First for regeneration
Mums benefit from friendly support
Friday, 17 June 2005
Project: Sure Start Plus
Period of evaluation: January 2002-May 2005
Evaluating organisation: Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London
Evaluation commissioned by: The Government's cross-departmental Teenage Pregnancy Unit and the former Sure Start Unit, based in the Department for Education and Skills.
Aims and outline of project: Sure Start Plus aims to reduce the risk of long-term social exclusion associated with teenage pregnancy by providing intensive one-to-one holistic support for parents and children to help them with housing, health care, parenting skills, education and child care. Pilot programmes, built around the core role of a personal adviser, were to be innovative and explore different ways of delivering services. Unlike Sure Start local programmes, which were neighbourhood-based, Sure Start Plus was to offer its services across an entire local authority or health action zone area.
Scope of evaluation report: To investigate the impact of Sure Start Plus, considering 'joined up' policy and practice and the costs of the programme.
Adam Fineberg writes: In order to provide effective support to one of the most marginalised groups in society it is important to have a 'joined up' approach, according to the evaluation. The Sure Start Plus pilots brought together expertise from a wide range of different sectors, agencies and service providers and were thus better able to meet the needs of young pregnant women and their families.
The report reveals that local partner organisations believed they benefited from working with Sure Start Plus and the majority had good relationships with the programme. These links enabled Sure Start Plus coordinators to provide better services, pool resources and share expertise. In terms of discernable outcomes, young pregnant women were positive about the support they received from Sure Start Plus. They especially valued the relationship with their adviser, which was described as providing emotional support and of being more like a friendship. Advisers also gave practical guidance, helping mothers to claim benefits, apply to charities for things such as furniture and grants, and negotiate with landlords and creditors.
The evaluation found that Sure Start Plus has helped young women lay the foundations necessary for improving the quality of life for their children and themselves. But the evaluation has also highlighted issues that require greater research - notably how to reach out to young fathers.
- Adam Fineberg is an independent policy and regeneration consultant and author of the 'Growth Coalitions' project.
- Sure Start Plus National Evaluation: Final Report is available via www.regen.net/doc.
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