Quarterly Newsletter – March 2014

The March issue of the Improving Futures Evaluation and Learning quarterly newsletter is available to download below.

If you have any news items you would like to submit for future newsletters, please send them to improvingfutures@uk.ecorys.com.

Please feel free to forward this email to anyone who you feel may be interested in subscribing to the newsletter and other related emails.

Click here to view the quarterly newsletter.

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Timpson to launch study into early years outsourcing

The government has announced plans to explore the possibility of national outsourcing for children’s services.

Children’s minister Edward Timpson has assembled a team of children’s services experts to investigate the potential of delivering children’s services nationally, rather than under local authority control. The team will be led by Professor Julian Le Grand, who recently oversaw the review of Birmingham City’s struggling children’s services.

Responding to the Birmingham review, Timpson published a letter to Birmingham Council’s leader, detailing some of his plans. He wrote “I have therefore decided to commission a piece of work, overseen by Professor Le Grand, to look at developing capacity for delivering children’s services outside of local authorities – to be used not only in future thinking about the commissioning of services in Birmingham but elsewhere”.

The investigation will look into developing new frameworks and principles that can be used by local authorities for outsourcing children’s services.

Read Edward Timpson’s letter to Birmingham City Council (www.gov.uk).

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Engaging with Fathers webinar – Improving Futures

The postponed Improving Futures webinar “Engaging with Fathers” has been recorded and is now available to view on the Parenting UK website.

Engaging with fathers can be one of the biggest challenges faced by organisations who work with parents. We know that working with both parents can increase the positive impact on children and yet many service users still see family support as female-centric.

To operate a full service, it is important to know where to find and how to engage the fathers of the families we work with.

This event features guest speaker Annette Jones from The Enfield Family Turnaround Project, one of the 26 Improving Futures projects. Annette talks about how the project’s rebranding of services and increased outreach work have been encouraging fathers to be more active in their children’s lives.

View the webinar here: http://parentinguk.org/events/free-webinar-engaging-with-fathers/2014-03-28/

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Fathers and Families

This is a guide for parenting practitioners to offer tips and support in engaging and working with fathers.

The document originated as a research paper for Parenting UK, written by Adrienne Burgess of the Fatherhood Institute and funded by what was then the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

This 2014 update has been produced as a learning document for Improving Futures, a UKwide programme funded by The Big Lottery that aims to improve the lives of children growing up in families with multiple and complex needs.

The updated paper includes new material that reflects recent research and aims to support the 26 projects involved in Improving Futures and their work with fathers.

Read full report

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Call for greater policy focus on early attachment

In a new report, The Sutton Trust have highlighted the importance of early attachment and called on policy makers and children’s centres to increase their attention on this key area.

The “Baby Bonds” report is a review of over 100 international studies into attachment and the effect that emotional bonding between parents and their babies can have on a child’s life chances. It warns that up to 40% of babies may be growing up without a secure attachment.

Parents who are more secure are more likely to develop secure bonds and their children in turn are likely to grow up feeling a greater degree of security. While the emotional benefits of secure bonding have been widely reported, this new report suggests that opportunities for educational attainment may also be impacted by security in the early years.

The Sutton Trust have urged policy makers to take this into account, warning that children who don’t develop secure attachment are likelier to start school with poorer language skills and poor behaviour. It also suggests that these traits may continue into later life affecting future employment and training opportunities.

The report also urges children’s centres to take an active role in delivering parenting courses to parents of children aged 6 months or younger.

Read the full report (Sutton Trust).

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Troubled Families programme to be extended sooner than planned

The Chancellor has announced in his budget that the Troubled Families programme will begin its extension in 2014/15.

The initiative works to support the 120,000 most disadvantaged families with deeply ingrained complex problems such as antisocial behaviour, parental unemployment and school absences. It began with a £450m investment, which was due to be extended in 2015/6 with an additional £200m fund.

It has now been announced that the expansion will begin to work with a the first 40,000 additional families in the current financial year. Ultimately, the full £200m funding increase is intended to help the programme reach an additional 400,000 families.

Central government covers 40% of the cost of supporting families while councils cover the over 60% and work towards specific improvement criteria.

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Pupil premium will extend into early years

David Cameron and Nick Clegg have announced that the pupil premium will be extended to support early years provision and childcare.

In a pre-budget announcement, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister revealed plans to channel a £50m portion of the pupil premium funds towards disadvantaged families of three and four year olds to improve access to early years education, starting in 2015.

With an aim to support 300,000 families in coming off benefits and into employment, the coalition has also pledged to provide 85% of the childcare costs for working parents, through the universal credit scheme.

In addition, a new tax-free childcare scheme will see the government providing up to £2,000 annually for children up to the age of 12, with the overall cap being increased from £6,000 to £10,000.

Stating his support for Britain’s most disadvantaged children, Clegg said: “All children deserve a better start in life. I’m committed to making sure that we create a fairer society too.

“Today’s package of support will provide a childcare boost for millions of hard-working families, and a £50m cash injection for early education providers to support those children who need extra help in their early years”.

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Parents Who Quarrel ‘Risk Harming Their Kids’

Bearing a grudge, walking away and slamming doors puts kids at greater risk of long-term mental health problems, a study finds.

Warring parents who fail to resolve their disagreements are putting their children’s mental and physical health at risk, according to new research.

Experts claim exposure to family feuds can cause physical problems in youngsters such as headaches, stomach pains and reduced growth.

The study by relationship charity OnePlusOne looked at the differences between destructive and constructive conflict within the family home and examined the effects.

Destructive conflict, such as sulking, walking away, slamming doors or making children the focus of an argument, puts youngsters at greater risk of a range of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, the study found.

Children react better when parents can relate to each other more positively during arguments and when conflicts are resolved, it said.

Dr Catherine Houlston, co-author of the book, Parental Conflict: Outcomes And Interventions For Children And Families, said: “We know that conflict is a normal and necessary part of family life.

“It’s not whether you argue but how you argue which matters most to kids.

“Research suggests that over time, the impact of being exposed to arguing between their parents can put children’s physical health at risk.

“Evidence has shown that headaches, abdominal pains and even reduced growth can be brought on by the insecurity a child can feel by seeing their parents at war.”

However, not all arguing has a negative outcome.

Dr Houlston said: “If a child sees his or her parents in conflict then work things out they understand it’s possible for difficult situations to be resolved and they feel more secure.

“Evidence suggests that working with couples at an early stage in their relationship, or during times of change, we can modify destructive patterns of conflict behaviour.”

University of Sussex Professor Gordon Harold, co-author of the book, added: “The psychological fallout from homes marked by high levels of inter-parental conflict can lead to negative behaviour and long-term mental health problems that repeat across generations.

“Effective intervention can help to break this cycle, improving outcomes in the short and long term.”

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Parenting programmes can aid families and save social care money

The Centre for Mental Health’s Building a Better Future report says conduct disorders cost public services £5,000 per child per year

Parenting programmes can play a central role in dealing with conduct disorders among children and deliver significant savings for public services including social services, according to a Centre for Mental Health study.

The centre’s Building a Better Future report makes the case for greater use of parenting programmes as a means to deal with moderate and severe behavioural problems among children that cost public services an estimated £5,000 per year for each child.

The centre, which has also released a briefing on the issue for children’s social workers, says that serious behavioural problems affect as many as one in four children aged five to 10 years old.

According to the study, the estimated lifetime costs of severe conduct disorders is £260,000 per child and while most of the cost occurs within the criminal justice system, they cost children’s social services an estimated £600 per child per year.

It says that since parenting programmes, such as Triple P and Incredible Years, cost in the region of £1,300 per child and have proven effective in helping parents manage their children’s behaviour and reduce family stress they represent good value for money.

Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health, said: “This substantial piece of work illustrates the overwhelming evidence for investment in early intervention in the form of parenting programmes.

“Not only does it shine a light on the economic benefits, which makes ripples across a number of different budgets in the public sector, but it looks at the important experience of parents.”

The centre’s associate director for children and young people, Lorraine Khan, added: “Talking to parents about their first-hand experience of behavioural programmes has shown us just how helpful they have found attending parenting support groups. Well-run programmes make a real difference in people’s lives, often relatively quickly.”

In its briefing for social workers, the centre recommends the use of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire tool to identify if children could benefit from parenting programmes. The questionnaire, says the centre, can also help build evidence of the need for local authorities to commission parenting support.

It also says that social workers will improve their chances of getting parents to engage in parenting programmes if they focus on the benefits for the child rather than problem behaviour, stress that everyone can learn parenting tips that make life easier and emphasise the non-judgmental approach of parenting programmes.

Having a central gateway for all referrals of vulnerable children and families can also help, says the briefing.

The report found that children who have conduct disorders are six times more likely to die before turning 30, are eight times more likely to be on the child protection register and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.

Click here to download the report

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Quarterly Newsletter – December 2013

The December issue of the Improving Futures Evaluation and Learning quarterly newsletter is available to download below.

If you have any news items you would like to submit please send them to improvingfutures@uk.ecorys.com.

Please feel free to forward this email to anyone who you feel may be interested in subscribing to the newsletter and other related emails.

Click here view the December Quarterly Newsletter



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