The Family Star Plus is the most widely used of a growing constellation of Stars for children and families, including the original Family Star and the Family Star (Early Years). Since publishing them, Triangle has developed many more Stars, spanning diverse needs from cradle to grave. We got better at it and learned a lot. Much changed in the world, including the needs of families identified as at risk or presenting for support. It is now time to review these Stars.
What do you want us to change? What do you like and want us to keep?
Part of our role is to keep in touch with developments in the sectors served by the Stars, learning alongside the people who use them. We keep them under review, investing part of the Star licence in making tweaks or new editions. We create new resources to help people reap the benefits of using them well – engaging clients and getting reliable outcomes information. It’s a dynamic process that relies on you telling us what you think and us listening and responding.
Now we want to hear about what is needed to be sensitive to changing client groups and needs in children and family services, or to be even more strengths-based, trauma informed, conversational and accessible, for example. We particularly want to hear from you if you have suggestions about any of the Family Stars:
Family Star Plus
Family Star (Early Years)
The Family Star (Relationships) is more recent, so not part of this review, but check it out if you work with families where the main need is around conflict between parents. And do tell us if you use and have feedback on other Stars.
Tell us what you think about the Family Stars – what works and what to change.
Triangle is responsible for ensuring that the Outcomes Stars stay relevant and are as good as possible; we keep them under review, seeking and analysing feedback and developing new editions as needed. We published the Youth Star in 2012 and since then have developed many more Stars for different sectors, leading to new learning, including how to make the Stars and guidance even more trauma-informed, strengths based and person-centred.
The 1st Edition of the Youth Star was published without detailed scale descriptions, so a key aim of developing a new edition was to develop detailed scales to support training, consistency and clarity. Further, Triangle has gathered feedback about the Youth Star and also about how the youth sector has changed and evolved, resulting in helpful feedback. This also pointed to a need to review this Star to make it as good a fit as possible for youth work today.
2 What has changed?
We have created detailed scale descriptions for the six areas covered by the Youth Star. These are in a new User Guide, along with a graphic of the short scale descriptions. The User Guide is most relevant as an important new resource for workers, in training and initial familiarisation with the Youth Star and for reference to ensure accurate and consistent completion of the Star. However, it is written in accessible language and can be shared with young people who are interested and able to engage with more detail.
There is more detail in the Development Report but in summary the main changes are:
The first stage of the Journey of Change is renamed stuck, to recognise that things may feel or be stuck for a young person at that stage for many reasons, not necessarily because they are ‘not interested’, as the language in the 1st Edition implied. This also makes this wording consistent with other versions of the Outcomes Star
The first scale is now Interests and activities (replacing ‘Making a difference’). This area still emphasises helping others, group activities and teamwork but is widened to recognise activities and interests such as sports, arts, music that are positive for young people but can be individual not group activities and not aimed at making a difference to others.
Health and well-being replaces ‘Well-being’ as it now covers both a healthy lifestyle and emotional health, including managing physical or mental health conditions. It recognises that those who are younger may not have much control over their diet or other choices and that their family may not support living healthily.
Education and work now emphasises getting the most out of school/ work rather than focusing on achievement. It was also widened to include training, apprenticeships or internships and to recognise the role of the school, college or workplace in providing extra support where needed, so it is not just up to the young person.
There are other minor tweaks to scales, with some aspects moving from one scale to another to increase clarity and accessibility and adding references to social media and staying safe online. In addition, we listened to feedback from young people and workers and changed some wording to be more sensitive, trauma-informed and responsive to the issues people faced and created flashcards and new guidance.
3 Should I move to the new edition?
We believe that the 2nd Edition of the Youth Star is better, and the additional resources will make it a more effective tool for supporting and measuring change with young people, so we recommend you do transition your service to the 2nd Edition. However, the 1st Edition will continue to be available for the foreseeable future, so you have a choice and time to decide.
The 2nd Edition of the Youth Star is available for those with a Star licence to access on the Star Online, so you can download and it and review the new resources for yourself to help make a decision.
4 What should I do to move the to the new, 2nd Edition?
If you already have Star licences, there is no extra cost to using the new edition and no requirement for additional training, though you may want to consider refresher training. Talk to Triangle about your current licencing and how to make the most of the transition to support good use of the Star.
Consider how you will introduce the new edition to practitioners, for example by finding ways to ensure that they familiarise themselves with the User Guide with detailed scales, changes in wording and other new resources, including the flashcards and updated guidance. This can be done through refresher training, supervision sessions, discussions in team meetings and by sharing and promoting the “introducing the new Youth Star 2nd Edition” poster for practitioners, available from the Star Online or Triangle.
You also need decide when and how to introduce the 2nd Edition. The main options are:
Introduce the 2nd Edition for new clients and keep using the 1st Edition for existing clients who have already completed at least one Star. The advantage of this approach is that clients only have to engage with one version and their change shown from one reading to the next is valid because it is gathered using the same version
Decide on a date from which to introduce the 2nd Edition with all clients, both new and existing. This is more straightforward for the service because than using both versions and makes the move more swiftly to the new edition. However, change measured from one reading to another is not valid and may be misleading if different editions are used with the same person (see data section below). This has implications for both keywork/ action planning with that individual and for the validity of the service’s Star data overall.
5 What about my Star data?
Because some of the Youth Star scales have significant changes and others have minor changes, data gathered using the 1st Edition will not be directly comparable to data gathered using the 2nd Edition. The most marked example is that someone actively and positively pursuing individual interests such as arts or sports, may be at 1 in the first scale of the 1st Edition (Making a difference) but could be at 5 in the 2nd Edition (Interests and activities). The other differences are summarised above and set out in more detail in the development report.
There are three main options for how to approach data and reporting when making the transition to the second edition of the Youth Star, as set out below
We believe that different options will work for different services. The most appropriate approach for your service will depend on how long you have been using the Youth Star and the amount of data you have and the importance for you of being able to monitor trend over a number of years. Talk to Triangle if you would like advice. However, in general:
We would normally recommend the first option as it’s the most straightforward. Although this is likely to lead to difficulty presenting the data in the year in which you make the change to the 2nd Edition, this disadvantage is short lived, and the issues can be explained to those using the data internally and to funders or commissioners.
The second option is generally only recommended for services with a small data set, particularly those who have started using the Youth Star within the last year, and where it is important to maintain continuity of monitoring over the time of the transition to the 2nd
We strongly advise against combining the datasets from the 1st and 2nd Editions as in option 3, as there are significant changes to the scales that make the transition somewhat like moving to a different version of the Star. However, if you would like to be able to create high level reports across the two editions, we have a briefing called ‘reporting on different versions of the Star’ that would help with this and you can contact Triangle for advice as needed.
6 Questions and next steps
If you have any queries about the Youth Star, new editions or what would work best for your service, please get in touch with your Implementation Lead at Triangle, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or ring us on 0207 272 8765
Triangle’s Co-founder and Director contributes to GO Lab’s Social Outcomes conference programme to share learning from using the Well-being Star in a large social prescribing programme and how vital it is that measurement approaches are designed with relationship building and behaviour change in mind.
Hosted by The Government Outcomes (GO) Lab, the Social Outcomes conference brings together researchers, policymakers and practitioners working to improve social outcomes. Joy MacKeith, Triangle’s Co-founder and Director features at this year’s virtual event; she will share learning from 20 years of measuring individual outcomes to contribute to a debate about how commissioning approaches and Social Impact Bonds in particular can help or hinder the achievement of social outcomes.
“When people design a Social Impact Bond or any other commissioning approach, they need to be mindful of how it will impact at the front line
because that is where the real change happens. Research tells us that the quality of the engagement between workers and service users is absolutely critical to behaviour change but sometimes payment mechanisms can unintentionally impact in a negative way."
"The Outcomes Star has been designed to provide service-wide outcomes data whilst at the same time supporting that collaboration and helping people take the small steps that together add up to achieving their goals.“
Joy is joined by Tara Case, Chief Executive of Ways to Wellness – a large-scale social prescribing service and the first health service in the UK (and globally) with social impact funding. Ways to Wellness, with Bridges Fund Management as investors and Newcastle Gateshead CCG as commissioners, has been using the Well-being Star since 2015 as part of the support their service provides and to capture client-reported wellbeing improvements; the Star was specified in the outcomes-based funding contract for the programme.
“We have found that the Well-being Star helps to open up conversations that might have been hard to broach without it. It helps our Link Workers take a holistic approach and make links between different aspects of someone’s situation. It helps services to tailor what they do to support the person whilst also providing a standardised framework for reporting results.”
The Well-being Star was created for people living with a long-term health condition, to measure their progress in living as well as they can, and support self-management, rehabilitation and person-centred approaches. Triangle recently conducted further validation work on the Well-being Star within the Ways to Wellness service and shared their findings.
GO Lab’s Social Outcomes Conference runs 1st-4th September. Triangle is contributing to “Back to the Future? Learning from the UK”s experience with impact bonds: what should we take with us and what should we leave behind?” which takes place 15.30–17:00 (UK BST) on Tuesday, 1st September. You can register to attend free of charge via Eventbrite.
Triangle is the social enterprise behind the Outcomes Star™. Triangle exists to help service providers transform lives by creating engaging tools and promoting enabling approaches. Through the Outcomes Star, they work with services to promote and measure individual change and to enable learning at an individual, service, organisation and sector-wide levels. The Outcomes Star™ is an evidence-based management tool for both supporting and measuring change. For more information email email@example.com.
Ways to Wellness is a service for people in the west of Newcastle whose daily lives are affected by certain long-term health conditions. GPs and their primary care teams use social prescribing to refer patients to the service. Ways to Wellness adds to and complements the medical support that people receive, to help them feel more confident to manage their long-term conditions and make positive lifestyle choices. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Family Star (Relationships) was one of two new Stars published by Triangle in September 2018. It is designed for services working with families where inter-parental conflict is a major focus, with the aim of protecting their children from the harmful effects and enabling them to thrive. We recently interviewed Clare Burrell, Head of Strategic Commissioning and Policy for Children and Families at Essex County Council, who was one of the key collaborators spearheading the development, to find out why they invested in the development of this new Outcomes Star and to hear her thoughts on Triangle’s collaborative process.
Clare, could you tell us a bit about your role and how you first came across the Outcomes Stars? I lead on Early Intervention where, like others, we take a holistic approach to our work. Five years ago, we set up our Family Innovation Fund which is delivered by voluntary and community providers across Essex. It is important for commissioners to understand and know that the right outcomes are being delivered and to evaluate the impact of the work. It was then we took the decision to ensure that all the providers of these services would use the same outcomes tools, so that we could measure apples with apples rather than apples with pears! The aim was that doing this would strengthen the case for what works and help us develop the economic case for early intervention. Our intendent evaluators, Traverse, reviewed the outcomes tools available and they recommended we adopt the Outcomes Stars. As a result we prescribed the Family Stars to our providers and over time, they have come to realise the potential and usefulness of them as tools.
How did your focus around inter-parental conflict develop? The primary outcome of our work was family stability and through our work with whole families, it became increasingly evident within the early intervention space that if we were going to improve outcomes for children, we needed to focus more sharply on parental relationships. At the same time, we became one of 11 Local Authorities working with the Department for Work & Pensions, to develop the evidence for what works to reduce inter-parental conflict. It was then that we partnered with colleagues at Hertfordshire County Council and with DWP, to commission an Outcomes Star that would support our work in this area. We needed something different to any of the Stars which already existed, to take in the specific intricacies of relationships.
Did you find anything challenging about the collaborative process to develop a Star? Inter-parental conflict is a relatively underdeveloped area of practice, so there was quite a bit of interesting discussion and some challenges for everyone to agree on the focus and content for the Star. A couple of providers decided not to continue with the process and pilot because the Star didn’t fit with their way of working with families – they didn’t have enough time with parents in conflict or were solely focused on getting an agreement for contact with children rather than working holistically, for example. It was helpful to have a provider with vast experience and knowledge of domestic abuse – they made an invaluable contribution to ensure that the Star didn’t inappropriately stray into that space and that it was clear where practitioners using the Star would draw the line.
What would your top tips be for anyone considering collaborating with Triangle to develop a Star? I would say there are two main areas. The first is getting the right people around the table. It can be hard at times, but it is important that the right voices and heads are in the room for the key Star development sessions. I focused on the ‘unusual suspects’ – people who came from all different perspectives but who would challenge and mix up our thinking. It was also important to get people who were committed to the whole of the process, as it takes a considerable amount of time – over a year in our case.
The second is to plan your pilot upfront and think about how you will get buy-in from practitioners. It’s more than just being in the sessions, it’s about committing to piloting the tool and feeding back throughout the process. We piloted with our commissioned providers, and some of our in-house services. This particular Star brought a challenge because it was used only as and when an inter-parental conflict focused case came up, so that limited the amount of data and feedback and made it more difficult to evaluate in a meaningful way, beyond case studies. That said, practitioners love the new Star and are using it in their work, including in unexpected circumstances – as an example one practitioner has recently used the Star to support a teenager and parent in conflict.
And lastly Clare, what are your hopes for the Family Star (Relationships)? My plan is that this Star is embedded in practice. Essex is a big place, but we are doing a lot to make sure that our practitioners know about this Star and that it is part of their toolkit to use with families and that they can draw on it when inter-parental conflict is the main issue for a family they support.
Many thanks to Clare for her time for this interview.
The Family Star (Relationships) is designed for practitioners working to identify and support the resolution of inter-parental conflict so that outcomes for children and young people are improved. It was developed by Triangle in 2017 – 2018 in collaboration with Essex County Council and Hertfordshire County Council. Please see the Family Stars page for more information about the new variant for supporting parents to manage conflict: the Family Star (Relationships).
94% of practitioners piloting the Star indicated they found the Family Star (Relationships) described the situation, strengths and needs of the service users they worked with either well (either fairly or very well). 80% of parents who completed feedback about the Family Star (Relationships) said it helped them understand what they needed in the way of support.¹ For more information about how Stars are developed, and Triangle’s collaborative process please see our Star Development page.
For an example of Star data in action, please see the recently published evaluation report from OPM Group for Essex County Council’s Early Help Programme, the Family Innovation Fund (FIF). FIF used the Family Star Plus and My Star as primary evaluation tools, with practitioners completing Stars in collaboration with service users, as an integrated part of the Early Help support being provided. Star data was used to demonstrate change, as part of an economic evaluation, and to make the case for early help provision.