In the context of person centred planning, monitoring and evaluation essentially means seeking to establish whether person centred planning is being done well and having a positive impact on people’s lives.
The term ‘monitoring’ refers to the initial, inquiry stage in this process and the term ‘evaluation’ refers to the subsequent careful consideration given to what is found in the inquiry stage and attempt to draw some conclusions from that.
It is generally considered important that at least some monitoring and evaluation be carried out from time to time in relation to person centred planning, in order to establish whether, where and in what ways it is and is not working, so that what is working well can be further developed and what is not working well can be redressed. What is discovered can be used to, for example, better direct service providers’ investments, future programme development and future planning efforts – and everyone’s efforts across individuals’ circle or network of support.
Usually those involved in a person centred planning venture will carry out some form of monitoring and evaluation exercise. This is referred to as ‘internal monitoring and evaluation’.
Certainly, the individual at the centre of the process should ask themselves whether they are happy with the process, the plan and the working out of the plan. If they are not, they should let everyone know this.
Family, friends and advocates will usually like to know whether the work is being of help to the individual and might want to look at some aspects of person centred planning they feel is not working well or is causing problems for them.
Plan facilitators ought to be interested in finding out whether the way they are supporting the development and working out of plans is helping or whether it might need to be changed or whether plans are being properly followed up.
Service providers should be anxious to learn all they can about how they can make their services more person centred. It is vital that services seek to learn from plans how services need to change - and that they feed this information into their strategic plans.
The broader community should seek to establish whether they are being sufficiently supportive of some particular person centred planning undertaking and learn more about how they might use person centred planning to be more supportive of other people with disabilities in their community; they may also want to find out whether person centred planning might be useful to other members of the community.
Sometimes individuals or organisations entirely external to the planning process may need to find out whether plans have been developed for particular individuals and, if so, how well they are being worked out. This is referred to as ‘external monitoring and evaluation’.
Both types of monitoring and evaluation are important and valid.
Regular external monitoring and evaluation are recommended for gaining an objective perspective on process, plans and outcomes.
It should be noted that capacity to monitor and evaluate will vary considerably across individuals and groups. It is important that the plan facilitator check whether support will be needed by anybody in this regard and arrange that support will be made available where required. (This is particularly important in regard to the person at the centre of the person centred planning process.)
Returning to the definition of person centred planning given at the beginning of this document, the prime objective underpinning any monitoring and evaluation exercise in relation to person centred planning must, clearly, be to establish whether its overall aim of good planning leading to positive changes in people’s lives and services (after Ritchie et al, 2003) is being achieved.
To this end, there are two key aspects of person centred planning which require monitoring and evaluation:
Each should be evaluated in terms of both objective effectiveness and how it has been experienced.
The quality of a plan can be evaluated in terms of, for example:
Programmes, processes and supporting structures can be examined in terms of whether, for example:
This last point is the best measure of the success of person centred planning.
The way in which person centred planning is to be monitored and evaluated should be decided before person centred planning begins. The necessary resources should also be estimated and provided for at this stage and a general process and basic set of indicators agreed. Ways of dealing with any problems that may come up in the course of monitoring and evaluating should be put in place before monitoring and evaluation begin.
A useful starting point for looking at the whole area of monitoring and evaluation in relation to person centred planning might be the UK’s NWTDT’s ‘Framework for reviewing planning’, self-assessment of person centred policies and procedures using ‘The Agency Self-Assessment of Person-Centred Policies and Procedures Instrument’, the UK’s Valuing People Support Team’s ‘How good is our person centred planning framework?’ and, of course, seeking to obtain the views of individuals who have been through the person centred planning process, using, for example: the NDA’s ‘Ask Me Guidelines for effective consultation with people with disabilities’.
An annual review of the overall person centred planning framework can be useful.
In all monitoring and evaluation exercises, it is important to bear in mind the fact that sometimes, less obvious considerations can prove as or more significant than their more obvious counterparts (see, for example: Smale (1996) and Kinsella (2004)). For example: some obvious indicators of person centred planning activity within services would be levels of plan development, the quality of plans developed and the extent to which plans are progressed – but an equally obvious simple count of numbers of plans developed or goals set might not necessarily give an accurate impression of person centred planning activity within a particular service as no account would be taken of the fact that some service users might not want a plan and others may want to develop theirs slowly, over time.
The opinion of everyone participating in the person centred planning process should be taken into account, where possible. All information gathering and all information gathered should be treated sensitively and confidentially.
In monitoring and evaluating the development, quality and progression of any particular person’s plan at any time, it is important to remember that the goals and priorities of an individual can change quite dramatically over time – it is possible that a plan has not been progressed because the person whose plan it is, is, for example, having second thoughts on some particular goals that maybe were a priority for him or her a while ago but are not now.
If monitoring and evaluation exercises are to have practical effects on services provided for people with disabilities, the results of these exercises must be fed back into service planning in a way that takes account of all the practical considerations of person centred planning described earlier - and all of its challenges which must be addressed. Services should adopt an approach to monitoring and evaluation that is sensitive enough to capture the subtleties of each individual plan yet robust enough to manage and aggregate this information in a way that will be helpful to planning for developing the service.
Finally, it is a good idea to monitor and evaluate the way you go about doing your monitoring and evaluation from time to time, to make sure you are doing it properly and well (again, the Irish Evaluation Network refers).