Tameside: Understanding community needs

Tameside: Understanding community needs

Summary

This case study sets out how Tameside developed its reducing parental conflict needs assessment after completing its outcomes framework. It found that analysing demographic data and information about the extent of risk factors in Tameside improved its focus on reducing parental conflict and had a positive impact on all aspects of its understanding of the community it is supporting.

The story of this project is told by Rachel Berrisford, team manager – parenting, RPC, STARS and young carers from Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council; Jenny Bostock, senior parenting co-ordinator – Tameside Families Together from Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council; and Di Robertson, senior local development advisor at WWEICSC (former organisation before the merger to become Foundations). The case study is written by Robyn Tulloch, project support officer at WWEICSC.

The starting point

Tameside worked with the Early Intervention Foundation to complete a reducing parental conflict outcomes framework, but it became clear at the end of that project that there was an insufficient understanding about the extent and nature of parental conflict in the area.

“We realised we should have done the needs assessment first as understanding the needs of the community should be the start of everything.”

— Rachel Berrisford, team manager – parenting, RPC, STARS and young carers

Tameside wanted to understand the issues that were impacting families and how they relate to parental conflict. There was a desire for clear evidence and data on the impact parental conflict was having on children, and what professionals needed to do about it.

Action taken

Completing a population needs assessment about parental conflict started with collecting demographic and other data relevant to risk factors associated with increased levels of parental conflict, and developing a narrative which explains the relevance of the data collected. It also provided an opportunity to increase engagement levels through meeting with partners to share the needs assessment process, gain their perspective on where there were gaps between local needs and available support, and present the needs assessment to the Children’s Leadership Team to engage senior partners. The partners who contributed included education, CGL (‘Change Grow Live’, a substance misuse treatment and support service), health, Tameside Families Together Family Support team, the voluntary sector and early years service, and there is ongoing work to engage other partners such as children’s social care and the police.

“We’re now going to the right organisations, talking to the right people, and we have the knowledge and evidence to support our reducing parental conflict work.”

— Jenny Bostock, senior parenting co-ordinator – Tameside Families Together

Once the needs assessment data was complete, Tameside used it to create quick summaries for staff on issues relating to parental conflict such as why addressing parental conflict is important for children and families, understanding local needs, the difference between domestic abuse and parental conflict, and a summary of the local training offer.

The needs assessment provided the motivation to talk to partners in a different way which has made this process more meaningful, and the data collected more relevant and specific to Tameside.

Key learning points

The improved knowledge of the demographics of Tameside and the challenges some families face is not only supporting Tameside’s reducing parental conflict work; this improved understanding is also impacting work in other service areas:

“I feel like I understand Tameside a lot more, and I’ve worked for the council for 22 years. Understanding our demographic in this much detail really enables you to tailor your work for the families that are surrounding you, and it really makes you think about what you’re doing, and if what you’re doing is right.”

“We are already thinking about other initiatives, such as Family Hubs, and whether we are talking to the families who most need our support.”

— Rachel Berrisford, team manager – parenting, RPC, STARS and young carers

The work created a stronger sense of purpose for those working to improve parental relationships and a commitment to share that with colleagues. Conversations with partners provided momentum and fresh perspectives, and a more in-depth understanding of how relationship problems link to many other challenges for families, such as poverty, substance misuse and mental health issues.

There was an acknowledgment that improving the support for parents around relationships will take time and that it is valuable to invest in this support in the long term. There was a large amount of information that was not readily joined up and a member of the team was allocated time to collect the data. There was a strong commitment to completing the work despite competing priorities:

“It was fascinating to see how much data is available and what we can do if we join this data up, and how much this tells us about the challenges that families face in Tameside.”

— Jenny Bostock, senior parenting co-ordinator – Tameside Families Together

The future

The plan for Tameside is now to share the learning from this piece of work with more agencies to highlight the benefits of working with families within the ‘relationship’ arena. They will also be working more closely with the Early Help Access Point/Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub team to identify those families in conflict at the earliest opportunity. Finally, they will be returning to and amending the outcomes framework to take account of the new data:

“A colleague and I attended several reducing parental conflict sessions as we’re looking to start an RPC group at CGL, and some of the tools are extremely useful when we’re working with individuals who may be either dependently or recreationally using substances, which can be a big factor in relationship breakdown.”

— Alex Bolton, community drug and alcohol worker

Tameside plans to review the needs assessment in 12 months with contributions from partner agencies, which will further identify gaps in support and assess whether there is a closer alignment between need and support provided.

Progress against the planning tool will form part of annual reporting alongside professional and parent feedback. Tameside also plans to have a data dashboard on conflict and relationships which the Reducing Parental Conflict Steering Group will monitor and a yearly action plan to monitor ongoing progress.

This project has contributed to senior leaders committing to raising the profile of parental conflict and its impact on children. This will mean that more services will engage with the programme, access training, and become accountable for relationship work with families. The lead for this work now has a seat at the Domestic Abuse Operational Group to ensure parental conflict remains on the agenda going forward.

Finally, the needs assessment will be embedded within the governance structure for Family Hubs, ensuring the work forms part of the wider picture of family support.

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Author(s): Robyn Tulloch, Di Robertson, Rachel Berrisford and Jenny Bostock

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