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Resolving parental conflict for children and families

There is growing evidence to suggest that the way parents communicate with each other, particularly during disagreements, can have a dramatic influence on their children’s lives. How parents deal with conflict affects the health and wellbeing of the whole family, not only impacting the relationship between child and parent, but also potentially impacting the child’s ability to maintain healthy relationships in the future.

During 2015/16 the Department for Work and Pensions, Essex County Council, and 11 Local Authorities in Essex came together to develop and deliver a 'local offer' through practical early intervention solutions to support families with inter-parental relationships and improve family stability.

Partners in Essex focussed on workforce development and measuring impact. The results of that work were evaluated favourably resulting in 30 trained staff with increased skills, knowledge and confidence to recognise, respond and review family interactions, changes to front line practices in Essex, avoidance of costly specialist services, and a better established local network of support for families.

Phase 2 has begun to scale up and focus the successful work to develop a workforce culture aimed at upskilling professionals to work with parents in conflict and deliver proactive preventative support. This involves delivering two training programmes; Brief Encounters and How to Argue Better.

Brief Encounters® is a one day workshop designed to give those practitioners in universal and additional level settings the practical tools, skills, and information to be able to offer timely and effective support to parents, whether they are together or not. After training in this easy-to-use, evidence-based model, teams will be able to have effective conversations that positively influence couples to work through problems before they escalate. Practitioners will be able: recognise the signs of relationship distress at an early stage; respond effectively to offer support using appropriate and effective techniques; review and refer to more specialist services when necessary.

How to Argue Better is a one day training programme for practitioners working in additional and intensive level services and designed to help them raise parents’ awareness of the impact of conflict on their children and give them the skills to tackle their disagreements in a healthy way. This evidence-based course raises parents’ awareness of the impact of conflict on their children and gives them the skills to tackle their disagreements in a healthy way. Helping parents understand how to reduce the potentially harmful effects of conflict on their children is an essential ingredient in improving child outcomes. Practitioners access the training through a face-to-face workshop, and can refer parents to the free online resource to help them practise and maintain the skills they learn.

Measuring outcomes

Since working with the DWP Essex has partnered with Hertfordshire County Council to jointly commission Triangle Consulting to develop an Inter-parental Relationships Outcomes Star (IPR Star) http://www.staronline.org.uk/.  The IPR Star has been developed in collaboration with front line practitioners in Essex and Herfordshire and those undertaking How to Argue Better training will be expected to undertake the one day IPR Star training to pilot the star with parents with the aim of being able to identify respond and review improvement in their relationships and subsequently outcomes for children.  Staff undertaking Brief Encounters training will also have access to this training if they would like to.

Evaluating Impact

We have designed an evaluation programme that will measure workforce development and culture change and impacts for parents and their children. Practitioners taking part in the either of the training opportunities will be expected to contribute to the evaluation by taking part in online surveys, questionnaires and interviews.