DfE innovation project 'saves councils up to £2m a year'

By Neil Puffett

| 12 July 2017

An early intervention project that received funding through the Department for Education's social care innovation programme saves councils up to £2.1m a year, an evaluation report has found.

The Pause Project in Hackney provides parents of looked-after children with activities including horse riding

The Pause project - which was first set up in Hackney to support women who have already had a child taken into care to break the cycle of repeat pregnancies - was initially handed £3m from the innovation fund in November 2014 to establish a second project in Hackney, as well as new projects in Doncaster, Greenwich, Hull, Islington, Newham, and Southwark.

In November last year the project was cited by Education Secretary Justine Greening as being among the three most successful projects to emerge from the innovation programme and was handed a further £6.8m for the four-year period up to 2020 as part of the most recent round of innovation funding to extend to a further nine areas across the country.

The initiative provides intensive support for mothers in order to reduce pregnancies and the number of children coming into the care system.

Although the scheme is voluntary, a requirement for those taking part is the use of long-acting, reversible contraception.

Support workers then put together a support programme for them based on intensive therapeutic activities and practical help. In addition to help with issues on housing and substance misuse, support also takes the form of life-coaching, personal fitness training and esteem-building activities such as go-karting and horse riding.

An evaluation report on the programme said it "generally had a positive and significant impact on the women engaging with it". The report recommends that provision be expanded further.

The report states that although two women became pregnant during their time with Pause, it is estimated that between 21 and 36 pregnancies would have occurred had the cohort of 125 women not been engaged in the programme.

"Given the women's histories, these pregnancies would have been likely to have resulted in removals," the report states.

Data provided from the seven initial sites indicate that, by the end of the evaluation period, 25.6 per cent of women who began Pause living in insecure housing had moved to secure housing.

Meanwhile, 30.8 per cent of those who had been drinking alcohol at high-risk levels had reduced their consumption to safer levels.

And 27.3 per cent of those who had been experiencing problematic class A substance misuse were no longer using class A substances.

Almost half (46.4 per cent) of women who disclosed that they had experienced an incident of domestic violence during their intervention reported that no further incidents had taken place during the final months of the evaluation.

A cost/benefit analysis indicates that the full costs of delivering Pause to the cohort of 125 women are likely to be offset by savings to local authorities within two to three years.

Estimated net cost savings for local authorities following the 18-month intervention period are put at between £1.2m and £2.1m per year.

"Qualitative data shows that significant improvements to levels of confidence and self-worth were experienced by women engaged in the programme," the report states.

"Women also reported the benefit of learning new skills, behavioural responses, and coping mechanisms, which had helped them address past traumas and ongoing, day-to-day challenges more effectively."

"Given the positive impact of Pause on women, and the very high likelihood of investment in the programme resulting in very significant cost savings within a relatively short time period, there is good reason to continue and expand provision of the service, provided other key recommendations are met."

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