Evaluation of the Family Start Programme

Published: April 16, 2021

A synthesis of process and impact evaluation findings.


This report provides findings from an evaluation of the Family Start programme (‘Family Start’), a voluntary home-visiting programme that supports whānau to improve children’s health, learning and relationships, whānau circumstances, environment and safety.

The purpose of this evaluation is to assess the Family Start programme’s impact and effectiveness. To achieve this purpose, the evaluation was undertaken through two workstreams:

  • an impact evaluation, the purpose of which was to assess the impact that Family Start participation is having on the wellbeing of New Zealand children and their whānau. The evaluation examined a range of health, educational, and social outcomes for children, including separate analyses for Māori and Pasifika children.
  • a process evaluation, the purpose of which was to explore the effectiveness of the programme’s design and delivery, including how client whānau experience the programme, and how Family Start providers can optimise positive impacts for children and their whānau.

The 2020 process evaluation report is available here. The impact evaluation report is available at the bottom of this page.

Key findings

Overall, the results of the evaluation indicate that Family Start is having a positive impact on the wellbeing and safety of participant children and their whānau, and improving engagement with health-promoting public health services.

Findings suggest that:

  • Participation in Family Start improves child safety and analysis estimated that children’s participation in Family Start is associated with a reduction in deaths from all causes in their first year of life 
  • Whānau received an effective, reliable and safe service from the Family Start Programme and whānau consider that Family Start has improved their parenting skills
  • Family Start increases participation in health services such as enrollment with a Primary Health Organisation and the likelihood of being fully imminused by their first birthday
  • Participants in Family Start are more likely to experience interactions with Oranga Tamariki, which may reflect the programme’s success in identifying and addressing family violence
  • Some aspects of the Family Start model do not align with Māori worldviews and practices
  • Family Start workers are feeling stretched by the challenge of working with whānau who need intensive support
  • Family Start providers identified a need for nationally-consistent training.