women and families with children under five years old who live in rural South Lanarkshire who are in need of extra help.

Background

Healthy Valleys was established as a Healthy Living Initiative in 2003 by community members, voluntary and public sector agencies in rural South Lanarkshire. Its central purpose is to tackle health inequalities by promoting positive actions and improved wellbeing, with a focus on communities who are most in need as identified by the SIMD (Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation). Healthy Valleys is a registered Scottish Charity and a company limited by guarantee.

The initiative has developed a range of approaches working with different groups in the community by building on the strengths of volunteer involvement and working in partnership with other local groups and agencies. Through working closely with communities, Healthy Valleys has been able to identify and respond to some of the most pressing health needs which were not being met by statutory services.

Healthy Valleys’ Grassroots Project was launched in November 2012 by Aileen Campbell MSP for Clydesdale and Minister for Children and Young People.  The Project is a volunteer-led early intervention programme in which trained volunteers support pregnant women and families with children under five years old who need extra help. 

Referral criteria include a wide range of issues affecting children and families, from substance misuse and domestic violence to feelings of isolation and post-natal depression.

The Grassroots project is overseen by a Steering Group, and volunteers are able to contribute to the development of the initiative through Project Volunteer Meetings.  There is a range of statutory, voluntary & community sector involvement.  It is funded by the Big Lottery until March 2015. 

The project takes a two-pronged approach to early intervention:

  1.  Intensive Parental Support Programme (IPSP) supports pregnant women, dads and other carers in need of support to attend vital ante natal and post natal appointments.  Families benefit from this by being matched to a volunteer who supports their involvement with Grassroots to enable a positive, trusting relationship.  This helps to provide consistency and stability which brings about positive outcomes.
  2. Family Education Support Programme (FESP) which offers a range of learning and development opportunities that other services/organisations don’t already offer, including:
    • Healthy weaning
    • Hands on cookery sessions
    • Baby massage/yoga
    • My Way Stress Management
    • Adult & Child First Aid
    • Peer support
    • Play@Home
    • Complementary Therapies

Evaluation

Once a referraHealthy Valleys evaluation forml is received the Development Worker meets with the family and completes paperwork including the Family Impact Star and Action Plan.  If required, the Development Worker will carefully match the family to a trained volunteer for one-to-one parental support.  Trained volunteers complete session records regarding the family they are supporting.

All referred families can then access the Family Education Programme and the Development Worker will review the Family Impact Star and Action Plan every six months with the family and remain in regular contact with both the family and volunteers.

The Grassroots Project uses an in-house ‘Family Impact Star’ evaluation template to measure a range of things including confidence, parenting skills, wellbeing and community engagement/participation.

The Family Impact Star measures individual outcomes such as self-esteem, parenting skills and emotional well-being as well as more community-focussed outcomes such as a person’s social networks and levels of community engagement and participation.  The project works with families to identify scores out of ten for these factors, and uses findings to develop Family Support Plans and to prioritise support. This evaluation is complimented by session records, activity evaluations and case studies.

Achievements

Qualitative evaluation has shown that people are receiving a range of benefits from the programme, as demonstrated by the following quotes from families:

Grassroots was introduced to us for my daughter and grandson and I as a Granny have had a new lease of life through Grassroots.  We live extremely remote and both my daughter and myself don’t drive so they have supported us with volunteer driver who is one in a million giving up her time to drive out to us and bring us to everything.  Grassroots has boosted my confidence in that I’d love to volunteer if I ever learn to drive (hopefully in the near future).  It has introduced me to things I never thought I’d have the confidence.  Grassroots is a fantastic project not just for young mothers and fathers but for grandparents as well.  I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers and staff at Healthy Valleys and Grassroots you aren’t just an organisation, you are extended family. (Grassroots Grandmother, March 2013)

The Grassroots Project has helped me meet new people and build self esteem.  I hid away in my house after the death of my daughter and the workers and volunteers helped me with my grieving process and to have a better quality of life away from the house.  Families at Healthy ValleysThe activities are great for bonding and sharing your stories and especially good for kids to meet new people as we live in a small village.  Overall, I could not cope as well without the Grassroots Project.  Also, I get lots of help with transport for my disabled daughter who is hypoplastic left heart syndrome (no left side of the heart) back and forward to hospital appointments.  I myself have been diagnosed autistic pavosis and auto arthritis.  Grassroots have helped me come to terms with this, they are very supportive in all aspects of my family life, I never set foot outside my house until Grassroots helped me. (Grassroots Mother, February 2013)

Just phoning to say thank you so much for the help you provided a grassroots client to get to the hospital and to have her baby.  I appreciate all that Healthy Valleys does and it really helps me out a lot and makes it a lot easier.  Your service is absolutely vital in rural South Lanarkshire to promote health for pregnant women and to support them to attend their health care appointments, with the volunteers providing this, these women wouldn’t have healthy pregnancies or babies.  Thank you (Midwife, March 2013)

Lessons & Learning

Family Impact Star has proven to be an extremely useful way of visualising impact on families who take part in the Grassroots Project. By embedding regular evaluation at the core of Grassroots, Healthy Valleys has illustrated that evaluation need not be seen as an ‘add-on’ that distracts from delivering services.  Rather, the evaluation, involving planning, reflection and improvement, is a crucial part of the service delivery.

The project was also externally evaluated in March 2011, something that led to the Big Lottery funding after evaluation findings suggested extending the programme wider.  More recently, Healthy Valleys commissioned the Universities of Strathclyde and West of Scotland to conduct a longitudinal study of outcomes, which is still in progress.

Healthy Valleys’ ambition is for the Grassroots Project to be replicated in other parts of Scotland and the evaluation will be used to help make a case to decision makers for further funding.

For more information on Healthy Valleys, visit http://www.healthyvalleys.org.uk.

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