Pro Bono Economics provided advice to Food Train on its data collection methods, to provide an accurate costing of savings to health and social care public sector spending in Scotland.

For 20 years, Food Train has been providing vital support to older people, contributing not only to their personal health and wellbeing, but also reducing the burden on public health and social care services. Based in Dumfries and Galloway, in 2015-16, Food Train worked across seven local authorities to deliver just under 40,500 food orders, support on over 1,050 household jobs, enable 8,200 hours of befriending between volunteers and members, share just under 7,000 library resources, and share 3,300 meals.

The charity approached Pro Bono Economics as although they have collected information on the scale of their activities, they have no evidence of the potential financial and economic value of their work. The charity is considering expanding its services to other local authorities in Scotland and Northern England, however to appeal to commissioners and funders, the charity must develop a more rigorous evidence base.

Pro Bono Economics matched Food Train with experienced economist Tom Jordan, who at the time of the project worked for the National Audit Office (NAO). Tom advised the charity on how to adapt their current monitoring survey to include questions that would cover a range of important areas to measure. Through this, Food Train will be able to more accurately measure the impact of its activities on themes such as improved diet and wellbeing, and reduced social isolation.

When adequate data has been collected, Tom advises Food Train to look at the Health & Social Care Partnership Boards’ cost data to measure the savings made by Food Train’s services. A key part of the business case which Food Train must negotiate with local commissioners is its impact for local health services. If, through its survey, Food Train can identify a reduction in how often members use health and care services, it can then also identify cost savings for the health service. The Health & Social Care Partnership Board collects costing data in the form of a “cost book,” which reports unit costs for different services across health boards.

We would like to thank Tom Jordan for his extremely insightful advice report to Food Train.

6th June 2017