CSIA has worked closely with individual organisations, collaboratives and Government Agencies exploring what a Commissioning for Outcomes approach might mean in each context.

And we have been involved with YFS and their service integration outcomes-focused investment approach that has delivered positive results.

Have you heard of the YFS Thriving Families project? Because we have some insights for you that showcases an innovative approach to service planning and delivery.

Here at CSIA we were excited to help officially launch their evaluation project, Thriving Families Project Evaluation Report: from Crisis to Thriving with an online event.

The virtual room was crowded with eager participants from across Government and the Community Services Industry to find out more about how YFS invested their own funds into this successful strategic and innovative program.

YFS CEO and Board Director Cath Bartolo, Family Coaching Manager Carolyn Curry and Strategic Development Manager Judith Hunter shared the story from start to finish as well as the insights they gained.

Does Integrated Service Delivery work? How does changing the Investment Framework and logic change the way you deliver services? What does it take as a board, CEO and organisation? These are just some of the questions that this event looks at as you get a taste of what YFS achieved.

What is Thriving Families Project?

The Thriving Families Project aims to create sustainable change for families experiencing homelessness so that they can create stable homes and nurturing family environments where everyone can flourish.

It provides a fast response to the housing crisis coupled with ongoing support to address underlying and emerging issues.

It is an integrated housing and family support service that tests the commissioning for outcomes approach through early intervention.

The project enabled specialists to co-locate, collaborate and work together to deliver family-led responses.  They worked with 35 families over 18 months, with 32 families living in stable housing.

And it started with an investment outside of the usual revenue channels.

Taking a giant leap of faith

YFS self-funded this project, in a move that nudged them out of their comfort zone and into an exciting opportunity to test their innovation around investment logic and service delivery.

CEO Cath Bartolo said their greatest partner and champion was the YFS board, who have always been strategic.

“I want to acknowledge the vision of our past and present board members in being prepared to take that leadership role around this Commissioning for Outcomes opportunity,” she said.

“They were open to understanding the work YFS does, the complexity of our clients’ needs and the way that funding works.

“Our board decided to invest some of their reserves into a project to demonstrate what could be achieved through integrated service delivery that wasn’t constrained by funding guidelines.

“They financially enabled us to trial some of the ways we thought we could work collaboratively for better outcomes for families.”

Ms Bartolo said the other brave decision the YFS board made in the past year was to invest in strategic development.

“In particular, financing an Evaluation and Research Manager who looks at our outcomes and gives us live feedback,” she said.

“It meant we could review and report on the project as we progressed, pivot when needed and find solutions quickly as challenges arose.”

Insights and learnings

YFS learnt a lot during this project about service integration, building culture, family-led responses, evaluation and internal culture.

Ms Bartolo said there were two key strengths that contributed to the project’s success:

  • Integration of specialist housing and family support
  • A family resourcing approach led by each family.

They found that service integration was effective and that it needed a number of elements:

  • Resourcing – leadership, facilitation and the right team.
  • A shared understanding of purpose, vision and risk taking across the organisation.
  • A focus on building capacity of the team members over time, who co-locate to work together, bringing their specialties to the mix.
  • Support for teams, provide a safe place for discussion and reflection.
  • Managers trusting their teams and giving them the freedom to work with families in the way that would meet their needs.
  • Spending additional time with families, getting to know them, being curious about them and helping them be curious about themselves and their lives and possibilities.
  • Creating a shared purpose and shared language for understanding of roles, responsibilities and actions.
  • Data collection, evaluation and assessment as you progress to learn as you go. Involve the families in the development of these tools
  • Seamless communication with families.

YFS Strategic Development Manager Judith Hunter said: “we found that the longer we stuck with people, the more of the elements they had in place, not just in their circumstances but also in their ability to thrive into the future.”

Assessment tools

Thriving Families is a whole of life intervention, a new approach to service delivery. YFS wanted to be able to assess the outcomes (not the outputs).

To do this, they drew on a number of evidence-based tools and consultation with their families to develop the Thriving Families Matrix. The domains were based on the conversations with families about what they wanted to cover the broad range of areas of wellbeing for people.

They were also able to crunch the numbers to identify additional benefits of the project.

Ms Bartolo said YFS have done the numbers and found some exciting economic impacts of their project.

“We are confident that we have diverted from public housing, prevented long-term homelessness and improved child safety,” she said.

“We know that 10 of the parents in the program have now moved into work and that five have enrolled into education.”

Watch the full recording for deeper insights: