Tag Archives: monitoring

When needs arise, how training can develop better practice – an evaluation

“Domestic violence is a serious health issue which affects one in four women in their lifetimes. If either the victim or the abuser (or both) have mental health difficulties and/ or substance misuse problems, it can both affect the nature of the abuse and throw up additional barriers to victims seeking help.”
Domestic violence, mental health and substance misuse – shared issues, integrated solutions’ – Analysis Report of Pre-  and Post-Training Questionnaires and Training Evaluation Forms, Maria Harvey, 2010

The women’s domestic violence refuge movement has seen many changes since its inception in the 1960s, from ad hoc safe houses, sometimes in squats, set up by survivors and women’s rights activists to highly professional businesses conforming to quality standards and run by specially trained and experienced staff and volunteers.

The term ‘domestic violence’ covers a lot of ground: the abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial; support can involve finances, housing, children safeguarding and child protection, security measures and immigration status, as well as emotional support, building resilience and self-esteem. This makes refuge work highly specialised and complex.

Picture1The situation can be complicated further if the woman in question has mental health difficulties, drug and alcohol problems – or possibly all three – as well as experiencing domestic violence. Refuge providers have to consider whether or not they have the resources to offer the additional support required; they also need to take into account the safety and well-being of their existing refuge residents, including children.

In 2009, Birmingham & Solihull Women’s Aid (BSWA) and Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust started work together on a project to help raise awareness of the issues of complex needs, working with the Birmingham Domestic Violence Forum and specialist drug & alcohol agencies Aquarius, SIFA Fireside and Birmingham Drug & Alcohol Action Team. Part of the project was to develop three specialist training courses:

  • Domestic Violence Awareness Training for Mental Health Practitioners
  • Domestic Violence Awareness Training for Drug & Alcohol Practitioners
  • Mental Health Training for Domestic Violence Practitioners


The main aim of the training was to raise awareness of domestic violence, mental health and substance misuse, to examine how these factors are interlinked in some women’s experiences and to consider how best to support women in these circumstances.

I worked with the project’s steering group to look at how to measure the baseline of skills and experiences each practitioner group had, as well as the attitudes they held towards subjects outside their sphere of expertise, and how this changed after the training, via a questionnaire that was administered before and after. I also analysed the results of the standard training evaluation form that is given to attendees of Birmingham & Solihull Women’s Aid training courses, suitably adapted where necessary to these courses.

In June 2010 I wrote: ‘Domestic violence, mental health and substance misuse – shared issues, integrated solutions’ – Analysis Report of Pre-  and Post-Training Questionnaires and Training Evaluation Forms [PDF 1.9MB]; a report for all of the agencies involved with the project, which also contributed towards the overall evaluation of the project for its funders. It is reproduced here, with permission from BSWA. Please note that my previous surname is used on the report.

Report Cover

Attachment:  ‘Domestic violence, mental health and substance misuse – shared issues, integrated solutions’ – Analysis Report of Pre-  and Post-Training Questionnaires and Training Evaluation Forms

An introduction to mazzawoo

In the 20 years that I’ve worked in the non-profit sector, I’ve been involved in the monitoring and evaluation of every single project I’ve worked on. I’m sure that, to my colleagues, it’s sometimes seemed like a unavoidable chore, only taking place because “it’s what the funders want”. Luckily for me, I’m really interested in gathering data and analysing it. That’s what got me my last job, at Birmingham & Solihull Women’s Aid: analysing data for a Home Office-funded project for 18 months. I was employed there for 11 years!

Monitoring and evaluation are important tools to demonstrate that non-profit organisations are delivering quality services for the public, from public money. They go much further than simply saying “x people took up our services from y date to z date”. Think about each of those people: what was their situation at the beginning? What support was offered to them? How did they feel towards their support worker? What difference did the support make in the short term? The long term? How confident would that person feel about recommending the service to others? These are important questions. Utilised properly, monitoring and evaluation can give the full picture of how services have a real and lasting impact on the quality of people’s lives, and allow those people the opportunity to have genuine input into how the services can be improved and diversified.

Evaluation data can improve the information the organisation puts out to its potential service users, can promote its business to potential funders and supporters and can raise awareness of important issues that need to be brought to the attention of the public, the media and local and national governments alike. In these austere times, it is more important than ever to be able to prove one’s value as an organisation, to demonstrate that, thanks to your service, people’s lives are safer, healthier and more fulfilled, and that public money elsewhere has been saved.

Of course, many third sector organisations have the infrastructure to generate the data, analyse it, produce reports, Tweets, leaflets and funding bids from it. Or at least they did: unfortunately, these ‘back room’ jobs can be the first to go when making staffing decisions in the face of funding cuts. New and smaller organisation can also struggle to manage this work on top of their primary service delivery load.

At times like these, it may be helpful to call in a consultant. But consultants are expensive, aren’t they? And how do you find the right one? Well, if you’re reading this blogpost, it’s possible you already have. If you feel, by what you’ve read, that I will understand your organisation’s needs and you’d like to find out more, we can arrange to have an informal – and free – chat. I can be hired for an hourly, half-daily or daily rate, or we can agree a fee for a particular piece of work. And if I can’t help you, I may be able to find someone who is better suited to what you require.

Oh, and by the way, I don’t call myself a ‘Consultant’, I like to see myself as a ‘Communicator’. I hope you agree.