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About Families: gathering evidence, informing action

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Centre for Research on Families and Relationships

The About Families project worked to ensure that the changing needs of parents – including families affected by disability – are met by providing accessible and relevant evidence to inform services. Over three years (2010 – 2013), About Families:

  • developed an innovative evidence to action process;
  • identified and investigated four key parenting topics (parenting teenagers, supporting parental relationships, parenting on a low income, and parenting and support);
  • produced clear language evidence reviews;
  • and supported a range of organisations and services to use evidence and consult with service users to inform service development.

About Families developed an innovative ‘evidence to action’ process to enable service delivery to be informed by relevant, reliable evidence: topics were selected in response to challenges facing parents using family support services run by the partners, including those who call ParentLine Scotland. A range of evidence on each topic was gathered and communicated through accessible reports and briefings and discussion. The focus was on reviewing the research evidence, including relevant data and statistics, with a view to enhancing ways it could be used by those planning and delivering services. This meant focussing evidence reviews on key practice questions, and outlining the questions and issues the evidence raised for practice, and where the limitations were. All evidence reports were reviewed by relevant academics and service professionals to ensure both academic rigour and service relevance.

The key topics were then explored with a range of stakeholders through participative events and a Community of Practice. Following discussion events, About Families worked with those delivering or planning services for families to apply findings to their work. This was done by creating and implementing action plans to develop services using a range of planning tools, and thinking about how to involve service users in these developments. The aim was to increase organisations’ capacity to use evidence in practice effectively in the future. Organisations and services were supported in different ways: to directly use evidence in service delivery; to involve service users in how services are planned and delivered; and to assess the usefulness of their internal data about service users, and how this capacity can be improved. About Families worked closely with non-academic partners to understand and address the issues they faced in applying evidence to policy, planning and practice

About Families pioneered and shared approaches to closing the evidence to action gap. The project produced and shared a range of resources: four evidence reports and briefings on parenting and disability issues; six evidence reviews; a research briefing on parenting and support; a report exploring disability evidence; a report on what we learned about evidence to action; a summary of the gaps in research found across all of the evidence reports; a toolkit of action planning tools to support taking evidence into action; a project report; a website featuring all of the above and case studies on evidence into action remains live. The project report and information on these resources were widely shared with third and public sector stakeholders, MSPs and other policy-makers, and the 275 service providers, policy-makers, practitioners and experts who participated in the project over its lifetime. The Evidence Request Bank (ERB), which was piloted as part of the About Families project, has attracted additional funding to develop a sustainable evidence service for the third and public sectors. 

Read more and download the reports here.