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They are set up and supported in parts of rural England by Rural Community Councils (RCCs). Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity (BRCC) have an impressive track record of setting up these schemes across their county. The aim of the project was to begin the process of scaling up this model across rural England to create a national network, using the ACRE Network of RCCs.

What CSAIF funded: BRCC were awarded £129,200 to support five other RCCs to develop Good Neighbours schemes, and to work with ACRE to develop a national Good Neighbours Network. £30,000 of this funding was ringfenced to develop a toolkit and evaluation. £22,200 of the total grant amount was de-committed due to difficulties meeting the grant's key performance indicators. View the full impact evaluation.

About the evaluation

Level on Standards: Level 1 - they can describe what they do and why it matters, logically, coherently and convincingly. Unfortunately, due to lack of systematic evidence they cannot provide data that shows positive change that would take them to level 2.

Aim: The evaluation of Good Neighbours Network aimed to assess how effective the service is at supporting the growth of Good Neighbour schemes across rural England, beginning with the network of Rural Community Councils (RCCs) supported by ACRE (Action for Communities in Rural England) and leading on to the development of a national network of schemes. It was also intended that the project would address the lack of evidence for the impact of such schemes, which was seen as a barrier to their development.

Evaluator: Red Quadrant

Key findings:

The evaluation was not primarily focused on impact data and the following key findings were the result of qualitative interviews or comments through surveys.

  1. The evaluation found that independence is an essential characteristic of Good Neighbour schemes with awareness of other initiatives to avoid duplication.
  2. There is some complexity regarding inclusivity as some RCC have engaged in informal and uncoordinated initiatives that has at times attracted funding.
  3. Although family relationships needs to be taken into account and evaluated some clients prefer help from volunteers rather than family members.
  4. Viability is subject to fluctuating levels of both demand and resources in terms of volunteers as some schemes are over-supplied and others are struggling with recruiting and retaining volunteers.

Methodology: Questionnaires (only carried out pre-intervention) and an interview. Participants included volunteers and clients from five RCCs.

Why is this a Level 1 evaluation: The programme covers context and the problem that the service is trying to solve accompanied with a clear and understandable Theory of Change. Key goals are clear and the case studies together with supporting research provides an illustrative and in depth description. However, to be validated at Level 2 or above the evaluation would need to provide more comprehensive data on impact findings.

About the evidence journey

Lessons learned: Given the length of time taken to set up new Good Neighbour schemes, there was insufficient time to establish a baseline and collect meaningful impact data. There are inherent difficulties in collecting impact data due to the relatively informal nature of the schemes (both clients and volunteers may be reluctant to participate in the process). More time and expertise is required to develop a clear evaluation brief as well as assessing submissions and interviewing consultants. More time is also needed for the project management of the evaluation process.

Next steps:

  • Introduce outcomes framework for new Good Neighbour schemes being set up
  • Use outcomes framework to collect, compile and publish impact data

View the report