A report evaluated the second year of the Families First programme in Wales, which aimed to improve the design and delivery of local authorities' services for families and, in particular, to improve families' experiences through offering needs-driven, whole family support, and co-ordinating services. It said that stakeholders' and families' views were positive about the impact on both local service organization and families' experiences of services, with stakeholders perceiving that the programme had led to improvement across key aspects of service delivery, and families reporting a difference in the nature and co-ordination of support. Successful results included improved behaviour, well-being, and relationships within the family. The report said that commissioning processes had taken longer to establish than originally anticipated, and work processes were still being refined, which the authors said reflected the degree of change in the way authorities worked and the requirement for cultural change. The report summarized areas of effective practice and those where further change was required. The evaluation was ongoing.
Source: Ipsos MORI and Ecorys, Evaluation of Families First: Year 2 report, Research Paper 64/2014, Welsh Government
An article examined comparative outcomes for looked-after children placed in kin and non-kin care in the United Kingdom. It said that stability was achieved more commonly through kin placements, although the inherent familiarity within the setting could undermine aspects of care quality, such as through problematic parental contact or problems within a child's wider network. The article outlined two areas for development of professional practice: the provision of better support to children and kin carers; and better recognition of the need to end inadequate kin placements.
Source: Lydia Brown and Robin Sen, 'Improving outcomes for looked after children: a critical analysis of kinship care', Practice: Social Work in Action, Volume 26 Issue 3
A think-tank report examined British society after the economic downturn and proposed changes to the systems of support for families, young people, older people, and those facing social exclusion, and reforms to social security, employment support, and housing policy.
Source: Kayte Lawton, Graeme Cooke, and Nick Pearce, The Condition of Britain: Strategies for social renewal, Institute for Public Policy Research
A report examined the geographical reach of local children's centres, the neighbourhood characteristics of the areas served, and how well the areas were being served in terms of take up of services. The report formed part of the national Evaluation of Children's Centres in England research study.
Source: George Smith, Katie Field, Teresa Smith, Stefan Noble, Tom Smith, and Emma Plunkett, Evaluation of Children's Centres in England (ECCE): The extent to which centres 'reach' eligible families, their neighbourhood characteristics and levels of use, Research Report 358, Department for Education
A report evaluated a trial of the use of payment by results (PbR) for children's centre services to incentivize a local focus on their core purpose. The trial involved 26 areas covering 27 local authorities (LAs). It said that the trial had influenced a focus on the core purpose in a small number of LA areas and was associated with enhanced partnership working with health, although impact was mostly driven by the trial per se rather than by PbR, and by the national measures rather than the financial aspects. The report said lessons from the trial were likely to continue to emerge in the future.
Source: Frontier Economics and the Colebrooke Centre, Payment by Results in Children's Centres Evaluation, Research Report 292, Department for Education
A report said that parenting interventions could be successful in improving children's conduct and literacy, both in the short and longer term. Drawing on a study of interventions with 7 to 9 year old children, it said that improvements in behaviour and reading ability were seen regardless of prior factors such as level of parental education, parental mental health, and whether children lived in a one or two parent household.
Source: Stephen Scott, Kathy Sylva, Angeliki Kallitsoglou, and Tamsin Ford, Which Type of Parenting Programme Best Improves Child Behaviour and Reading? Follow-up of the Helping Children Achieve trial, Nuffield Foundation
A report examined the work of Family Information Services in Wales. It said that there were extremely high levels of satisfaction with the services, but some were underperforming or not conforming to the statutory standards. The report said that one-quarter (25 per cent) had cut their outreach services and one-third (33 per cent) had increased them, leaving geographically inconsistent support. The report called for: local authorities to fulfil their statutory duties to provide services, and for the Welsh Government to hold them to account; better online information and greater use of social media to reach families; more formalized collaboration with other services, such as health visitors; and for resources from similarly targeted services (such as Flying Start, Families First, Communities First, and Family Support Services) to be co-ordinated in supporting Family Information Services.
Source: Duncan Lugton, Jill Rutter, and Katherine Stocker, The Work of Family Information Services in Wales in 2014, Family and Childcare Trust
A report evaluated the Preventing Non-Accidental Head Injury programme, which created a new film to help parents to care for a crying baby, reducing the risk of stress that led to harm to the child. The film had been piloted in 24 hospitals and birthing units around the United Kingdom, and the report said there was promising evidence that the programme could contribute to the reduction of harm to babies. It said that: 99 per cent of parents remembered the film at least six months after watching it; 82 per cent of parents who remembered seeing the film said they used advice from it when caring for their baby; and the rate of reported injuries among babies with feeding, sleeping, or crying difficulties was lower if parents had seen the film.
Source: Sally Hogg and Denise Coster, Helping Parents Cope with Babies' Crying: Evidence from a pilot programme to support parents and keep babies safe, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
A survey examined children's centres, asking practitioners and parents what they valued and where resources should be prioritized in the future. Key findings included: over 90 percent of respondents agreed that the local children's centre was important to their community; 87 per cent wanted funding to be prioritized; and almost 80 per cent supported the principle of providing a universal point of access with specialist support offered to vulnerable families. The report also discussed respondents' views on which services should be prioritized, how joint working between health services and children's centres could be improved, how to identify those in most need of services, and how to secure the future of children's centres.
Source: Heather Ransom, 'Developing the Future Purpose for Children's Centres': Findings from the National Children's Bureau survey of practitioners and parents, National Childrenï¿½s Bureau
A report by a committee of MPs provided its findings on two government programmes for families facing multiple challenges: the Troubled Families programme, which aimed to 'turn around' families that met the government's definition of 'troubled'; and the Families with Multiple Problems programme, which aimed to move adults into employment. It said that a joined-up approach was critical, but the existence of two similar, but separate, programmes run by two separate government departments had resulted in confusion and duplication. The report said that both departments had tried to improve performance but were still experiencing data sharing difficulties and variations in performance, and had not yet succeeded in increasing the pace of the programmes' progress. The report made recommendations to improve clarity, monitoring, and accountability, and to learn from good practice.
Source: Programmes to Help Families Facing Multiple Challenges, Fifty-first Report (Session 201314), HC 668, House of Commons Public Accounts Select Committee, TSO
An article examined policy approaches to working with families of looked-after children in four countries: England, Denmark, France and the Netherlands.
Source: Janet Boddy, June Statham, Inge Danielsen, Esther Geurts, Helene Join-Lambert, and Severine Euillet, 'Beyond contact? Policy approaches to work with families of looked after children in four European countries', Children & Society, Volume 28 Number 2
A report examined the impact on children of poor attachment with their parents. It said that attachment (or 'bonding') had a fundamental effect on children's outcomes, including on literacy and behaviour, and that the impacts could last into adulthood. It estimated that poor attachment affected around 40 per cent of children. The report recommended greater early intervention and support for parenting, through Children's Centres, health visitors and other health services, and through existing policy initiatives such as Troubled Families.
Source: Sophie Moullin, Jane Waldfogel, and Elizabeth Washbrook, Baby Bonds: Parenting, attachment and a secure base for children, Sutton Trust
A report examined the existing state of knowledge about what constituted 'good' parent-and-child fostering (the placement of both parent and child together in a foster setting), based on a review of the literature from the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The report said that some of the characteristics of a good placement were the same as those for fostering any young person, such as good relationships, clear 'house rules', and involving young people in decisions about their placement. Other factors were more specific to parent-and-child provision, such as feeling stigmatized, or feeling abandoned when leaving the placement. The report said that the outcomes of placements were very mixed and likely to reflect the small numbers in the reviewed studies, the differences in the placements, the characteristics of the population, the purposes of the scheme, and the services offered to parents. The report made recommendations for policy and practice, as well as future research.
Source: Nikki Luke and Judy Sebba, Effective Parent-and-Child Fostering: An international literature review, Rees Centre, University of Oxford
An article examined whether it was feasible and valid to use measures from routine outcome measurement (ROM) of evidence-based parenting programmes to assess the impact of services and to drive service improvements. Drawing on secondary analysis of ROM measures, it said that ROM was able to provide useful information about the impact of programmes in a particular clinical context, although incomplete data limited the inferences that could be drawn. It said that the use of ROM in service improvement and innovation could be aided by collaborations between research centres and clinics.
Source: Alison Hurst, Anna Price, Rebecca Walesby, Moira Doolan, Wendy Lanham, and Tamsin Ford, 'Routine outcome monitoring of evidence-based parenting programmes: indications of effectiveness in a community context', Journal of Children's Services, Volume 9 Number 1
The government responded to a report by a committee of MPs on Sure Start children's centres.
Source: Foundation Years: Sure Start children's centres: Government response to the Committee's Fifth Report of Session 2013-14, Fifth Special Report (Session 201314), HC 1141, House of Commons Education Select Committee, TSO
An article reported on a study of children returned from care to their parent(s). It said that preparation and good social work practice contributed to stability of the return, but outcomes varied widely by local authority and almost half of the returns subsequently broke down because of continuing problems in the parents' own lives. The article said that the findings suggested the importance of using written agreements to set out clear goals with parents, and of swift action to protect children.
Source: Elaine Farmer, 'Improving reunification practice: pathways home, progress and outcomes for children returning from care to their parents', British Journal of Social Work, Volume 44 Number 2
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 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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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