Parents 1st
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What CSAIF funded: Parents 1st were awarded £395,000 (of which £50,000 was ringfenced for evaluation). This was used to build their capacity to scale so that they could reach many more parents and families. View the full impact evaluation.

About the evaluation

Level on Standards: Level 2 - they have captured data that shows positive change, but cannot confirm they caused this.

Evaluator: Renaisi

Aim: Parents 1st’s evaluation aimed to better understand the impact of their asset based peer support initiative across two geographical sites (Essex and the Isle of Dogs).

Key findings:

  1. A large majority of expectant mothers who received the peer support experienced statistically significant improvements in self-identified issues during both the antenatal and postnatal periods.
  2. Over half (59 per cent) of ante-natal parents showed an improvement in their wellbeing score. 37 out of 47 postnatal parents also saw a positive change in well-being. The overall changes in scores were statistically significant.
  3. There were reductions in levels of social isolation, and a move towards seeing people beyond the appointed volunteer as a point of social contact with 92 per cent of mothers having more than one person to talk to in the postnatal period compared to 50 per cent at the initial stage.


  • A contextual literature review
  • Before and after ante and post-natal data that was analysed using statistical significance testing
  • Qualitative interview data was analysed to assess impact from stakeholder perspectives (staff/volunteers/commissioners/partners)
  • 169 expectant parents from August 2013 participated in the evaluation, some of whom were still being supported. Complete before and after data was available for 83 parents antenatally and 47 parents postnatally.

Why is it a Level 2 Evaluation?

With support from Renaisi, Parents 1st has delivered an evaluation that suggests a positive change over time for the people that it supports, using appropriate tools. Though it would be beneficial to maximise the participant response rate going forward, it is high enough to assume that the findings are somewhat representative of all the parents supported by the programme.

About the evidence journey

Progress: Parents 1st had already achieved Level 2 on the Standards through their prior evaluation work, and so the purpose of this evaluation project was to refine the data collection tools and methods to better suit the individually tailored peer support provided. This enables Parents 1st to track more systematically how resilience, confidence and parenting capacity are built across multiple domains. By embedding the new framework, Parents 1st hope to make clearer statements to commissioners and others as the organisation continues its journey to scale. .

Lessons learned:

  • Burdensome (and sometimes inconsistent) data collection by volunteers should be avoided. Responsibility for core data collection was transferred to Parents 1st staff.
  • Economic evaluation models were found to be difficult to implement. Measuring the cost benefits of peer support is complex and challenging because the programme collaborates with and contributes to a range of intermediary outcomes across a wider system.

Next steps:

  1. A preliminary evaluation report will be produced using the new evaluation framework in October 2016.
  2. Over the next 2 years a bank of data across different sites using the new evaluation tools will be established to enable measurement of a larger number of participants and broader range of impacts in a consistent and systematic way.
  3. A proposal for a further research study will be developed that addresses the methodological challenges identified and makes a compelling case for validation at Level 3 of NESTA’s standards of evidence.