A report proposed a range of policy measures to help build 'character and resilience' defined, broadly, as the attributes that enable individuals to maximize opportunities, to persist in, and bounce back from, adversity, and to forge and maintain meaningful relationships. Recommendations included: the extension of the pupil premium into early years education; evidence-based parenting initiatives; mandatory participation by teachers in extra-curricular activity; incorporation of character and resilience into teacher training and continuing professional development programmes; encouragement of volunteering among young people; and initiatives to involve employers in developing and valuing character and resilience.
Source: Chris Paterson, Claire Tyler, and Jen Lexmond, Character and Resilience Manifesto, The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility
A report examined the operation of family information services, a statutory service to provide information, advice and assistance about childcare and other activities of benefit to parents, children and young people. It said that at least 16 local authorities were not providing any childcare brokerage at all, and 53 per cent had cut their outreach services. The report said that budget cuts had led to a reduction in staff and services in 58 per cent of services over the previous 18 months, with 52 per cent planning further cuts or changes to service provision or structure. The report made a range of recommendations, including for greater outreach, online information, and use of social media.
Source: Jill Rutter and Katherine Stocker, The Work of Family Information Services in England 2013/14, Family and Childcare Trust
An article examined the cost-effectiveness of parenting programmes for preventing children's behaviour problems. Parenting programmes had the potential to save costs in the long term: but there were gaps in the evidence. The size of savings depended on the extent to which those families likely to be most costly to society attended and experienced lasting benefit.
Source: Madeleine Stevens, 'The cost-effectiveness of UK parenting programmes for preventing children's behaviour problems – a review of the evidence', Child & Family Social Work, Volume 19 Issue 1
A report examined the characteristics, circumstances, and experiences of first-time mothers in Scotland aged under 20, examining how they compared with those of older mothers. The report said that the data re-confirmed that this younger group faced significant socio-economic disadvantage in terms of lower educational qualifications, employment levels, and income, but that they were also affected in other ways, such as having less stable partner relationships, poorer health behaviours and health outcomes, and lower levels of engagement with formal parenting support. It said that these inequalities might be addressed through additional support, including wider access to affordable childcare, to help young parents (including those in their early 20s) to continue their education or training, or to enter employment.
Source: Paul Bradshaw, Lauren Schofield, and Linda Maynard, The Experiences of Mothers Aged Under 20: Analysis of data from the Growing Up in Scotland study, Scottish Government
A report examined the role of children's centres in England. It said that they provided important early intervention services and that they should be placed on a statutory footing akin to schools. It noted the diversity of needs at different stages of child development and said that policy should take a more nuanced view of the 0-5 age group to provide for this. It recommended re-examining the structure and commissioning models for children's centres.
Source: Jonathan Rallings, What Are Children's Centres For?, Barnardo's
A report provided a synthesis of the evidence from the evaluation of Family Nurse Partnerships in Scotland. This was a preventative programme that aimed to improve health, development and well-being outcomes for young first time mothers and their children through a structured programme of home visits delivered by specially trained Family Nurses. The report said that the evaluation had been unable to measure or demonstrate impact over and above that which might have been achieved through existing services, but there was evidence that the programme could achieve its intended long-term outcomes.
Source: Rachel Ormiston, Susan McConville, and Jacki Gordon, Evaluation of the Family Nurse Partnership Programme in NHS Lothian, Scotland: Summary of key learning and implications, Scottish Government
An article examined parent engagement in England and the United States of America. Parent engagement was not yet contributing to the provision of services that were more timely, appropriate, or adequate in meeting parent need.
Source: Jeri Damman, 'Better practices in parent engagement: lessons from the USA and England', European Journal of Social Work, Volume 17 Number 1
An article examined the effectiveness of parenting programmes. Drawing on a systematic review, it said that parents' participation in group-based parenting programs produced short-term improvements on a range of measures, but none remained statistically significant one year later. It concluded that the evidence suggested that parenting programmes did improve the short-term psychosocial well-being of parents, but follow up training might be required to maintain the gains.
Source: Cathy Bennett, Jane Barlow, Nick Huband, Nadja Smailagic, and Verena Roloff, 'Group-based parenting programs for improving parenting and psychosocial functioning: a systematic review', Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, Volume 4 Issue 4
A new book examined the influence of parenting on children's learning and well-being, in the context of growing social inequality and the diminishing role of the welfare state.
Source: Dimitra Hartas, Parenting, Family Policy and Children's Well-being in an Unequal Society: A new culture war for parents, Palgrave Macmillan
A report examined the long-term consequences of severe behavioural issues and the benefits of effective early intervention. It said that well implemented, positive parenting programmes were effective in improving children's behaviour. The report outlined costs and benefits of interventions and said that parenting programmes represented good value for money.
Source: Michael Parsonage, Lorraine Khan, and Anna Saunders, Building a Better Future: The lifetime costs of childhood behavioural problems and the benefits of early intervention, Centre for Mental Health