This case study illustrates how Bradford set out to consider the evidence base around parental conflict and build on this to inform a coordinated campaign to raise awareness of the impact of parental conflict and strengthen local provision for families.
It seeks to highlight how, by adopting a structured approach and working with others to gather data and develop a compelling story of local needs and services, Bradford were able to take forward their vision for reframing relationship support and building relationships across agencies to embed support for parents in conflict in existing provisions.
The story of this project is told by Mehnaz Malik, Practice Lead for Relationships Matter at Bradford Children’s Trust and Bethan Le Maistre, Senior Local Development Adviser at Foundations. It is written by Becky Saunders, Senior Local Development Adviser at Foundations. All quotes are from Mehnaz Malik.
The starting point
The fundamental role of wider social and economic factors in creating and sustaining inequalities in health and wellbeing is well evidenced. Bradford District is a large metropolitan area of over half a million people. The population has grown steadily over the last decade and is a young population, with Bradford District having a higher proportion of babies, children, and young people than the average for England. It is ranked as the 13th most deprived local authority in England, with 14 of the district wards falling within the most deprived neighbourhoods in England. Of those working age individuals in the area, 11% claim an out-of-work benefit, and 22% of children are living below the poverty line.
Bradford has a rich mix of ethnic groups and cultures. Whilst the largest proportion of the population is White British, the proportions of Black, Mixed, Asian or British Asian groups have increased, and Bradford is home to the second largest proportion of people of Pakistani origin (25.5%) in England. Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Black groups are the most likely to be living in deprived neighbourhoods. Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Chinese and Black groups are about twice as likely to be living on a low income, and experiencing child poverty, as the White population.
It is against this background that the project team set out to understand whether their Reducing Parental Conflict (RPC) offer was meeting local needs. Bradford wanted to gather and contextualise data that would strengthen the evidence for their RPC programme. They did this through a population needs assessment focussed on parental conflict, seeking to use an understanding of risk factors to explore the level and distribution of need across the local area.
Alongside this they conducted a support pathway mapping exercise to gather data on the services and interventions available for families experiencing parental conflict. It was important to ensure that data reflected the diversity of the local population and could deepen understanding about the availability and uptake of support, including for interventions delivered in the voluntary and community sector.
Relationships matter for families, services, and practitioners
This project was informed by recommendations arising from enquiry sessions with stakeholders, families, and practitioners that preceded the work. The project found that those using services wanted the system to be simpler and more accessible. Practitioners wanted tools that were easy to pick up and use. They wanted to be clearer about the distinction between domestic abuse and parental conflict and more confident in bringing discussion about relationships into their day-to-day contacts with families.
Bradford wanted to help people feel more confident in seeking help by reframing the conversations around parental conflict and normalising the ordinary ups and downs in relationships, as well as raising awareness of the detrimental impacts on children of conflict that is unresolved, severe or frequent, and the steps parents can take to address this. That’s where ‘Relationships Matter’ comes in. The work to strengthen local data was an important foundational element of a coordinated Relationships Matter campaign.
Bradford knew from local experience and wider evidence that multi-agency working is important to the success of the RPC agenda, so, from the start, they were also thinking about how they engaged with others across the partnership. They used the project activities to mobilise discussions across the partnership around the strengths and gaps in local evidence, and to better understand whether family needs were being met. Crucially, they also wanted to highlight the part that different organisations could play.
We wanted to show people how they matter, how they are part of the bigger jigsaw puzzle, and where the gaps are […]. We are going round training all our partners, and giving them resources, and looking for [Relationships Matter] champions and leaders, so we’ve got a bit of a drive going on, but all that derives from the needs assessment and the support pathway that’s going to help us inform and engage with our partners
Actions taken and impact
Bradford used the Early Intervention Foundation’s RPC population needs assessment and support pathway mapping tools to help them approach their data collection in a systematic way. This allowed them to better understand the strengths of their existing data and any gaps. They wanted to identify the presence of certain characteristics and conditions in the population associated with parental conflict, and to understand the prevalence of risk factors that may lead to future needs.
Working to gather and fill gaps in the data required both persistence and creativity, not least because of an Ofsted inspection that meant stakeholders had to prioritise their time. Identifying national data sets as well as local stakeholders who could provide important data was key to developing the population needs assessment.
Finding the right people […] and keep going back[…]. We’ve got something. We did alright, we’ve got some up-to-date information. I don’t know how we really did it, but it was really reliant on like just constantly trying to find the right people with the access to the right information[…] we got there in the end
The project allowed them to identify gaps in the data and to build relationships with key stakeholders so that in future this much needed information could be collected.
They conducted a brief survey which was sent to organisations and services across their partnership, which helped them to build the picture of the nature of services available to the population.
A keynote conference to build awareness of the Relationships Matter programme, attended by over 200 local stakeholders, provided an important opportunity to share the data they had collected. They presented key findings from the needs assessment so that the wider group could interact with the findings and discuss the analysis. This helped stakeholders to understand the relevance of the data to their services, ways of working, and how they can contribute to positive outcomes for children. They also reflected on future opportunities to add to the available data and the role they could play.
Early in the project, Bradford identified the need to tailor data collection to their different stakeholders. They wanted to maximise response rates and felt that it was essential to recognise that busy people needed to be provided with concise, clear, and meaningful requests for data, as well as flexibility in how they could respond. Often it was the conversations and networking that facilitated data collection. It was also helpful to be able to play around with the downloadable survey templates. This enabled them to adapt the language to make the survey more accessible to their audience, and to select the right questions to elicit the information they needed.
With competing priorities and stretched capacity in local areas it is sometimes challenging to maintain stakeholder engagement, so Bradford used this project to inject some renewed impetus, working to capitalise on opportunities to share information about the project and wider Relationships Matter programme, such as through participation in the local Domestic Abuse and Serious Violence Prevention Board subgroup, where Relationships Matter is now a standing item on the agenda.
Links made through the Relationships Matter work have helped local coordinators to come together and share experience, knowledge and resource, and trouble-shoot together.
You’re quite isolated in this role sometimes […] so people need to build a support network […] so the West Yorkshire Region has got together and we’ve got our own peer support now which has really helped us […]. When you’re in a region you more or less have similar issues so having that link where you’ve got people doing the same job as you going through similar challenges; it’s beneficial to have that support network.
A clear recommendation from the project was around the need to update the Early Help Assessment Tool to ensure that ‘Relationships Matter’ data is collected through routine monitoring. In future this can be used along with population data and other metrics, including the website, training delivery, access to online courses for practitioners and parents, and resources such as the ‘Little book of relationship tips’ to build a fully rounded picture of whether the local offer is meeting local needs.
Bradford are enthusiastic about progressing this work, which they say has been an important building block for the future, providing not only richer and more up to date data to evidence need, but also stronger relationships with stakeholders, that have been facilitated through participation and developing a shared vision.
Bradford have formally shared the completed population needs assessment and support pathway across the partnership and have developed an action plan directly addressing the needs assessment recommendations.
The Relationships Matter campaign has now been launched formally in Bradford, and work is underway to develop a network of ‘champions’ and leaders to continue to drive forwards the RPC agenda. A website and a coordinated suite of resources, training, and support packages is in place with information available in over 50 languages.
It’s about promoting it, make sure people keep at the forefront, signpost people on and those who need to can deliver the face to face interventions.
Read more reducing parental conflict case examples on our legacy site eif.org.uk.