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Home > An evaluation of the Identification of Need (ION) process in Sligo/Leitrim and Donegal.

Child and Family Research Centre,. Forkan, Cormac and Landy, Fergal (2011) An evaluation of the Identification of Need (ION) process in Sligo/Leitrim and Donegal. Sligo: Sligo Social Services Council.

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Since the introduction of the Child Care Act some 20 years ago in Ireland, there has been considerable expansion and development in child and family services. Despite this positive move, some of the primary criticisms of service provision have been that there is an uncoordinated, incoherent strategy for integrated working, resulting in a failure to deliver timely support to families, a lack of clarity concerning roles, bureaucratic delay and inappropriate interagency referral. The development and subsequent piloting of the Identification of Need (ION) model in Sligo/Leitrim and Donegal has occurred against this backdrop. It was designed to respond to many of these key inadequacies in existing service provision. Given this, the overarching aim of this evaluation study was ‘to assess the effectiveness of ION as a model of early intervention for children and families and to capture the learning from the pilot phase’.

The ION model is a multi-agency, early intervention process for children, young people and families. It enables parents and children, assisted by practitioners, to identify their own needs. It seeks to build on and formalise current practice. Practitioners in any agency are capable of undertaking an ION (identification of need). The essential quality is not professional training, but a helpful and respectful relationship with the family. It was intended at the outset that the ION be adopted by all agencies working with children and families. As a new way of engaging families ‘pre-social work front door’, the ION provides a vital element in the continuum of support available to children and families.

The ION was developed as a pilot initiative in the HSE Local Health Office Areas of Donegal and Sligo/Leitrim/West Cavan from January 2009 – December 2010. In June 2010, the Child and Family Research Centre, NUI Galway, was appointed as the external evaluator of the pilot phase of the ION process.

The central finding of this evaluation is that there is unequivocal support from stakeholders for the ION and for its continuation in the future. Families and agencies across the range of statutory, community and voluntary sectors warmly welcomed the key features of the ION, such as parental control over the process, its informal approach, multi-agency intervention and the emphasis on trusting relationships and practical support. The evaluation findings demonstrate the potential of the ION as a key player along the continuum of support and care provided to children and families, one which enhances and maximises the benefits and potential of both interagency cooperation and the effective timely functioning of key agencies. The simplicity of the concept, combined with the structured formalisation of committed interagency working, establishes the ION as a user-friendly effective model that has already established considerable uptake in its pilot phase and is well placed to expand and develop in the future.


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