The Early Intervention Foundation has published a practical planning tool to support local commissioners and leaders of services for children and families to reduce the impact of conflict between parents on children. This resource highlights the latest scientific and intervention evidence on how the interparental relationship affects multiple outcomes for children, including emotional, behavioural, social and academic development.
The Guide (which is designed to be modular and interactive), is specifically written for public sector leaders and commissioners with responsibility for family services to support them in getting the best outcomes for children. It acknowledges that “frontline practitioners in, for example, health, schools and social care services lack the tools and knowledge to identify, assess, support and refer families experiencing parental conflict. They need greater help to equip them to play this role, including training in how parental conflict impacts on child outcomes; how to use the tools to spot signals of risk on interparental conflict; how to overcome access barriers with families (such as the stigma associated with discussing relationship difficulties); understanding what support different workforces can provide; and how to refer families appropriately.”
The guide goes on to state “Family support and early help services in both public and voluntary sectors, from children’s centres to local Troubled Families services, can identify and provide support to parents experiencing relationship difficulties… Statutory services such as police, housing services, children’s social work services and Cafcass have significant contact with parents on low incomes experiencing relationship stress, so could play a role in identifying and referring or signposting couples who would benefit from relationship support.” There’s advice on persuading stakeholders to engage on interparental relationships, recommending that “interparental conflict should be an issue of strategic importance at a local level, which means making the case for change to strategic leaders through partnership bodies like the health and wellbeing boards, schools forums, local authority elected member committees and safeguarding boards, and getting senior leaders in turn to champion and lead this agenda.”
Child contact centres can help children (who may have experienced varying degrees of interparental conflict) keep in touch with parents following separation and can help to eliminate or reduce further conflict that children are exposed to. Midwifes, health visitors, GPs, teachers, school staff, people working within children and young people’s mental health services, the police, housing services and children’s services could be working with families in need of supported and supervised child contact centres. These people need the help, resources and support to be able to respond to this challenge and give children whose parents are separating a chance to access the support that is out there.