Findings from the mapping of locally developed services in England.
We are delighted to publish the research report, which sets out findings from research conducted in 2020-21 by Claire Mason, Centre for Child and Family Justice Research, Lancaster University with Julie Wilkinson, Research in Practice. The work is part of the Public Health England-funded project we have been working on alongside colleagues from Pause and the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory for the last 18 months.
This is the first national mapping of services in England, nearly a decade on from the early research and service development on recurrent care. Through survey responses and follow-up interviews, what have we learnt about this emergent and vital area of practice?
The blossoming of locally developed services – and significant gaps in provision across England
We have found locally developed services operating in 33 local authorities across England with a further five authorities reporting a service in development. Most of these are based within local authorities with a significant number led by third sector organisations.
Our interactive map also plots the 28 practices in the Pause national network and the 14 Family Drug and Alcohol Courts. Both of these nationally funded initiatives are part of the emerging overall picture of services working and through our supportingparents.researchinpractice.org.uk Community of Practice we aim to facilitate learning between them all.
The mapping picture is constantly changing and despite the growth, services are still relatively few in number and small in scale. All felt to some extent under threat in the context of cuts to spending and austerity measures.
Our analysis outlines a core set of components common to all services
Attempts to cope with complex trauma, loss and grief underpin many of the parents’ presenting problems; understanding of the impact of these experiences is developed and shared.
Poverty, poor quality and insecure housing, and debt are endemic in these parents’ lives; there is a focus on support to meet these basic needs.
A respectful, honest and consistent relationship is the crucial means for enabling and supporting change. This may be the first time the parent has experienced a healthy, 'boundaried’ relationship and it acts as a vital starting point to reflect on their experiences.
Practitioner interviewees spoke of the importance of co-produced plans that respect the person’s history and work to agreed goals at the parent’s own pace.
Developing effective pathways into partner services is essential but challenging
Interviewees were candid about the challenges faced by parents trying to navigate complex health and social care systems. The offer from adult mental health was a cause of particular concern, with waiting lists, thresholds and specific service criteria all acting as significant barriers. A focus on sexual and reproductive health is a core part of all services.
Services also have important differences
Whilst many initially focused on women, services are increasingly working with couples and a small number are now working with fathers in their own right. There are concerns that services may not be effectively reaching families from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities who have experienced recurrent care proceedings.
The majority work with parents post- proceedings. Some are now working further ‘upstream’ and offering support to parents before and through proceedings. This might include pre-conception work for parents considering having another child or working with parents during a subsequent pregnancy, helping to address issues and aiming to keep the baby safe and well in their care. Others support parents through subsequent care proceedings.
At Research in Practice we are proud to be working alongside this emergent field of practice, supporting shared learning and development through the Community of Practice and sharing the expertise of the researchers and practice experts in this field. We need to do more to amplify the voices of parents themselves – a leaflet co-developed with parents sits on our project website, alongside links to film and animation material developed by other organisations that start to make parents’ voices heard.
The experiences of these parents brings them into contact with numerous services across health, public health, housing, social care and the family courts. As such, working effectively with them is the business of many, perhaps most areas of human services. There is much transferable learning to be shared from the work these dedicated services are doing and we hope to continue to play our part in enabling this.