West Berkshire Council: Service-User Consultation of Early Intervention Services

West Berkshire Council: Service-User Consultation of Early Intervention Services

Case Study Summary

  • West Berkshire Council commissioned support from Research in Practice (RiP) to support the development of a service user consultation model across their Early Intervention Services.
  • We worked together to agree the research questions and the methodology, and to develop the research tools.
  • We trained West Berkshire staff to undertake interviews with service users in partner services in West Berkshire.
  • Findings from the consultation were presented to staff in a workshop where implications and actions for the future were explored, in addition to a written report.

What was the project about?

West Berkshire Council has a strong commitment to and track record in early intervention services. A peer review of West Berkshire’s Council’s early intervention services was carried out which included mapping the ways in which services are evaluated. The mapping revealed gathering feedback from parents/ carers/ children/ young people was used but that there was a lot of room for improvement in both collection and use of this feedback.

West Berkshire was keen to obtain the views of service-users more widely and comprehensively around early intervention and to build on a peer challenge methodology.

A project sponsor and an internal lead to support the project were identified within West Berkshire. West Berkshire’s research governance panel agreed the proposal from Research in Practice (RiP), which included an outline of the project and of the ethical safeguards that would need to be put in place. There was a strong interest in engaging practitioners in gathering the views from service-users.

Project aims

The aims for this work were to support West Berkshire to test a service user consultation model based on a peer researcher approach across a number of early intervention services, and to use this to identify the views of service users about:

  • which of their existing early intervention services are useful;
  • which other services it may have been useful to have received;
  • and which services are potentially useful to develop.

West Berkshire is seeking to implement a framework for all early intervention services to use to evaluate and demonstrate impact and to find ways of developing evidence-led practice through building staff capacity and confidence. This project also aimed to support that work through identifying and feeding in information about the outcomes that service users value from early intervention services, and their experience of how useful these are.

What did we do?

West Berkshire and RiP worked in partnership throughout the project, from the design of the data collection tools, to the analysis of the findings and consideration of the implications. There were five main phases to the evaluation, and RiP provided support at each phase:

Phase 1: Consultation planning: To inform the consultation, RiP reviewed West Berkshire’s current practices for gathering service user feedback, including what is already known about what those services’ families find useful. RiP also used evidence from other consultations to help in planning this project, including identifying the types of questions and reporting styles that work best for this kind of consultation.

Phase 2: Developing the consultation tools: RiP held a workshop with West Berkshire staff and staff from partner agencies who had agreed to undertake service user interviews as part of the consultation exercise. The main objectives for the workshop were to:

  • Reflect on the reasons for consulting service users
  • Agree the main questions to ask service users
  • Learn how to conduct a good interview
  • Recognise the ethical principles of interviewing.

Phase 3: Data gathering: West Berkshire staff conducted the interviews and sent electronic write-ups to RiP for analysis. All tools needed for conducting the interviews were developed and provided by RiP, including:

  • An information sheet and consent form for service users
  • An interviewer referral form (for staff to note any relevant information about the interviewee to pass on to their colleague conducting the interview)
  • The interview schedule
  • An interview write-up template.

Two teleconferences were also held by RiP during data gathering to provide staff with opportunities to share experiences of undertaking the interviews and to ask questions or raise concerns about the process.

Phase 4: Data analysis: RiP conducted a content analysis of the interviews and identified the emerging themes within the interview data, along with considering potential implications.

Phase 5: Reporting the findings and implications: RiP held a second workshop to present the initial findings from the consultation to staffs who were involved in the consultation process, and some of the managers from the participating services.

The main aims of the workshop were to draw out and explore the findings and to discuss potential implications and next steps for gathering and using service user views to ensure that services are meeting the needs of their users and the wider population. Following the workshop, we presented the findings and implications in a written report.

Staff involved in the consultation reported that it was a positive experience for both staff and service users:

It was motivational to listen to parents tell their story and see how far they have come. This was a really positive exercise.

The exercise has brought lots of staff together and has helped learning across services.

The feedback from the workshops was good and they were prepared and facilitated well.

Feedback from Julia Waldman, Commissioning, Strategy and Partnerships Manager (Children and Young People), West Berkshire Council:

How well did we do?
From our point of view the project worked well and we worked well together as a partnership. West Berkshire have been trying to build an approach for building capacity in evaluation and RiP was very helpful in providing some external capacity and support to enable us to test our peer-led consultation model.

The feedback from the workshops was good and they were prepared and facilitated well.

The final report has been adapted for internal purposes, with a focus on the process of consultation as an exploratory piece of work. This information has been really helpful. It was a great way of testing out the process and getting staff involved.
What difference did we make?
One member of staff is now looking to further this work within their service and continue collecting service-user feedback with the materials provided by RiP.

The best part of this project was telling staff that they can be researchers too – it is part of their job. If staff can collectively pull together information we will be in a much better position. Services need to show what difference they are making, and that involves service-user feedback.
What are the next steps for West Berkshire Council?
How to use the learning from this project and take the model forward is the challenge.

We need to encourage people who are interested to continue with the work.

From a strategic point of view, we now need to consider how consultation fits within the development of wider Early Intervention services.

We have set up a meeting with parent representatives from the Children and Young People Partnership to discuss service-user consultation and how to take this work forward. We need to think about how West Berkshire involves parents in decision-making, and also how individual teams involve parents as well.

We have an inspection coming up, and this report will feed into it as an item in the set of the core documents for gathering service-user feedback. It demonstrates that we have built on work we were doing before and we are making an effort to involve parents in our decision-making.


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