Families that have alcohol and mental health problems: a template for partnership working
SCIE Guide 2
By Patricia Kearney, Enid Levin, Gwen Rosen and Mary Sainsbury
Published June 2003
About this guide
This guide is about delivering high quality, coordinated services to families with parents who misuse alcohol or who have mental health problems. It recognises that promoting the well-being of children and keeping them safe should be achieved, wherever possible, by providing support for parents in bringing up their children and by ensuring that children do not take on excessive or inappropriate caring roles in their family.
The guide encourages local authorities to adopt a protocol to further good practice and offers a template for agencies to use to develop better, more family-centred approaches to working with families with parents with alcohol and mental health problems.
The guide is aimed at senior managers in children's services and adults' services in local authorities. It is also aimed at senior managers in other services that may be involved with families with alcohol and mental health problems such as local health services.
Messages from the guide
Getting your protocol underway
Before developing your protocol:
- identify the desired outcomes
- identify key players
- involve service users and their supporters
- identify relevant legislation and accompanying guidance
- identify what is already in place and what still needs integrating
- identify any gaps in working together
Features of a protocol for partnership working
- Include instructions and role requirements. Include instructions and requirements about people's roles and tasks to relieve the 'Where does my job end?' anxiety that many workers experience. For example, you may want to include an appendix with addresses and contact numbers for all teams and agencies involved in the care of families with drug and or alcohol problems, along with a referral flow chart.
- Be authoritative. Workers must know where the authority for the instructions and requirements comes from. For example, you could include the signatures of all the relevant chief executives, and give the protocol the status of a 'must do' document.
- Include legislation, policy and procedure. Collaborative working must take account of the law and any related guidance and must be linked to local policies, protocols and procedures.
- Be easy to use. Make sure the language is in plain English and is of an appropriate tone. Do not assume that all staff involved will know all terms - explain each one the first time or include a glossary. Also make sure the design and layout is user-friendly. It may well be worth investing in having this professionally done as this will also add to the status of the protocol.
- Help people to think and act differently. An effective protocol should be specific about new ways of working and address key issues. For example, you may want to acknowledge that for some cases, departmental financial issues will cross boundaries and advise that negotiation take place away from the family and cost sharing be considered.
- Have a user-led approach. The protocol should at all times have the welfare of families in mind and encourage workers to work together and negotiate boundaries for the good of the families.
- Be implemented. Lastly, once the protocol is written, you must get it out to the relevant people, get them using it, measure its effectiveness and keep it up-to-date. This is no easy task and time and effort should be spend on getting this part of it right. After all there is no point in having a good protocol if no one uses it.
Other SCIE resources on families with parental mental ill health or drug and alcohol abuse that may interest you include:
- Report 02: Working with families with alcohol, drug and mental health problems
- The Parental Mental Health and Child Welfare Network
SCIE also has a number of other resources on children's and families' services.