Guest Blog: Undertaking a cost benefit analysis of Place2Be’s one-to-one counselling by Sarah Golden, Head of Evaluation, Place2Be
A gap in our evidence
Place2Be is a children's mental health charity providing school-based support and in-depth training programmes to improve the emotional wellbeing of pupils, families, teachers and school staff. We currently provide mental health support in 286 primary and secondary schools across England, Scotland and Wales, reaching 129,000 children and young people. As a charity with a long history of recognising the importance of evidence in helping us to demonstrate the difference we make to continuously improve our practice, we noted a gap in our evidence around making the case for early intervention and the value for money of providing mental health interventions for children and young people.
Approaching Pro Bono Economics
While we have a Research and Evaluation team that is expert at evaluating the impact of our service and professional advisors on our Research Advisory Group, we did not have the economic analytical skills and knowledge in-house to undertake a cost benefit analysis of our service. We approached the team at Pro Bono Economics who matched us with an economist from their pool of highly-skilled volunteers to work with us to meet our aim of showing the cost benefit of every £1 spent on providing counselling for primary-aged children.
Working with the volunteer
We provided a brief and the Pro Bono Economics team and volunteer scoped a proposed approach to address our aims. It was invaluable to work closely with the volunteer at this stage to ensure he had a good understanding of our service and the model of delivery, the potential impacts and cost savings to society that we believed our service potentially affected, and to clarify the costs and impact data that we would be able to provide to underpin the economic analysis.
Planning the analysis
We made some decisions around the scope of the project, for example focusing only on our service for primary school aged children, and choosing to draw on a particular research report our volunteer had identified which linked child mental health with later life outcomes. The time spent on this stage, and the careful and thoughtful questioning by the volunteer, paid dividends as the analysis progressed.
Reviewing the initial analysis
The initial analysis was shared with us at an early stage so that we could review, question and clarify and this led to some fruitful discussions around mental health and later life outcomes – bringing together the mental health expertise of the Place2Be team and the economic knowledge of the volunteer. This process helped ensure that we felt we had a robust and thorough analysis of the cost benefit of our service.
The final report
The final report gave us exactly what we needed with a clear headline answer to our key question on the value for money of intervening early in children’s mental health, that we are confident is underpinned by an independent, rigorous analysis that is expertly and clearly presented in the full report. Our volunteer was kind enough to present the findings at a launch event attended by trustees, advisors, our executive team and funders. The Pro Bono Economics team worked alongside our communications team to maximise the impact of the report through some high-profile media coverage.
The impact for Place2Be
We have already shared the report widely, and going forward it will be one of our key sources of evidence to share with policymakers, commissioners and funders as well as colleagues working the wider mental health sector to make the case for early intervention. It was a great experience working with the Pro Bono Economics team and volunteer and I have a huge amount of respect for what they were able to deliver for our charity that we would not otherwise have been able to achieve.
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