Dr Rebekah Grace

Biography

Dr Rebekah Grace is a Senior Researcher and the Vice Chancellor’s Innovation Fellow in the Faculty of Human Sciences at Macquarie University. She leads the Volunteer Family Connect Research Project, a rigorous trial of a best-practice volunteer home visiting program to examine its effectiveness in supporting isolated and/or vulnerable families of young children.

Abstract

Volunteer Family Connect (VFC) is a community-based early intervention program, in which trained volunteers provide one-on-one support to isolated and/or vulnerable parents and carers of young children. In 2012 a consortium was formed including three not-for-profit organisations (The Benevolent Society, Karitane, Save the Children), two universities (Macquarie University, Western Sydney University) and one corporate partner (Ernst & Young), to develop a theory of change and to rigorously examine the effectiveness of volunteer home visiting in the Australian context. A randomised-controlled trial is currently underway in four states.

One of the innovative aspects of this research is that it includes social return on investment (SROI) analysis, a first world-wide for volunteer home visiting research. In this presentation we will discuss SROI findings for the VFC program, based on pilot study findings and other evidence of effectiveness from the research literature. The SROI has focused on the costs and benefits for each of the stakeholders in the VFC program, including: parents; children; volunteers; government; and the host organisations.

Pilot study findings indicate that over a 6-month period, VFC supported improved outcomes for the participating parents, children, and the volunteers who deliver the program. A key SROI finding is that the Government reaps the largest share of the benefits from VFC, mainly because this program prevents families from accessing more costly Government funded programs. This is an interesting finding in light of decreases in government funding support for volunteer home visiting programs in Australia. SROI findings will be discussed in full.

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