Delivering Social Change

Oral Answers to Questions – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:15 pm on 23rd June 2014.

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Photo of Gerry Kelly Gerry Kelly Sinn Féin 2:15 pm, 23rd June 2014

3. asked the First Minister and deputy First Minister how Delivering Social Change signature projects will be evaluated. (AQO 6400/11-15)

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

In October 2012, we announced a £26 million funding package to allow for the development and delivery of six key cross-cutting Delivering Social Change signature programmes, aimed at issues such as improving literacy and numeracy, family support and pathways to employment for young people.  Responsibility for the delivery of each of the six programmes lies with the appropriate lead Department.  Departments have already established, in common with the other signature programmes, how they and their delivery partners will evaluate the programmes to satisfy their own requirements. 


OFMDFM has worked collaboratively with Departments in the development of the programmes, including developing new approaches to their evaluation.  Departments have agreed to include an outcomes-based approach model into their evaluations.  That approach differentiates between what we wish to achieve at a strategic level and what each individual project does achieve towards its overarching goal.  In addition, we are looking at a number of common metrics that can be applied across all programmes that are being delivered.  Those include the well-established international comparators around well-being and also, given local concern around resilience and assertiveness, a pilot of two alternative metrics:  locus of control and self-efficacy. 

We are using those signature programmes as test beds, not only as new ways of addressing societal challenges but as new and more pragmatic ways of evaluating programme-level impacts.  Draft evaluation plans have been received, and our officials are working with their counterparts in the lead Departments to ensure a robust evaluation of the Delivering Social Change signature programmes.

Photo of Gerry Kelly Gerry Kelly Sinn Féin

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire as a fhreagra go dtí seo.  I thank the Minister for his answer up to now, and I congratulate him for getting through that mouthful.  I suppose that the question that people are asking is, "When will we see the impact of Delivering Social Change on the ground?"  I know that you talked about draft plans that have now been received.

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

The answer is that it is already being felt on the ground.  If we are not to use any of the more scientific approaches that I have outlined — keeping my tongue firmly embedded between my teeth while I say some of it — the truth is that most of us evaluate it by asking the people who are carrying out the programme, "How is it going?"; and, on that basis, all the programmes are going very well.  With regard to the teachers whom we have put in place, we are already hearing from the schools that, in the mid-term testing, those pupils are doing better than their comparators from previous years.  Again, when it comes to the hubs and other elements, we are getting very positive messages back.

We will wait for the full evaluation to be carried out by the mechanisms that officials have set in place.  It will be those evaluations that will determine whether the programmes should be mainstreamed in the future.

Photo of Brenda Hale Brenda Hale DUP

I thank the First Minister for his very detailed answers, and I welcome the news that the food banks are good.  What plans are there for mainstreaming?

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

If the reports coming back continue in the same positive vein as those that we have received thus far from each of the signature projects — although one is operating a little slower than we would like, and slower than the others — it is very likely that each of the Departments will want to continue with those projects.  There will obviously be a bidding war when it comes to setting the budget to ensure that they have resources to meet that requirement.  However, I am very hopeful that the steps that we have taken — steps that were, it has to be said, initially resisted by some Departments, because officials like to have good ideas themselves rather than them coming from the centre — will mean that those will be successful programmes.  I hope that many, if not all of them, will be mainstreamed.

Photo of John Dallat John Dallat Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the First Minister for his answers.  He specifically made reference to literacy and numeracy issues among children.  The First Minister will be aware that illiteracy and innumeracy are still running at over 20%.  Is he satisfied that sufficient funding is available to address that as one of the signature projects?  If it continues to be a problem, what is the long-term plan to address the terrible injustice of children leaving school not able to read or write?

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

I agree entirely with the Member about the scale and impact of the issue.  When the deputy First Minister and I brought forward proposals for the signature projects, it was very much on a pilot basis, so that we could test whether improvements come from this kind of project.  Early indicators are good.  However, if improvements do come, it will be the full flow of the programme that will make the big difference.  I do not see us making massive changes in the number of people just through this one programme, but it will certainly signal that this is a way to do it that brings a beneficial outcome.