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Help and Support for Separated Families Innovation Fund Evaluation

This report sets out the findings of an evaluation of the Help and Support for Separated Families (HSSF) Innovation Fund. The Fund was part of a wider programme, HSSF, which aims to help parents avoid adversarial approaches upon separation and collaborate in the best interests of their children. The programme funded 17 projects providing:

• Talk-based services involving mediation or a therapeutic intervention;
• Information-based services providing legal advice, information and signposting; and
• projects to assist with contact arrangements for non-resident parents.

The evaluation was conducted by TNS BMRB in partnership with Bryson Purdon Social Research and London Economics, together with researchers at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The findings will be used to inform DWP’s investment in relationship support services, following the doubling of funding to £70 million over the current parliament. DWP has led on the development and co-ordination of the HSSF programme with support in evaluating bids and setting up the projects from the Department for Education and Ministry of Justice.

This is not an impact evaluation in the true sense of the word, as it was not possible to make comparison with a counterfactual. Rather, the evaluation aimed to quantitatively assess outcomes in terms of increased collaboration between the separated parents (using the Parenting Alliance Measure (PAM)2), reduced conflict and, where appropriate, stable contact or financial arrangements. It also considered qualitatively the process of service delivery looking at effective ways of referrals to the service and marketing, how best to engage parents and what factors supported successful implementation. Fieldwork was conducted at three stages between March and November 2015: at set up with project staff and DWP officials, during the delivery phase with project staff and parents and then a final stage, either shortly after the intervention with project staff or with parents approximately seven months after they engaged with the service.