How to understand the DHHS outcomes reporting framework

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How to understand the DHHS outcomes reporting framework

DHHS is introducing outcomes reporting into many of its contracts with funded organisations. It has a framework for how it is doing this.

This 'How to' is an overview of the framework itself.

Some background information you need to know

DHHS contracts with outcomes measures are to be framed using the new Outcomes Statements. 1 These are best negotiated before the funding agreement is drawn up because they feed into Schedule 2 of the agreement.

An Outcomes Statement has the following parts:

Theory of Change: the story of how your service is going to achieve what it intends to achieve.

Outcomes hierarchy

(From bottom up)

Population outcomes

The benefit to the overall Tasmanian community

Population outcome indicators

You don’t have to report on these – they are usually set at a higher level

Program outcomes

This is specific to your service.

There are three levels:

3. Desired change

2. Desired quality

1. Desired activities

Program outcome indicators

Has your program achieved its objectives?

Against the three levels:

3. What did we achieve?

2. How well did we do it?*

1. How much did we do?

 

*Note: You might find this hierarchy confusing if your experience with outcomes hierarchies has been with ones that don’t include quality measures. On the other hand, if you have been working with the evaluation framework called Results Based Accountability you will be familiar with this structure.

The outcomes build like a pyramid from the bottom up – from program activities (or outputs) to desired quality to desired change to population outcomes.

The population outcomes are set by the Department. Your services contribute to these along with other services; you are not responsible for achieving these. They will however be listed in Schedule 2 of your funding agreement in the section that was previously called ‘Strategic Objectives’.

The program outcomes are the first part of the Outcomes Statement to be negotiated between your organisation and DHHS. Once agreed, they will be listed in Schedule 2 of the funding agreement in the area that was previously called ‘consumer outcomes’. You are responsible for achieving these.

The table below provides information on the parts of the outcomes hierarchy that you need to agree on – starting with the desired change you wish to achieve with your services (outcomes), through to a description of the qualities of our services, through to what your services will actually provide (activities or outputs).

Program outcomes

Desired change – what do we expect to achieve?

You need to agree with your funding agreement manager what you are expected to achieve with the funding provided.

What did we achieve?

Here you need to agree on how you will measure what your services achieved.

This is usually measured by asking whether clients have improved their life circumstances and whether they have made progress towards, or have achieved, their goals.

You might measure your program outcomes by surveying clients. Or you might use service records to report on outcomes such as the number of clients remaining in stable housing,, the number of clients who have moved on to another stage of the program, and so on.

Note: not all services are required to report on these outcomes measures. The decision depends on the amount of funding involved and the capacity of the organisation.

Desired quality – how well will we do it?

Most funding agreements already require you to comply with the DHHS Quality and Safety Framework, particularly with regard to standards. They also require services to provide evidence of continuous quality improvement.

In this section you will need to agree with your funding agreement manager on a way of describing the quality of your service – it might be ‘relevant to client needs’, ‘responsive to client feedback’ or ‘flexible’ or ‘tailored’.

Or you might aim to have employees certified to a certain level, complete a particular course or some other service specialist requirement.

How well did we do it?

This is to measure the quality of services – whether they are responsive to clients and working well towards achieving intended outcomes.

This can be done by asking clients and other services whether they are satisfied with the quality and responsiveness of services.

You might also agree that all employees will be certified to a specified level.  If so, then that is what you will measure.

 

 

Activities/outputs – what will we do?

Here you will need to agree on what you will deliver over the funding period.

How many clients will you see? How many groups will you run?

These have been listed as ‘activities’ in Schedule 2 of the funding agreements.

How much did we do?

Here you need to agree on how you will measure what you have said you will deliver.

Activities are typically measured by counting. For example, the number of clients seen or appointments offered.

In a very few cases of small amounts of funding (short form contracts) no reporting is required on activities/outputs.

 

There are ‘generic’ Outcomes Statements that can be applied across similar services. Your Funding Agreement Manager will be looking at these for guidance on what would be appropriate outcomes and indicators for your service.

Now you know the general theory, you are ready to negotiate with your Funding Agreement Manager about the outcomes your service is aiming to achieve, and how you will measure those. We would also suggest you read Some background information for contract negotiations - this outlines the principles and requirements which sit behind the framework.

Once you have completed the negotiations you can complete Schedule 2 of the funding agreement using the population outcomes, program objectives, activity/output levels and performance indicators from the Outcomes Statement.

  • 1. These are also called Commissioning for Outcomes Statements