End of Award Report for a Randomized Controlled Trial of Functional Family Therapy: An Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) Partnership between Croydon Council and Queen's University Belfast

Research output: Other contribution


The paper presents a closing report for the project ‘A Randomized Controlled Trial of Functional Family Therapy (FFT): An Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) Partnership between Croydon Council and Queen's University Belfast’. The work was supported from the United Kingdom Economic & Social Research Council/Early Intervention Foundation Grant Number ES/M006921/1. The grant was closed early due to the fact that staff at Croydon Council were unable to continue participation in the trial and complete their required work, as per the project plan. This prevented the randomization of the full sample and the subsequent planned analysis. The reasons for this were: 1. High staff turnover at Croydon, resulting in loss of key personnel. 2. Poor management of Children’s Services at Croydon. 3. Minimal referrals were made to the FFT team by Youth Offending Services (YOS) and Family Resilience Service (FRS). 4. Competition between ‘departments’ (YOS/FRS) was allowed to undermine the operational efficiency of the FFT team. 5. Changes in the management team at Croydon resulting in a senior manager being promoted and then overseeing the project from the point of failure, who had expressed open opposition to the randomized controlled trial at the outset of the research. This manager then made a decision to end Croydon’s participation almost immediately once they were in a position to do so. This displayed confusion over direction during this period of transition. 6. Children’s Services at Croydon was taken under direct Government control after an OFSTED report revealed ‘widespread and serious’ failures were leaving youngsters at risk during the lifetime of this project. It highlighted weak management in Croydon and a Commissioner was appointed to help Croydon improve. Recommendations and key learning There are lessons to be learned from this project. 1. It was possible to establish an effective working relationship and build and evaluation with a high degree of scientific integrity into the development of new initiatives within local authorities. There was an appetite in service delivery teams to contribute to the professional knowledge in their area of professional work. Other opportunities could be built into future specific calls, rather like the recent overseas aid calls. However, there would have to be a level of buy-in above middle management at local authority level to ensure projects can run to completion. 2. Local authorities appear to be developing complex and comprehensive data management systems for at risk families. These data management systems could be an invaluable tool in identifying at risk children and ensuring they get the help they deserve. For this to happen there needs to be synergy between data management personnel, managers and those delivering front line services in local authorities. The diagnostic ability of ‘big data’ may be worthy of future research. 3. There was not incompatibility between the ethical requirements of universities research review boards and the data protection requirements that both universities and local authorities work under. A method was found of securing and transferring data between Croydon and QUB. All are bound by the same legal framework and adherence to good working practices was evident in each institution. 4. If ESRC is funding collaborative grants between universities and local authorities, then it is important that prior to award a legally binding contract is obtained with the local authority. This should include penalty clauses should the local authority and the contract would need to be signed at Chief Executive level. This would be similar within a University where only the Vice-Chancellor and University Secretary/Registrar would usually make final decisions on acceptance. Good will and compromise on behalf of universities will not be enough to keep projects on track.
Original languageEnglish
TypeEnd of award report for United Kingdom Economic & Social Research Council/Early Intervention Foundation Grant Number ES/M006921/1
Media of outputDocument
PublisherQueens University Belfast
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 08 Nov 2018


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