Beside Me - Independent evaluation

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned ReportOther


The evaluation context
In 2023, Beside Me was a six-month project implemented at HMP Perth. The project entailed a team from the Dundee Rep and partners, working with fathers in custody and their children and families. Seven families took part in the project, that concentrated on building relationships, gaining self-assurance, and spending quality time together. Additionally, the project explored aspects of being a father in Scotland, culminating in end of project performances at HMP Perth.

The Scope of this evaluation
The evaluation entailed inviting all participants and partners in the Beside Me project to voluntarily take part in this evaluation. The evaluation focused on participants and partners sharing their reflections about the project, and how it might be improved in future iterations. Theoretically the evaluation took an appreciative enquiry approach, which entailed focusing on the positive implications of taking part in Beside Me. The views of participants and their families are emphasised and are central to the evaluation.

Evaluation methodology and ethics
Methodologically, the evaluation adopted a qualitative, mixed method approach. Following ethical approval from the Scottish Prison Service, the evaluation entailed a mixture of focus groups and interviews depending on the preference of the participant. Some were undertaken online, while other data collection was undertaken in person. A focus group was undertaken with participants and another with the creative team. Four one to one interviews were undertaken with family members. Additionally, three one to one interviews were undertaken with project partners.

Evaluation findings
Cumulatively, the interviews and focus groups illustrate that the project had a profound positive impact for the participants and their families and for project partners. It is evident that the project while at times challenging, different and demanding, the benefits of participation far outweighed the challenges. It is evident that Beside Me enabled deepened connections between participants and their families. The physical space and emotional context of the project provided opportunities for participants to forget where they were and connect to their families in new and meaningful ways.

Evaluation conclusions and recommendations
Given the compelling evidence around the positive impacts of meaningful family contact for both families and people in custody, the impact that Beside Me has had is likely be long-lasting and meaningful in the lives of all of those who took part. Future projects in this area, might reflect on the challenges that Beside Me encountered and then found solutions to throughout the project. While prisons settings can be challenging settings to undertake projects such as Beside Me, the project team and all project partners are to be commended on designing and implementing such a meaningful and impactful project. To quote one of the evaluation participants:

“When you have been in prison for a long-time like any of us, it is easy to become numb, you forget what you were like before… During Beside Me they see you more as Dad and whatever other relationships you are.” (Focus group participant)
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationGlasgow Scotland
PublisherSocial Research Solutions
Number of pages64
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024

Cite this