This case study sets out how Kirklees developed their Reducing Parental Conflict needs assessment and support pathway to build understanding across agencies to inspire local system change. The case study illustrates the benefits of incorporating professional knowledge to inform the population needs assessment and support pathway. Kirklees demonstrates how they achieved this by conducting a focus group with local leaders to understand the strengths and challenges in the reducing parental conflict support pathway.
The story of this project is told by Zoe Gatland, Early Support Team Manager at Kirklees Council and Olivia Martin, Local Development Adviser at Foundations; and is written by Robyn Tulloch, Project Support Officer at Foundations.
Our starting point
Since 2021 Kirklees have been delivering their reducing parental conflict agenda. As part of this work, they wanted to focus on the of use local data to identify and analyse local needs.
Alongside conducting a needs analysis, Kirklees saw this work as an opportunity to map their relationship support pathway. The aim of which was to identify any gaps or duplication in the current offer, as well as to better commission support where needed for the local community.
In addition, Kirklees wanted to collate local data around children, families and the services that support them to contribute to the development of their new ‘Relationship Manifesto’. The manifesto will include a commitment to building a shared understanding between communities and services about the importance of healthy relationships, and to ensure a collaborative approach to supporting parents experiencing conflict.
Actions taken and impact
Kirklees began the needs assessment by developing their research questions and project aims and from this considered what information was required to answer these questions, who would be involved in this process, and how. A knowledge gap around the prevalence of parental conflict in Kirklees and local demand for support was identified.
To be able to collect robust service level data and build a local picture of need, Kirklees needed to establish an understanding of the needs assessment amongst local services. This required Early Help Team Manager, Zoe Gatland, to increase knowledge and build awareness of the work amongst local stakeholders at partnership meetings.
Alongside this needs assessment, Kirklees mapped their relationship support pathway. They developed a survey to understand reducing parental conflict provision in Kirklees, and conducted a focus group with local practitioners to better understand the strengths and challenges related to the local RPC support offer. Kirklees followed up on responses to the survey by inviting respondents to a focus group. Through this focus group they were able to consider the following in more detail:
- Support and interventions available to reduce parental conflict
- Whether support was meeting the needs of target populations
- Whether available RPC services/interventions work to meet the needs of different groups of families or family members, i.e. LGBTQ+ parents, separating and separated parents, minority ethnic parents, parents with mental health difficulties, parents of children with SEND, and Fathers or carers
- Knowledge of other RPC support services
- Confidence in relation to referring clients to different RPC support.
The focus group helped identify levels of practitioner confidence around the reducing parental conflict offer, including uncertainty around the availability of targeted and specialist interventions.
Learning from project
Kirklees found that working in collaborative partnership was an essential part of this project. This comprised of working alongside strategic leads from different agencies, as well as involving different agencies earlier in the process.
These different agencies included, but were not limited to, the data performance intelligence unit, information governance, and partners which can support with ethics and consent. Kirklees highlighted the importance of agreeing available resources at the start to enable success.
Get internal intelligence teams on board early on; these people have already worked on the JSNA and census data that feeds into the needs assessment. They’ve got specialisms that can be brought in. Think about what is available in your area.Zoe Gatland, Early Support Team Manager – Kirklees Council
Kirklees have found a one-size-fits-all approach does not work in developing a reducing parental conflict needs assessment, and whilst there is guidance, it’s crucial to adapt it to fit the area. Kirklees also found that having ringfenced time for this work to reflect, analyse, read and write; as well as being realistic from the beginning about what can achieved in the time scale is imperative to success.
Additionally, Early Team Support Manager, Zoe reflects on the interconnectedness between the support pathway and the needs assessment, as well as the value of doing both simultaneously:
We’re doing two exercises [needs assessment and support pathway]. They have been quite hard to separate as they are so interconnected. One influences the other and vice versa, whilst it is two completely separate pieces of work, we couldn’t have one without the other.Zoe Gatland, Early Support Team Manager – Kirklees Council
Furthermore, gathering professional expertise from the focus groups alongside service level data collated from the survey was beneficial in developing the relationship support pathway and analysing the findings.
From this process Kirklees found there was a duplication of the universal support offer across Kirklees, and a significant gap in specialist support. This data insight has supported Kirklees in taking a step back and using an ‘assess, plan, do, review’ process to commission proactively rather than reactively.
The next step for the needs assessment is to share the learning and knowledge across agencies and to use this learning to ask challenging questions that will hopefully inspire system change. Kirklees also wants to understand more about the remaining barriers early help partners face in embedding and delivering the learning from the reducing parental conflict needs assessment.
Kirklees hope that this project can help the reducing parental conflict agenda to be recognised as a fundamental part of the Early Help Steering Group which includes the Supporting Families agenda, the Integrated Workforce agenda, and the development of Family Hubs.
Kirklees are continuing to build their knowledge around parental conflict locally and are developing a reducing parental conflict shared outcomes framework alongside early help partners. As a result, they hope to better understand and respond to data related to parental conflict, as well as be better equipped to identify families where harmful parental conflict could be an issue.
Read more reducing parental conflict case examples on our legacy site eif.org.uk.