Choosing the ending, evaluating the process: biographical approaches to evaluating interventions with young adults at risk of substance abuse.

GORNALL, Lesley (2016). Choosing the ending, evaluating the process: biographical approaches to evaluating interventions with young adults at risk of substance abuse. In: EVANS, Rob, (ed.) Before, beside and after (beyond) the biographical narrative. European Society for Research in the Education of Adults, 1 . 39179 Barleben, Germany, nisaba Verlag, 559-577.

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In 2011, the UK Government closed the last remaining residential rehabilitation centre for young people under 18 suffering from issues related to substance misuse. Instead, Choices, a short term programme of holistic, personalised interventions was introduced. Choices was a £4 million grant programme for 2011-12 funded by the Home Office. It was aimed at the voluntary and community sector to help them prevent and reduce substance misuse and related offending by vulnerable groups of young people aged 10-19 years. The funding was made available to national voluntary and community organisations to support the delivery of targeted prevention and early intervention programmes as well as the transfer of skills, expertise and knowledge to other providers through dissemination activities. Whilst this represented a significant cut in funding, the commitment to evaluation offered an opportunity to build on the ‘multiple vulnerability’ approach used by national charity Compass, and develop an biographical evaluation method. By evaluation partners Sheffield Hallam University. This method was centred around in – depth one to one semi structured interviews with 20% of participants in the programme, at the beginning and end, and commitment to representing the life stories behind the life choices, and any subsequent change. In line with COMPASS’ commitment to focus on young people’s journeys, this evaluation was designed to concentrate on young people’s experiences, their perceptions of substance misuse, why and how it became part of their lives, and those factors which prevent or help them in taking control of their own futures, and a biographical interview was undertaken with over 20% of the participants at the beginning and towards the end of their involvement in the programme. Interviews used a series of open – ended prompts which were developed following an initial analysis of COMPASS’ innovative Multiple Vulnerability approach and data. Interviews were recorded and analysed using computer software. Trends from the first interviews were identified to inform the design of second interviews. Young people involved in the evaluation were very open and honest, and although experiencing serious problems and challenges in their lives, they demonstrated a great deal of resilience and willingness to share their experience in the hope that it will serve to help others. The multiple vulnerabilities of lives outlined in the report is often out of the control of the young people affected, substance use often the by-product of early exposure, or as a perceived antidote to other issues. These are complex lives, with a range of challenges, and the authors hope that the detail included in the main report will support services and policy makers in formulating successful strategies for future interventions, and demonstrate the value of the biographical approach. Challenges related to the design, acceptance, rigour and value of a fundamentally qualitative approach in an environment focussed on quantitative analysis., will form the basis of this methodological paper, and represent a further development of the evaluation report. Published Conference Proceedings. Methodological article based on funded evaluation of CHOICES programme of interventions for young people with category 3 drug and alcohol use.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: Biographical Research, Policy, Life History, Young People
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Centre for Health and Social Care Research
Page Range: 559-577
Depositing User: Lesley Gornall
Date Deposited: 18 Jan 2017 11:49
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 22:15

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