Family matters

Family value

Latest research shows the value of investing in family support, says Joss Smith

 In an increasingly outcomes-focused world we are all being asked to measure our impact and our effectiveness, which can be a particular challenge for family support services that have traditionally focused on ‘softer’ outcomes. Nonetheless it is important to recognise the environment we now operate in and measure the change that our intervention can make. 

One of the challenges of commissioning family support is the lack of clarity on what are the outcomes that a good service can effect and how these can add social value to the local system and community. Family support services have enjoyed a certain freedom over reporting historically and many have developed their own tools and systems to capture the information they wish to measure. This obviously can provide a really rich source of information very specific to the needs of local clients but it can be difficult to draw any national conclusions over the effectiveness of ‘family support’ as a sector.

While we want to encourage local providers to continue to use their own tools that work for the families they support in their local areas, Adfam is also interested in understanding what the common outcomes are which support families, providers and commissioners to improve family support. So this month we are hosting consultations with different audiences to understand their thoughts on common outcomes for families and seeking to get some idea of what a good outcome model should include.

One of the other focuses is to show that a service saves money or that it creates a greater amount of value than the investment, which is why many organisations are interested in Social Return on Investment Evaluations (SROI). It is a type of cost-benefit analysis that uses outcome measurement tools and helps organisations communicate the social value they create. Adfam commissioned our SROI research to provide an independent evaluation of family support services, using an established and proven assessment model to help commissioners and funders make more informed decisions. The research also looked at the SROI that Adfam’s guidance and infrastructure support provides to family support sector.

 Key findings include:

• Overall the value created by the family support service is more than £240,000. The total investment in the service is £52,000 which gives an SROI ratio of 4.7:1. This suggests that for every pound invested in the service, £4.70 of social value is generated.

• The highest outcome values were generated through health and wellbeing benefits for the family member (£54,974) and reduced impact on the criminal justice system (£50,984).

• The structured family support service provided the following outcomes to family members: improved health and wellbeing; improved household finances; increased knowledge and understanding; increased confidence; improved coping skills; and enhanced ability to set and keep boundaries in the family.

• Adfam’s own services achieved a SROI ration of 2:1 – saving the state £2 for every £1 of funding it receives. 

We believe these results show the effectiveness of family support and the value it can create in a local system. Now we just need to convince the local decision makers. 

Joss Smith is director of policy and regional development at Adfam,