Needs Assessment steps

The Australian Institute of Family Studies has published new wide-ranging needs assessment tool for social services. It is suitable for assessing client groups and communities.

This resource is for practitioners and policy makers who want to learn more about the needs assessment process or how to conduct a needs assessment. Part one provides an introduction to needs identification and assessment and gives some background and theory on why it is important to understand the needs of a particular place or population. Part two sets out some steps that can be followed in an assessment that aims to explore and prioritise community needs. Please note, this resource covers needs assessment only and does not describe how to select interventions for use with a specific population or client group.

The tool bases assessment on three types of evidence: the research base, expertise of practitioners and lived experience. Rather than assume that we know what is needed and what our service should be doing, this tool provides a structured approach to discovering 'what is' before we get onto 'what is to be done?'

The background introduction states:

"A needs assessment is generally used to plan new work; for example, to determine what should be delivered in a geographic region or with a particular population group. However, needs change over time. It is necessary that programs, policies and services remain flexible and adaptable. A needs assessment can therefore also assess whether current programs or services are still adequate and relevant. If demand for a program or service has diminished or increased, or the characteristics of people accessing a program or service have changed, this could be an indication that needs in the area have changed. Even where demand stays consistent, there may be new needs that are not being addressed by the current suite of programs and services. A needs assessment can ensure that the current program, policy or service is correctly targeted and addressing the most important needs of the community.

The tools itself has six steps:

Step 1: Scope the needs assessment

Step 2: Determine assessment criteria

Step 3: Plan for data collection

Step 4: Collect, analyse and present data

Step 5: Apply the criteria and prioritise needs

Step 6: Identify next steps and report back

It appears to be a user-friendly and interesting tool, check it out here.


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