Please scroll down to find out about a selection of the projects we have recently completed. Some of the project publications are available for you to download. Where our reports are not publicly available, we would be happy to provide you with further information about the project findings and their implications for policy and practice. You can contact us at

Please note: The downloadable project reports are available in pdf format. If you do not have the Acrobat Reader installed on your machine please click on the icon below to download now!

Review of Stage Three social services complaints procedures
Professor Roger Clough, of Eskrigge Social Research, led a collaboration with Third Sector First to review procedures for investigating complaints about social services in Wales.  The focus of the study was primarily on the effectiveness of the Stage Three procedures and involved consultation with and data gathering from the full range of interested parties, including complainants, tribunal members, local government complaints officers and the Ombudsman.  The resulting report, described by the commissioners as "thorough and objective", outlined various options for change that took account of the relative strengths and weaknesses in the procedures identified during the research.


Arrangements for the review of drug-related deaths
Drug-related death is a public health phenomenon that is not reducing over time; in England about 1500 adults die each year from drug overdose.  Hull City Council commissioned Third Sector First to conduct a research study and audit of the local drug-related death review structures, the intention being to maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of the Drug-related Death Review Panel.


Research development and support service

From December 2006 to March 2009 Third Sector First was contracted to provide a research advice and support service to organisations applying to the Big Lottery Fund's £20 million Research programme.  Delivered through a daily telephone helpline, email correspondence, workshops and surgeries, Third Sector First advised over seven hundred organisations on the conception, design and management of research projects.  Among the organisations that applied for a full or development grant in Round One of the programme, the success rate for organisations that consulted Third Sector First was twice that for organisations that did not.

Third Sector First wrote a guidance booklet for the Research programme, Designing and managing research.  Although written specifically for Research programme enquirers and applicants, the booklet covers many issues relevant to the design of any research project and is still freely available as a download.


Big Lottery Fund Icon
Third Sector First, in collaboration with Dr Duncan Scott and Andy Wiggans, won the contract to research and develop a Voluntary and Community Sector Partnership (VCSP) three year strategy and delivery plan for Rochdale Borough. The study, which was qualitative in approach and involved semi-structured interviews, area-based and thematic consultations and documentary analysis, followed five 'enquiry themes': enabling and campaigning, strengthening communities, services, social enterprise and infrastructure and delivery. 
The study began in December 2007 and was completed in April 2008.


Review of the Cymorth Programme

Shortly after Christmas 2006 Third Sector First won a tender to evaluate the Cymorth programme in Powys. Whereas the pattern of enquiries was similar to that followed in our other Cymorth reviews, a significant additional factor to consider was the challenge of providing targeted services in a large area with a widely dispersed population.

The study was completed in the late Spring of 2007, with a view to the Framework Board using the results to plan children and young people's services from April 2008 onwards.


Review of Torfaen’s Cymorth Programme 2003-2007

Early in 2003 Third Sector First won a nationally-advertised tender to review and evaluate all the projects that had been rolled forward from previous funding regimes into Torfaen's Cymorth programme. Cymorth was in its infancy; the purpose of the study – the first of many to be conducted by Third Sector First – was to examine the theoretical justification, policy compliance, cost and beneficial impact of all the projects.

In December 2006 Torfaen's Framework Board invited by tender proposals for a further retrospective review of the Cymorth programme. We were successful in winning the contract and subsequently investigated how the programme had developed, reporting to the Framework Board in the early summer of 2007.


Advice and support in managing the legacy research grants programme.

As part of BIG's programme of support for ‘good causes' it has funded research across a range of medical and social policy areas. In order to ensure that its research portfolio is balanced and that individual projects are well designed, all applications are subject to a rigorous assessment process. An important part of this process involves scrutiny of applications by panels of leading academics, researchers and policy specialists.

Third Sector First facilitated the construction of the Social Research Advisory Panel for the final round of the Community Fund / BIG Research grants programme, and provided advice and support in relation to other aspects of the grant making process. We continue to provide advice on variations and compliance of the grants in management. This contract is very similar to the work that Michael Nugent did as the NLCB / Community Fund Health Research Adviser between 1996 and 2001.


Foundation research for Flying Start

In May 2006 Third Sector First won a tender to undertake research on behalf of Torfaen's Flying Start Board. Flying Start is the Welsh Assembly Government's new funding programme for Early Year's services, characterised by a concentration on a small number of primary school catchment areas and by the prescription of suitable interventions. Every Welsh Framework Partnership area will receive a Flying Start allocation, based on population size weighted by use of the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation.

Third Sector First was commissioned to measure access to, and the impact of, existing preventative early years services in four primary school catchment areas. Using a variety of techniques, including interviews, observational visits, literature reviews and extensive document analysis, we arrived at a set of conclusions that employed the ‘capability approach' to help explain access to services and the beneficial impact of services.

If you are preparing for Flying Start and are interested in our model of foundation research, then please contact us.


Evaluation of Cymorth programmes

During the autumn of 2006 Third Sector First completed two further selective reviews of Cymorth-funded projects in Wales , taking us into our fourth consecutive year of Cymorth research and evaluation. The studies in Carmarthenshire and Wrexham were focused on particular features of the programmes and were designed to complement previous and more descriptive studies of whole programmes and their outcomes.


Evaluation of Cymorth programme

In the second half of 2005 Third Sector First completed a two-part review of Cymorth-funded projects in Denbighshire. As with the studies conducted in several other Welsh Framework Partnership areas, the review reported on the extent to which projects appeared consistent with guidelines issued by the Welsh Assembly Government and on the evidence of project effectiveness.

Just as the Denbighshire study was ending Third Sector First won a tender to review the Cymorth programme in neighbouring Conwy. The conclusions and recommendations of the Conwy study led to a series of policy formulation meetings with the full Framework Partnership, facilitated by Michael Nugent and Professor Roger Clough . As a result of the review and follow-up meetings the Framework Partnership is progressively refining its strategic objectives, both for Cymorth and for allied children's and young people's services.


Evaluation of Cymorth programme

Having completed in 2005 an initial ‘scoping study' examining the distribution of Cymorth funds in Swansea, Third Sector First was then commissioned to scrutinise the whole programme more closely.

The purpose of the second phase study, completed in March 2006, was to examine whether, and how, Cymorth funded projects were supporting the achievement of the local vision for children's and young people's services, with a particular emphasis on project effectiveness and compliance with the Welsh Assembly Government Cymorth guidance.


Service user involvement in programme design and delivery

In spring 2005 we completed an evaluation of two related features of the Carlisle South Sure Start programme: ‘involvement’ and mainstreaming. The core part of this project was an examination of the nature, quality and outcomes of involvement, particularly in relation to local parents and carers. However, the research also considered the extent to which service user engagement in the design, direction and delivery of programmes - a central part of the Sure Start vision - looked likely to be incorporated into core public services for children and families.


Evaluation of Cymorth programme

This review, Third Sector First’s fifth major study of Cymorth implementation, involved the majority of Newport’s 35 Cymorth funded projects. It comprised both an investigation of the individual and combined impact of the Cymorth projects, and an assessment of the extent to which they were compliant with the Cymorth guidance. Individual project evaluation reports and an introductory report addressing issues of relevance programme-wide were submitted to Newport Children and Young People’s Framework Partnership in August 2005.


Healthy Living in Pembrokeshire

The Welsh Assembly Government's Sustainable Health Action Research Programme (SHARP) funded a study of 'Healthy Living in Pembrokeshire' from 2001-2005. This study, located within Pembrokeshire County Council, was one of only seven out of 47 applications to be awarded funding. Michael Nugent both collaborated in the development of the research application and remained closely involved as a research adviser throughout the life of the project.

The history and achievements of the Pembrokeshire SHARP project are described on the project website at


Developing an anti-social behaviour strategy and partnership support

In 2004 Pendle Borough Council established an Anti-social Behaviour Working Group, made up of council officers, elected members and representatives of a range of partner agencies. The group was charged with the development of an Anti-social Behaviour Strategy. In August 2004 Third Sector First was commissioned to assist with the process of strategy development, and to help devise policies and operational plans to support strategy implementation.

One of the outcomes of Third Sector First’s involvement was a data audit detailing the nature and scale of anti-social behaviour in Pendle. Third Sector First subsequently contributed to the research, analysis and writing of Pendle’s 2005 Crime Audit.


The provision of consultancy and advice for the North West Sure Start Unit

In the autumn of 2004 we were commissioned by the Government Office North West to enquire into the management and governance of an early wave Sure Start programme. Our role as consultants was to provide information and advice relating to the possible transfer of the project staff from the employ of an independent charity to that of the local authority. It was our responsibility to help the parties properly assess all the options, by exploring and clarifying the financial and human resource issues.

The work built on Michael Nugent’s work as a DfES Adviser in the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth waves of Sure Start.


Third Sector First worked with Age Concern and the Mental Health Foundation on their Inquiry into Mental Health and Well-Being in Later Life. We are delighted to have had the opportunity to work with both organisations on this critical area of investigation.

The Inquiry is a three-year UK-wide project which aims to influence policy and planning and improve services for older people with mental health problems. By engaging with older people themselves and with academics and professionals, the Inquiry seeks to provide an evidence and knowledge base about mental health and well-being in later life.

The project as a whole comprises literature reviews and two calls for evidence. Third Sector First won the contract to work on the first call which sought evidence of what helps people to achieve good mental health and well-being in later life. Over 1000 responses were received from individual older people and from organisations and professionals in fields such as health, housing, social care and transport.

Third Sector First analysed the 1000+ questionnaires and has submitted a detailed report of the findings. We presented our work at a meeting of the advisory group in April and made our recommendations for the Inquiry to take forward.

An executive summary and full report of our findings can be downloaded via the Inquiry website. If you would like to find out more about our work on this project or in the wider field of social policy and ageing do feel free to contact us.

Matching budgets to corporate objectives – research and analysis for Monmouthshire County Council

During 2003-04 Third Sector First completed an evaluation of Monmouthshire’s Cymorth Programme, following and further developing the methods adopted in the earlier Torfaen Cymorth evaluation. In April 2004 Monmouthshire’s Framework Partnership came together to discuss the report, and to participate in a ‘marginal analysis’ exercise.

Monmouthshire’s Executive Directors were sufficiently impressed and convinced by the approach to consider using ‘marginal analysis’ in setting corporate budgets for 2005-06. We undertook the background research into candidates for greater investment or for disinvestment, based on the preferences and priorities identified by each Council directorate.


Anecdotal evidence led health and social care agencies in Ayrshire to suspect that alcohol consumption was affecting the health and well being of a significant number of older people. We won the nationally advertised tender to investigate the impact of alcohol in old age. The study was planned and delivered in collaboration with Professor Roger Clough.

The consequent research, which incorporated a literature review, focus groups and interviews with service providers, older people and their carers, suggested that alcohol use could be both a compensation for and a cause of many of the difficulties associated with ageing, and that even modest levels of alcohol consumption could have a marked effect on the well being of some older people.

These findings and a number of related recommendations were presented at a conference in Kilmarnock in February 2004. Jointly organised by Third Sector First and the lead commissioner (South Ayrshire Council), the event was attended by over 80 service users and health, social care and voluntary sector professionals and included presentations from the research team, local specialists and Jack Law, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland.

The published summary report is available in print and as a pdf download:

The literature review and full report can be downloaded by following the links below:

The full report:


Bolton Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership (CDRP) and Greater Manchester Police were joint lead bodies for the formulation of Bolton’s response to the Prisoner Resettlement Strategy North West Framework Document. Among local authorities in Greater Manchester Bolton has the second highest total of people being released from the custodial estate, after the City of Manchester. Committed to planning for the size and complexity of its resettlement population, Bolton CDRP commissioned Third Sector First to review and report on local services and facilities provided under the ten care ‘pathways’ first described in the Social Exclusion Unit’s 2002 report, 'Reducing offending by ex-prisoners'.

The study was commissioned early in 2004 and completed in July 2004.

The Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programme (ISSP) is a community sentence intended for young people between the ages of 10 and 17. In the initial phase participants are required to spend a minimum of 25 hours on supervised activities, of which at least 15 should be in education, training or employment. The challenge of finding suitable provision falls largely on the shoulders of the supervising officer in the Youth Offending Team. Where the numbers of young people on an ISSP programme are small or variable it can be difficult to put together supervision ‘packages’.

e were asked by Bury YOT to conduct a rapid review of education, training and employment related opportunities in Bury and the surrounding area, looking in particular at what existing open access programmes might be suited to young people on the ISSP, if and where there was scope to influence future provision, and who might be able to offer ad hoc or interim programmes.

At the end of the project we produced a report outlining key issues and agencies, in addition to a directory of individuals, organisations and ideas to be used by frontline staff as a primary resource when devising ‘directed time’ programmes. This was intended to make the job of the supervising officers easier, by enabling them to place young people on interesting programmes more quickly and efficiently.

This study was commissioned by Liverpool Housing Action Trust (HAT) as an evaluation of their Housing with Care vision. The evaluation – involving detailed documentary analysis, meeting attendance, in depth interviews, the development of case studies, and focus groups with residents – was conducted between April and September 2001 and roughly coincided with the midpoint in scheme development.

Our review had three main components: we considered the original vision or objectives of the HAT and other significant agencies (for example, Liverpool City Council); the way in which schemes were working; and the factors that influenced how, or whether, the original vision or objectives had been realised.

The full report - submitted to the Liverpool HAT in 2002 - provides a comprehensive exploration of the HAT’s vision and the organisation’s approach to Housing with Care, highlighting their successes and the challenges they faced.

A summary report providing the evaluation’s key findings was published and is available in print and as a PDF download

In April 2003 Manchester City Council commissioned Third Sector First to work with their Crime and Disorder Team to revise and refocus some features of Manchester’s burglary reduction programme. This was not a project with one specific output, but instead involved the provision of research and consultancy services in relation to different aspects of the NRF-funded programme over a period of many months.

This included the joint organisation of two full day burglary conferences for Manchester Housing staff and other housing providers, the presentation of a conference paper on the contribution that Contracting Services staff could make to burglary reduction in Manchester, the preparation of publicity materials for inclusion in the Council newspaper, appraisal of specific interventions being considered for investment and the evaluation of existing programmes such as the UV marking of student property.

Over the last few years the prevention of anti-social behaviour (ASB) has become a major priority for crime and disorder reduction partnerships, stimulated in part by pressures and the complaints of the people most affected by it, and in part by legislative developments, most recently the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003. But whereas the determination to ‘do something’ about ASB has a very modern feel about it, being characteristic of the ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’ approach favoured by the current Government, there is nothing particularly modern about anti-social behaviour: it has always been a feature of urban life, particularly associated with young people. However, what is new is the way that ASB has been elevated in the hierarchy of ‘seriousness’ – the sheer volume of ASB that is reported and recorded is rarely out of the news headlines.

The purpose of our review was to describe the prevailing ASB problems in Salford (‘what is the nature of the behaviour?’, ‘Are incidence levels really so high?’), to examine the measures (enforcement and prevention) that had been introduced to reduce ASB and to report on the evidence of effect, efficiency and satisfaction from the perspective of citizens, victims, perpetrators and public bodies.

Our evaluation involved extensive documentary analysis including a review of case files, in-depth one-to-one and group interviews with professionals, including representatives of voluntary and community groups, and small group interviews with young offenders. Our final peer reviewed evaluation report was submitted to Salford’s Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership in July 2004.

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