The Centre for Effective Services (CES) was developed in recognition of the fact that:
high quality research and data informs good social policy; and
the application of evidence-based policy making can make a real difference in the quality of services delivered, and, ultimately, in the quality of beneficiaries' lives.
At its most basic, the approach is to seek to provide a means to enable projects to access the expertise that they need in a timely and supportive basis, to be focussed on tangible outcomes, and to lend themselves to robust objective evaluation. The underlying aim is to develop a process whereby programmes and projects can be designed, developed and evaluated on the basis of a ‘what works' pragmatic approach.
Against a background of reforms underway by my Department, ongoing concerns to strengthen programme delivery and evaluation, and issues confirmed by a VFM Policy Review of the Local Development Social Inclusion Programme (LDSIP), my Department was eager to access independent international expertise. Separately, one of the issues with the local/community development programmes operated by my Department had been the difficulty in objectively demonstrating whether our programmes are actually working or not.
It was in this context that my Department, in consultation with the Office of the Minister of Children & Youth Affairs (OMCYA), considered the CES as offering a particular opportunity to support programme redesign, while overcoming the usual constraints of local interests and difficulty in accessing international expertise.
The CES also offered capability to set out tangible, deliverable, qualitative outcomes for the LDSIP/Community Development Programme (CDP) and wider programmes. In addition, my Department's view was that the CES would be in a position to provide ongoing mentoring on programme efficiency and evaluation over a number of years. The concept for the CES grew from an idea formulated initially by the Atlantic Philanthropies in the context of the provision of children's services — most notably the early childhood intervention project in Tallaght, Dublin. The CES was subsequently established as a joint venture between Government and the Atlantic Philanthropies.
Consequently, in 2008, my Department engaged the CES to assist with the re-design of its community development/social inclusion programmes, particularly the LDSIP and CDP. Key outputs agreed with the CES were the review of the design of both programmes, which, informed by good international practice, would specify outcomes at the outset and provide effective evaluation mechanisms. It was also agreed that any proposals put forward should facilitate effective evaluation of the performance of individual local delivery structures and allow for either the re-alignment or merger of the two programmes.
Under the agreement signed in October 2008 between my Department and the OMCYA with the CES, each will provide c€500,000 per annum to the Centre for 5 years. This amount will be matched by a contribution from the Atlantic Philanthropies of c€5m over the period. The agreement, which ends in 2012, sets out detailed deliverables to be provided over this period to each public body, as well as timelines for progress.
the unique nature of this project as a joint approach between Government and the Atlantic Philanthropies, particularly in the context of Government initiatives on children's services;
the not-for-profit remit of the CES;
the unparalleled access which CES has to international expertise on the design, delivery and evaluation of social programmes; and
the significant support available from the Atlantic Philanthropies; my Department did not consider that a competitive tendering arrangement was appropriate in this case.
I am advised that ten staff are currently employed by the CES. In addition, three persons are engaged on a temporary/freelance basis for specific duties and there is one person on secondment to the Centre from the OMCYA. A staff member from the HSE is also expected to join the CES later in the year and my Department will also be releasing a member of staff to the Centre on a part-time basis.
Finally, I understand that since the establishment of CES in late 2008, there have been numerous meetings and contacts with the voluntary and community sector. This would include several hundred contacts and meetings, ranging in nature from telephone conversations and face-to-face meetings to intensive consultations and collaborations. I am advised that the profile of organisations, projects, initiatives and persons in the sector who have been contacted and who have met with CES staff has been very diverse. They would include very large organisations, as well as small local projects within the child, family and community fields.