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Programme aiming to reduce parental conflict shows some positive signs

An evaluation of a Department for Work and Pensions programme aimed at reducing parental conflict has shown positive signs across various interventions and the training provided enhancing professionals’ day-to-day roles.


Programme aiming to reduce parental conflict shows some positive signs

The scheme was set up for local authorities to apply to train frontline staff who regularly come into contact with families facing conflict so they can intervene to reduce ‘friction’ between parents and help ‘shield’ their children.

The programme works with local family services – including health and social care, the courts and the police – to help them spot parental conflict, provide initial support and refer parents to further interventions such as therapy for a constructive resolution.

The evaluation report found that frontline practitioners making referrals generally felt confident identifying the signs of parental conflict in order to then make a referral. They warned, however, that some professionals reported limited understanding of the individual interventions available in their area.

“Both referral staff and providers felt that this could be restricting the number of eligible referrals, with assumptions in some cases that expectant parents, parents in work and cases where only one parent is interested would not be eligible when in fact they would.”

Providers had experienced lower than expected rates of referrals in some interventions, though this was potentially a result of strict eligibility criteria for those interventions. Some providers also indicated that referral rates had increased since March 2020, attributed in part to moving provision to digital delivery models as a result of the social distancing restrictions that were imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic. These providers felt that digital delivery removed some of the logistical barriers to participation.

The content of the interventions was praised with providers “extremely positive” about their suitability, stating that they were relevant to parents referred and provided effective strategies for parents to use.

The success of each intervention varied, however, with differing start rates, dropout rates and completion rates. Early indications showed that the Mentalisation Based Therapy intervention had the widest appeal – with the most referrals and starts to the intervention. Providers suggested that this might be because it is closest to what parents might expect from an intervention about parental conflict – whereas the scope of other interventions is wider, focusing on other elements of home life, rather than solely on the inter-parental relationship.

As part of the programme, local authorities could apply for a Practitioner Training (PT) grant to purchase places on this training. Nearly all local authorities confirmed they had taken up the PT grant ensuring a wide reach for the training.

Overall participants were positive about the training package, which was praised as being relevant to their work and providing adequate levels of detail. Participating in the training was said to “significantly improve practitioners’ ratings of their own knowledge, understanding and abilities relating to addressing parental conflict.”

Within six months after taking part in the training, the majority of practitioners had applied their training to their day-to-day roles, while a third of practitioners were applying their training at least weekly – though overall practitioners were applying their learning less frequently than they anticipated when training was initially received.

The majority of participants also reported some degree of cultural change within their organisation as a result of the training; a third reported that parental conflict was being treated as a much more important issue.

The report also showed several positive indications of progress with integration of the programme. In terms of development of strategies, more local authorities had a specific multi-agency strategy and that that local commissioning decisions were aligned to reducing parental conflict strategies. There was also an increase in the proportion of local authorities that had embedded reducing parental conflict into mainstream services.

There was, however, a concern for the agenda’s sustainability beyond the programme, with resourcing challenges highlighted as a key threat. The area of greatest concern with regards to sustainability surrounded the delivery of interventions with providers and local authorities expressing concern that they would be unable to fund these going forward.

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