This case study sets out how Sefton developed a local outcomes framework for reducing parental conflict and discusses how the project engaged stakeholders from across the local system, which is key to how work on parental conflict and early help are integrated.
The story of this project is told by Amanda Hughes, Locality Manager for Early Intervention and Prevention Services and Lead for RPC at Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council, and Olivia Martin, Local Development Advisor at Foundations. Written by Robyn Tulloch, Project Support Officer at Foundations.
Our starting point
Sefton wanted to drive forward local work on reducing parental conflict by building a greater understanding across partner agencies about how conflict between parents affects children’s outcomes. A key part of this work was about improving how local services distinguished parental conflict from domestic abuse when supporting vulnerable families.
Developing a local outcomes framework for reducing parental conflict was seen as an important mechanism for achieving this. The process would be an opportunity to open discussions with colleagues and work together to agree the best ways to measure the impact of parental conflict. The completed framework would underpin how Sefton measured the wider impact that services were having on families who were experiencing parental conflict.
Actions taken and impact
Sefton created a project to take forward this work, supported by the Early Intervention Foundation (now Foundations – What Works Centre for Children and Families). The project aims included: identifying the outcomes related to parental conflict which were most relevant to the Sefton context; taking account of local population needs; supporting stakeholders to understand the relationship between child outcomes and parental conflict; establishing the arrangements for monitoring outcomes over time; and informing wider planning and local system development.
The first step was running an initial workshop for strategic leads to secure their buy-in and develop their understanding of the importance of understanding and addressing parental conflict. The workshop used the Early Intervention Foundation’s RPC outcomes framework to guide discussions around how parental conflict affects children and families in Sefton.
Sefton then gathered the detailed local data which gave a clear picture of the local context. This included data on parental conflict risk factors in Sefton – to better understand the scale of the issue – and data on the current local support offer, to understand how this matched with expected demand based on risk factors. Sefton used this work to draft a local outcomes framework.
A second workshop was held to test and refine the draft outcomes framework and build consensus on the outcomes which were most relevant to the local context. By focusing on local need and support for families, stakeholders were able to agree specific outcomes of interest, including what outcomes to target, measure and monitor over time.
We wanted every practitioner in early help to understand how to use the tools that we have and how to measure the impact of that work. For example, what is the difference for an individual family, and how can we measure their journey from beginning to end.Amanda Hughes – Locality Manager for Early Intervention and Prevention Services, Sefton Council
Following the second workshop, Sefton updated the draft outcomes framework and prepared a supporting narrative report which explained the process and the evidence that had informed the framework. Sefton plan to use this report to build understanding and support for the work on reducing parental conflict.
The Health and Wellbeing Board were regularly briefed during the project to secure wider system ownership of this work, as was the Reducing Parental Conflict Steering Group, which includes representatives from local authority children’s services, health services, police, probation, schools, and the voluntary sector. Discussions at these groups highlighted that information about parental conflict wasn’t always filtering through to the practitioners who need it, which reinforced the importance of engaging stakeholders in the outcomes framework project as a way of improving this.
Learning from the project
The project was created to help Sefton to be more structured in how they used data to drive their local RPC programme. However, the most important benefit was building stronger relationships between stakeholders across the different services which can provide support in relation to parental conflict. This meant stakeholders were more willing to share their expertise and discuss their experiences, and it provides a stronger basis for the wider programme moving forward.
The project identified where to start in collecting data that gave a clearer understanding of which families were affected by parental conflict in Sefton:
I could find out how many families were using the Early Intervention and Prevention Service under the parental conflict heading as I have added this reason for referral to our system, which is a direct result of this work. However, I do not have the data of those referred to my service who are also accessing services that are linked to parental conflict risk factors, such as substance misuse or housing, etc. This is a gap that would be useful to bridge.Amanda Hughes – Locality Manager for Early Intervention and prevention services, Sefton Council
The further development of the local outcomes framework depends on good access to data held by different partner organisations, and on sufficient capacity for data collection and analysis. Both present challenges, initially slowing down progress in Sefton.
Securing data buy-in from the start saves a huge amount of time later, and I recommend other authorities have that organised.Amanda Hughes – Locality Manager for Early Intervention and Prevention Services, Sefton Council
The narrative report developed following the second workshop, describes the process of developing the outcomes framework and includes a visual output of the outcomes framework itself. This will be used with the RPC Steering Group and other partnership groups to illustrate the important role that different partner services have in improving outcomes for children who are affected by destructive conflict between their parents.
The outcomes framework will also be shared with Sefton’s Early Help Partnership. There is potential to use the framework to influence early help assessments and family plans, as well as the training of early help and family support staff.
Read more reducing parental conflict case examples on our legacy site eif.org.uk.