Action for Children’s Impact Journey

by Hannah Dobbin

Much is written about impact reporting; why bother? How to go about it? Outputs versus outcomes? I want to share with you Action for Children’s impact journey and why we’re so committed to walking the perilous impact path. I’ll explore barriers we’ve faced along the way and share what we’ve learnt.

Action for Children works with vulnerable children across the UK delivering more than 650 services. These services reach over 250,000 children, young people, parents and carers. Our annual Impact Report sets out the difference our services make to children’s lives.

Each year our Impact Report reflects the changing environment, however children always remain at its heart. We set out key areas that can have an impact: safety, health, achievement and relationships. The Report shows our innovation alongside the delivery of evidence-based programmes and demonstrates the cost-effectiveness of our services.

Our evidence comes from a range of sources. This includes statistics based on our internal outcomes framework and independent evaluation of our services.

Our impact journey has involved taking some diversions so it is important not to commit to a single route.

We have learnt to:

  • Be flexible – impact reporting is a learning process, it evolves and requires refinement.
  • Be engaging – it is important that everyone across the organisation is engaged with impact reporting. Find out what services want to measure and work this into organisational systems.
  • Be assertive – assertive leadership is essential to ensure impact reporting is driven from the top.
  • Prioritise – impact reporting needs to be adopted within organisational priorities to make sure it is truly embedded and given the resources it needs.
  • Training – support staff through training on impact reporting and outcomes.

Our Impact Report 2013 sets out a wealth of evidence on the difference we make to vulnerable children’s lives. Key findings include:

  • Safety: 86% of our children’s centres inspected by Ofsted were rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ on their safeguarding of children
  • Healthy: 74% of the children and young people we worked with showed an improvement in their emotional or mental wellbeing
  • Relationships: 72% of children and young people we worked with improved their ability to maintain or form a supportive relationship with significant other/s
  • Achievement: In our Intensive Family Support services, 89% of children and young people improved and achieved at school
  • Innovation: In 79% of Family Partners cases the concerns about neglect were addressed and concerns about the child reduced or removed

We’ve spent the last eight years developing our approach to impact. We constantly review our approach and mechanisms to measure our impact, firmly concentrating on outcomes, as opposed to outputs. It’s definitely a long-haul journey, but whatever route we take, children will always be at the centre of what we do for as long as it takes.


Hannah Dobbin is Policy Manager at Action for Children. Action for Children’s Impact Report 2013 is available to view and download via: actionforchildren.org.uk/impactreport

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