This short scoping study looked at approaches to evaluating the DWP ESF Families with Multiple Problems programme. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) commissioned NatCen Social Research to explore potential approaches to evaluating this. The government is delivering a wide range of services and support to families in need. The DWP ESF Families with Multiple Problems programme is a key component of the government’s wider Troubled Families strategy. It is a complex programme, funded through the European Social Fund and delivered on a regional basis through private/not-for-profit organisations on a prime provider/subcontractor basis.
The study comprised of a review of programme documents, (largely the main bids submitted by providers to deliver services through the programme), a series of informal telephone interviews with a range of stakeholders within the Department; and a focused review of methodological papers and reports in order to refine and shape ideas.
This scoping report first considered the key features of the programme, its targeting and referral processes, and monitoring and tracking of participants. It sets out the evaluation questions that will need to be addressed, distinguishing between questions of programme impact and programme process. A review of the available data that might be available to the evaluation is also provided. Two approaches to understanding the effects of the programme are presented as alternatives. The first option is a quasi-experimental approach to identifying the causal effects of the programme. The second option is rooted in a theory-based design, and specific consideration is given to the extent such approaches enable conclusions regarding the causal effects of interventions to be drawn.
The report was commissioned in March 2012 in response to the Evaluation Steering Group’s desire to evaluate the impact for this programme but awareness of the difficulty of using standard methods to do this. It will, together with internal work that is being done to explore the potential of our data, inform the design of the evaluation of DWP ESF Families with Multiple Problems provision that will commence in 2013.