Making a Difference for Vulnerable Families: Event Learning Booklet

This Event Learning Booklet captures the lessons learnt from the Making a Difference for Vulnerable Families: Evidence into Policy and Practice event. It includes videos of the keynote speakers and slides from the workshops.


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Home Office consultation on domestic abuse law

The Home Office has launched a consultation on strengthening the law on domestic abuse by explicitly stating that it covers coercive and controlling behaviour as well as physical harm. This consultation seeks views on whether the current law on domestic abuse needs to be strengthened to offer better protection to victims. This consultation is specifically focused on whether we should create a specific offence that captures patterns of coercive and controlling behaviour in intimate relationships, in line with the Government’s non-statutory definition of domestic abuse. The consultation closing date is 15 October 2014.

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Troubled Families programme expanded to support younger children

Eric Pickles recently announced details of an expansion to the Troubled Families programme to help younger children get a better start in life.

The Troubled Families programme will retain its current focus on reducing truancy, crime and anti-social behaviour, but will apply the approach to more families with a wider set of issues including domestic abuse, debt and where children are at risk of being taken into care.

The programme will expand from working with children of school age to include those under five years old, and will have a particular focus on improving poor health which is a particular issue for ‘troubled families’.

Read the full press release

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Improving Futures Learning Event Booklet

In February 2014 the Improving Futures projects came together to share their progress, lessons and impact. This booklet summarises the key learning from the event, including: highlights from the Year 1 Evaluation Report; a summary of the lessons learnt from the Discussion Groups, including Evidencing Outcomes and Working with the Whole Family; a Family Testimonial from one or the families supported by a project; and the results from the Stakeholder Survey showing how the projects are working in partnership with local services.

English                                                            Cymraeg

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Policy starts to shift on overnight stays for dads

Momentum is growing for changes in family court policy and practice, following the publication of two key research papers which debunk influential research suggesting that overnight stays for separated fathers are bad for children.
In a recent blog, the Fatherhood Institute described how US academics Richard Warshak and Linda Nielsen have called into question research by leading clinical psychologist Jennifer McIntosh – which has had a profound influence on decisions about post-separation residence and access in her native Australia and elsewhere.
Now the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health, and some key organisations which run Australia’s network of Family Relationship Centres, are revising their policies in response to the Warshak and Nielsen papers – and an emerging consensus that young children with secure attachments to both parents do better.

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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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Does money affect children’s outcomes?

JRF, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, has published a new report showing that money does have a casual impact on a range of children’s outcomes and that the impact is bigger for those at the lower end of the income distribution.

Children in low-income households do less well than their better-off peers on many outcomes in life, such as education or health, simply because they are poorer.

While a parent’s level of education, attitude towards bringing up children and other parental factors also have a bearing, research shows that having more money directly improves the development and level of achievement of children.

Increases in family income substantially reduce differences in schooling outcomes and improve wider aspects of a child’s well-being.   Cognitive development and school achievement were most improved by having more money.   Conversely, reductions in family income, including benefit cuts, are likely to have wide-ranging negative effects.   Money seems to have more of an effect among low-income families.

Click here to download the report (JRF)

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Poor children’s life chances are decided in primary school, report finds

Figures show most poor pupils who fall behind by age of seven will fail to get five good GCSEs including English and maths.

More than four-fifths of children from low-income families who have fallen behind by the age of seven will fail to achieve five good GCSEs including English and maths – a glaring inequality that highlights the extent to which poor children’s life chances are determined in primary school, a leading charity says.

In a report looking at the most recent government figures, Save the Children argues that the ability to read, write and calculate at such a young age influences a child’s future earnings and health, and in economic terms the problem costs the country billions in lost revenue. The charity is calling for the pupil premium – primary school funding targeted at the poorest children – to be tripled.

By the time they are seven, nearly 80% of the difference in GCSE results between rich and poor children has already been determined. Save the Children says the first two years a child is at school are a crucial window during which to close the attainment gap.

Click here to download the report


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Developing children’s services in Scotland

Scotland’s Children’s Minister Aileen Campbell today announced £757,000 funding to put third sector bodies at the heart of developing children’s services in Scotland.

The project will be delivered by a partnership between Barnardo’s Scotland, Voluntary Action Scotland and the Improvement Service, with support from other third sector partners, to make sure that all groups working with children and families are in partnership.

Ms Campbell said:

“I am delighted to be able to announce this investment with the third sector for a national partnership as we launch Wellbeing Week in Scotland. This is a key milestone in our commitment to improve the communication between all of those working to support children.

“Families across Scotland are seeing the benefits of our efforts to encourage better collaboration across different specialities across children’s services. Parents know they can expect good communication and shared expertise that always puts their child at the heart of decisions that affect them.

“This national initiative builds on the strides made by our Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs) and realises the huge potential of combining the resources, expertise and experience of both government and the third sector.”

The drive to bring together children’s services with wellbeing at the centre of it is at the very heart of the Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) initiative.

SallyAnn Kelly, Senior Project Manager, Third Sector GIRFEC Project, said:

“The work of CPPs in delivering the GIRFEC agenda across Scotland is vital.

“The National Third Sector GIRFEC Project will play a crucial role in ensuring that the third sector is at the heart of local decision-making and planning across Scotland. The Project will work closely with CPPs to share the good practice that is currently taking place, as well as support developments to improve the interface between the third sector and CPPs leading to better services for children and young people.

“This is an exciting project that will help local communities to improve the outcomes and lives of children and young people.”

The project will run until March 2016 and will support Community Planning Partnerships to recognise and embed the third sector in promoting collaboration, partnership working and early intervention.

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