The realistic evaluation of an adapted thinking skills programme

Date14 March 2016
Publication Date14 March 2016
AuthorPeter Oakes,Glynis Murphy,Alison Giraud-Saunders,Nzinga Akinshegun
SubjectHealth & social care,Learning & intellectual disabilities,Offending behaviour
The realistic evaluation of an adapted
thinking skills programme
Peter Oakes, Glynis Murphy, Alison Giraud-Saunders and Nzinga Akinshegun
Peter Oakes is based at
Department of Psychological
Health and Well Being,
University of Hull, Hull, UK.
Glynis Murphy is based at
Tizard Centre, University of
Kent, Canterbury, UK.
Alison Giraud-Saunders and
Nzinga Akinshegun, both are
based at Foundation for People
with Learning Disabilities,
Mental Health Foundation,
London, UK.
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to describe a project reporting the evaluation of an adapted form of
the thinking skills programme (TSP) with prisoners with intellectual disabilities. In particular, the utility of
realistic evaluation is explored as a response to the difficulties in applying research-based interventions in
practice and rolling out pilot projects that have been evaluated under specific conditions.
Design/methodology/approach Realistic evaluation involves the identification of context, mechanism
and outcome as a structure for programme evaluation and this was applied to the development and
implementation of adapted TSP (ATSP) in three English prisons.
Findings Findings are reported in respect of the three aspects of context, mechanism and outcome to
demonstrate the utility of realistic evaluation. Contextual findings suggested that ATSP is effective with male
prisoners representing a range of intellectual disabilities, who would otherwise be excluded from mainstream
programmes. The programme did not establish effectiveness with women or in community settings. The
prisons involved were of different levels of security, but all three prisons were actively involved in positive
approaches to difference and diversity and support for people with intellectual disabilities. For mechanism it
was noted that all involved in the pilot sites were highly motivated to participate in the project and they were
also achieving high scores for general quality in programme delivery. The realistic evaluation framework
suggests that, where these factors are not present, some caution about possible effectiveness should be
exercised. The evaluation approach proved to be helpful in identifying relevant factors to be considered in the
wider implementation of ATSP.
Originality/value This is a novel approach to programme evaluation in psychological therapies that was
shown to be of value in identifying conditions under which pilot schemes can be extended to other parts of a
service, and research on interventions for offenders with intellectual disabilities applied in practice.
Keywords Evaluation, Realistic evaluation, Intellectual disability, Group interventions,
Adapted programmes, Treatment programmes
Paper type Technical paper
Substantial evide nce exists to suggest th at there is a significa nt number of people with
intellectual dis abilities in the Eng lish prison system ( Hayes et al., 2007). The highly
influential research described in No One Knows(Talbot and Riley, 2007) went on to
demonstrate that t he experiences of pe ople with intellect ual disabilities i n the prison system
were particularly challenging.
The momentum generated by No One Knowswas increased in April 2009, with the publication
of the Bradley report (Bradley, 2009) and an individual case known as the Gill case (Rayner,
2010). The outcome of this series of events was the need to develop rehabilitation programmes
that are accessible to people with intellectual disabilities.
This paper describes a study to evaluate the feasibility of adapting the thinking skills programme
(TSP), a CBT-based, manualised rehabilitation programme currently used in the English
prison system.
Received 28 May 2014
Revised 20 August 2015
Accepted 17 October 2015
VOL. 7 NO. 1 2016, pp.14-24, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 2050-8824 DOI 10.1108/JIDOB-05-2014-0006

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