Early Intervention Project: Looking back, looking forward
As an Early Intervention Project Steering Group member, I’ve spent some time reflecting on the progress, impact and future now that the 3 year project funding has ended. The Early Intervention Project has been the most focused, dynamic and energizing piece of work I can remember being part of (and at my age that is quite a long time!). The extent and breadth of the project’s progress, achievements, and outputs to date is immense. I know I echo the feelings of others with the privilege and honour felt through participation.
So, I’m delighted that December’s publication of the independent evaluation report provides an excellent summary and referencing of the resources, activities, achievements and impacts. It considers the perspective of its multiple stakeholders (children and young people, families and carers, practitioners, academics, managers, government and commissioners), assesses the project against a range of criteria (awareness, quality, impact, cost), and finds the project met its short and medium term aims through its collaborative resource development, networking and influencing in a very cost-effective way.
The evaluation report’s findings echo much of my own sense of how the Early Intervention Project’s findings and resources make a difference. The publications and Paving the Way website consider the needs of different audiences. The project did a great job of distilling concepts and information into colourful maps and using different, engaging formats such as videos and case studies from a range of voices including children, family carers and practitioners through to more formal reviews such as the Data Report and Evidence Policy Briefing. The evaluation also notes some areas stakeholders thought could be improved upon, such as geographical coverage and collaboration with schools. I think these partly reflect what could be realistically achieved within the time frame once it was known the next phase of further funding was not forthcoming for sustaining the work. I have no doubt these areas would have been strengthened had this funding been granted.
In considering the key findings and why they are important, I’d spotlight the collaborations – particularly centring on children and families, building on their experience and voices, together with evidence-informed input at all levels. This, as the evaluation shows, demonstrates both “what” can be achieved and “how” progress can be made and shared – the process. Both aspects are critical to the progress made by the project, and to future progress.
The diversity of collaborators and “audiences” illustrates the project’s success in developing and maintaining partnerships. This has been so important – not just between multiple stakeholders, but across multi-levels. Collaborations range from very local workshops/focus groups, through broad surveys and Reference Group activities, to collaborating with and influencing key national groups such as Transforming Care, the Learning Disability Professional Senate, PBS Academy and holding, or participating in, national conferences.
Another key aspect was the central role of evaluation throughout – monitoring progress, gathering feedback and the independent evaluations in years 1, 2 and 3. This ensured genuine “learning-by-doing” with celebration of progress and achievements and creative problem-solving around challenges.
All of this was achieved against the backdrop of a change of government, along with the austere economic climate.
Looking ahead, it will be vital to build on the work of the project, and also the evaluation findings to drive further progress and reap maximum value from the investment to-date. There is a need to maintain momentum. Some of this can be done through the forward plans to extend and embed achievements, such as wider use of resources, and hearing and valuing views of children with severe learning disabilities. Equally important will be maintaining and further developing partnerships across multi-levels to support the monitoring and strengthening of Transforming Care for Children and its integration with other policy and legislative streams such as SEND and CAMHS Transformation.
I think part of the immense energy for the EIP was that it hit a real chord of passion and interest in focusing particularly on children, who have previously been overlooked, together with an acute awareness of the developmental and financial sense in getting things right much earlier. This was harnessed and driven by a first-rate Project Manager, Jacqui Shurlock, and team, the project’s structured time-tabled action plans, and excellent support from CBF and CDC.
Having re-read the evaluation to collect my thoughts for this blog, I looked to my reaction on first reading. In an initial email response, I noted “… v interesting and positive. Hope you’re feeling proud. ……. Great basis for more action and more progress!”
So, let’s all play our part in ensuring the Early Intervention Project’s legacy through Paving the Way is exactly that …… more action and more progress.