Evaluation of the Integrated Services Pilot Program from Western Australia
Independent evaluation of refugee-focused programs in developed nations is increasingly a mandatory requirement of funding bodies and government agencies. This paper presents an evaluation of the Integrated Services Centre (ISC) Pilot Project that was conducted in Australia in 2007 and early 2008. The purpose of the ISC program was to provide integrated support to humanitarian refugees in settlement, physical health, mental health and employment. The Pilot Project was based in two primary schools in Perth, Western Australia. The evaluation utilized a flexible qualitative [`]engaged' methodology and included interviews, focus groups and telephone interviews with the key stakeholders, project staff and a small number of refugee families. The strength of the qualitative methodology (including data that is narrative rich) is that it highlights issues as perceived by each stakeholder and provides insights into the daily work by ISC staff that helped to uncover unintended outcomes. Despite the fact that the ISC evaluation was supposed to be a [`]before and after' design, the researchers acknowledge a common weakness in many evaluations (including the ISC) that when baseline data is required, evaluators are recruited after the project has begun. This issue is discussed in the paper. It is critical that independent evaluators are able to begin collecting baseline data as soon as programs are launched, if not before.
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