Evaluation of family support programmes

Title: An evaluation of family support programmes for people with a disability in Ireland 

Research team: Prof. Agnes Higgins and colleagues, Trinity College Dublin (TCD)

Results: Full report published March 2013.


In 2010, Genio grant-aided four family-focused projects with a focus on building capacity within families to promote and support the inclusion of their family member with a disability. The four projects were: 1) Family Focus Project - Brothers of Charity Clare with Muiriosa Foundation and Cheshire Ireland; 2) Transitions Project - DESSA (Disability Equality Specialist Support Agency); 3) Family Leadership Project - LEAP (Leading Education Advocacy and Planning for full citizenship for people with intellectual disabilities and autism) 4) Pathways to Possibilities Project - Autism Initiative Group. Genio commissioned Prof. Agnes Higgins of Trinity College Dublin to conduct an evaluation of these four projects. 

Aims of the evaluation

The aim of this evaluation was to evaluate four Genio grant-aided initiatives which aimed to build capacity within families to promote and support the inclusion of their family member with a disability. The research focussed on the impact of the family initiative on the family and family member with a disability; family member’s perspectives on project content, processes, structures and sustainability; strengthening capacity and the project facilitators’ perspectives on organisational impact and benefits.

Key findings

  • For the majority of participants the projects had a positive impact on the person attending, their family member and the family unit
  • The projects enhanced knowledge and skills of participants and challenged and changed their thinking about disability
  • The projects positively affected the participants ability to advocate for the rights of their family member and engage with services on a more equal footing
  • For some participants, the projects resulted in greater involvement and social connections of their family with community
  • Participants reported improved quality of life, self-esteem, and confidence for their family member as a result of their increased autonomy, independence, and involvement in decision making.

In addition, the report contains a very useful overview of the literature on family support models which will be of benefit to any group seeking to develop supports for families of people with disabilities. The report also makes a series of recommendations which will inform Genio’s future work in this area.