Love4Life is a friendship and dating project run by FitzRoy UK for adults with a learning disability and autism. It seeks to reduce the loneliness and isolation typically experienced by adults with a learning disability and increase their independence.
Love4Life secured funding from National Lottery Community Fund for three years to expand their friendship and dating project in southern Hampshire.
Love4Life needed to evaluate the project as a condition of funding but lacked the capacity and expertise to measure impact in a robust way.
Insley Consulting was commissioned to help Love4Life set up systems to measure the impact of the project and provide an evaluation of how it is run. An important factor was to ensure that our consultations are accessible to adults with learning disabilities.
“The evaluation of Love4Life evidenced the impact of our service in a compelling and inspiring way. It was brilliantly received by our leadership team.”
Our support started with an Interim Evaluation of the project so that we could help identify any improvements that could be made early on.
Our findings showed that having the opportunity to regularly go out, meet new friends, go on chaperoned dates and form relationships has a transformative impact on members’ lives – including increased happiness, reduced isolation, increased confidence and a new-found love for life.
When we presented our findings, senior leaders within FitzRoy were so inspired by the potential of the project that they commissioned us for additional research to find out if and how the service could be extended further into Hampshire and into neighbouring counties.
NEEDS ASSESSMENT RESEARCH
As part of our research into whether the service should be expanded further, we:
- Set up Easy Read surveys for people with learning disabilities/autism who are not current Love4Life members, to understand the problems and challenges they face in their daily lives.
- Conducted desk research into three counties of interest including the number of people with learning disabilities, support systems already in place and gaps in services.
- Conducted research on comparable services within the county and elsewhere in the UK.
- Interviewed commissioners to get their take on the needs, assets, infrastructure and gaps in their area.
Our research identified a clear need to expand the service further into Hampshire. We recommended that up to three satellite Love4Life services be developed to provide coverage for most of the vast county. It was also recommended that Love4Life could be operated as a ‘spin-off’ social enterprise, as a subsidiary of FitzRoy, to unlock the potential for new grant-funding.
THEORY OF CHANGE WORKSHOP
We facilitated a workshop with staff and beneficiaries, to gain a better understanding of what life is like for adults with a learning disability before they become a member of Love4Life and how the activities and social connections made have changed their life.
As part of this process we identified the most important things for Love4Life to measure and illustrated this within a Theory of Change diagram.
Next came the important consideration of how to measure change in an accessible yet robust way. We outlined what data would be measured and how within an Evaluation Framework and decided to capture data at three key intervals to measure what changes over time, as well as an annual survey.
SYSTEMS TO MEASURE IMPACT OF LOVE4LIFE
We set up a set a series of Easy Read surveys to measure changes in members’ wellbeing, loneliness and independence over time. We are using adapted versions of externally validated questions to ensure that measures are robust whilst also being accessible to people with learning disabilities.
We worked with FitzRoy’s IT team to ensure that the surveys integrated with their client management and event bookings systems, to capture a complete overview of how people were accessing the service, as well as its impact on their lives. We set up survey dashboards so that attainment of outcomes can be viewed at a glance.
“As well as evidencing the impact of Love4Life on members’ wellbeing and loneliness, the surveys Emma developed have helped us to understand what life is like for adults with learning disabilities when they join, so that we can plan activities and support around their needs.”
We will shortly be conducting a focus group with members of Love4Life using creative facilitation methods to engage people with learning disabilities.
Then we will be writing a mid and end evaluation report, which will be used to show the impact of the project to current funders, and support funding applications to expand the service further into Hampshire.
“We have now been able to move ahead and plan for expansion of our project knowing that it’s based on robust evidence, which will help to secure funding for it.”
Head Of Fundraising
We are delighted that as a result of our early findings FitzRoy has agreed to set up two new Love4Life services as a spin-off social enterprise in northern Hampshire, which will result in a significant increase in the number of adults with a learning disability being supported to overcome loneliness and increase their wellbeing and independence.
Our evaluation data is being used to help generate the funding for this expansion.