The MAX project team really do value the views of the people who use our toolkit and we frequently use the feedback we receive from them to guide our ongoing revisions and promotion of the MAX toolkit. So, when a local authority (LA) analyst attending our information sharing event last autumn suggested that we summarise the key reasons why people should be using the MAX toolkit, it made us all pause for thought.
There are other tools out there that promise to ease the ever-increasing burden on LA adult social care staff, so
What does make the MAX toolkit special?
After much consideration and debate, the MAX team have come up with five reasons why we think you should give the MAX toolkit a try.
1. THE MAX TOOLKIT HAS BEEN DEVELOPED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH LOCAL AUTHORITIES
Unlike many of the resources already available online, the elements of the MAX toolkit have been shaped by feedback and requests for support provided by potential end-users and beneficiaries during our earlier fact-finding activities and consultations: in this case, 139 analysts, managers, commissioners and practitioners from 95 upper-tier local authorities (LAs) in England.
This means that any difficulties you may be experiencing with collecting, analysing and/or using data from the ASCS or PSS SACE – and any associated training needs you may have – may be addressed in the MAX toolkit.
Furthermore, as the potentially useful strategies employed by some LAs to improve the local relevance, value and use of their survey datasets are shared where relevant within the MAX guides, the MAX toolkit may also provide you with inspiration on how to optimise your own practices.
2. INCLUDES TOOLS AND TRAINING RESOURCES TO HELP YOU LEARN NEW SKILLS TO CONDUCT MORE ADVANCED STATISTICAL ANALYSIS
Many of the LA analysts we spoke to struggled to navigate the volumes of data collected by the surveys and/or were unable to access the additional training or software required to move beyond the descriptives (i.e. the frequencies and percentages of responses to individual questions).
To ensure that all analysts can learn the skills and have access to the tools they need to conduct more advanced forms of statistical analysis (e.g. chi-square, t-tests, analysis of variance [ANOVA]), the tools included in the MAX toolkit are based in Excel and are accompanied by step-by-step instructions, pre-recorded training presentations and supplementary exploratory and further analysis guides.
This means you can ‘top up’ your skills at a time to suit you and without attending expensive training courses.
3.CALCULATE MORE ACCURATE ESTIMATES OF SERVICE IMPACT ON QUALITY OF LIFE [OR ORGANISATIONAL PERFORMANCE]
LA decision-makers and practitioners are interested in knowing whether the services they are providing are successfully helping to improve the reported quality of life (QOL) and outcomes of the people who are receiving those services. Direct comparisons of ASCOF scores (in particular, ASCOF 1A and 1D) are commonly used for this purpose, but, as these scores do not isolate the impact of the factors beyond LA control that affect QOL, only provide a partial picture.
The MAX toolkit includes Excel-based calculators that can be used to adjust the ASCOF scores to reflect these factors and, by doing so, provides you with more accurate estimates of service impact and a more useful starting point for further analysis.
Pre-recorded presentations on measuring impact using survey data are included in the MAX toolkit.
4.PRODUCE CONCISE AND USEFUL ANALYSIS REPORTS THAT REPORT-RECIPIENTS WILL WANT TO READ
Meeting the information needs of the decision-makers within your organisation requires you to condense a lot of complex information into a concise report with clear key messages and well-designed tables and charts. Many of the report-producers (also usually analysts) we spoke to struggle to do this and, as a consequence, produced lengthy reports of ‘descriptives’ that report-recipients do not want to read or cannot use locally. This, of course, means that all the time and resources allocated to the collection and analysis of ASCS and PSS SACE data are not fully utilised.
As well as summarising the general information and reporting preferences of the decision-makers who participated in our earlier activities, the MAX REPORTING GUIDE and MAX SUPPLEMENTARY REPORTING GUIDE consolidates recommended report-writing and data-visualisation practices (e.g. using the inverted pyramid style of reporting), and shows you how to create concise and engaging reports of analysis findings.
5. TRANSFORM THE SURVEYS INTO A LARGE AND VALUABLE PIECE OF LOCAL RESEARCH
The ASCS and PSS SACE are completed by huge samples of service users and carers, and therefore provide the decision-makers within your organisation with an invaluable opportunity to learn more about the views and desired outcomes of the people who use the services they design, commission and/or deliver.
Transforming the surveys into a piece of local research – perhaps the largest that your organisation conducts each year – and also the datasets into meaningful management information requires minor amendments to existing planning processes. The MAX PLANNING GUIDE summarises these amendments, along with existing LA and engagement strategies of potential interest, and may help you to improve the local relevance and value of your own datasets.
The MAX toolkit is available via restricted access pages of the project website and is free to use. To find out more or to register, please email the MAX project team.
The MAX project team
Karen Jones, Clara Heath and Diane Fox
Disclaimer: The research on which this blog is based is commissioned and funded by the Policy Research Programme in the Department of Health. The views are not necessarily those of the Department.