Breaking barriers: Insights from evaluating an early intervention speech pathology program for children living with vulnerabilities in Sydney

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The challenge

The Early Intervention Speech Pathology Program has been funded by the Central and Eastern Sydney Primary Health Network (CESPHN) since 2017. The aim of the program is to provide speech pathology screening, assessment, and therapy services to children (aged 0-6 years) living with vulnerabilities and their caregivers. The program is delivered in central and eastern Sydney by three health providers primarily in early childhood education centres (ECECs). Each of the providers delivers distinct place-based models, focusing on children living with vulnerabilities. For example, one provider is commissioned to offer culturally appropriate services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their caregivers. 

The commissioning body, CESPHN, was interested in an evaluation of the program to better understand:

  • The extent to which the three service providers’ program activities were delivered as planned
  • Factors which helped or hindered the implementation of the program
  • The extent to which access to services was improved for the target populations
  • Whether the program represents a reasonable use of funding.

Our approach

In 2022, Larter Consulting undertook a strengths-based evaluation using a process outcomes approach to identify the program’s achievements and learnings, by collecting data from service providers, CESPHN, and early learning centre staff.

After conducting a desktop review of four years of program data, Larter consulted key stakeholders using strategic interviews. For example, we spoke to: 

  • CESPHN representatives
  • Program delivery staff from three health service providers (Sydney Local Health District, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, and Sydney Children’s Hospital Network)
  • Early childhood education representatives.

Topics explored with stakeholders included program implementation and perceived outcomes of the program for children, parents, and the early childhood education centres more broadly. The program’s successes, enablers, and barriers to program implementation were also investigated and analysed.

These lines of enquiry were developed by Larter through program logic workshops with each provider and CESPHN to describe their approaches as ‘a plan on a page’. Descriptive statistics were performed to identify year-on-year trends and narrative analysis was undertaken to determine key features of the three service models.

The outcome

Larter brought the evaluation insights together in a detailed evaluation report for the funder and a series of performance reports (one for each service provider). The knowledge products developed included program delivery dashboards.

The quality of insights met CESPHN’s expectations, and the evaluation recommendations were accepted by the commissioning body, and services continue to be delivered to children and families under the program.

“I think the report is great and our deliverables have been met. Thanks for all your hard work on the speech pathology evaluation, and it’s been great working with you on this project”. (Business Lead – School Initiatives)

Larter evaluators are skilled in working with key stakeholders to deliver participatory evaluations and unpack powerful insights into what success looks like from their unique perspectives, as well as synthesising these insights for programs to guide investment decisions for funders. Larter consultants are specialists in data collection design and analysis to generate actionable insights, to inform how existing programs or services can be enhanced to bring positive change. 

Contact us to explore how Larter can help your organisation and community through meaningful evaluation.