Families that have alcohol and mental health problems: a template for partnership working

Example from practice 4: Be easy to use

The team noted a number of other specific features that are likely to encourage effective take-up.


The sample produced four examples of good design, which are reproduced in this report as they were easy to understand, easy to navigate and looked as authoritative and confident as their contents proved to be. All have a high quality of production and printing. Good design comes at a price but these examples show the benefits this brings. Each example looks very different, underlining the importance of local adaptations of universal requirements

Front covers are reproduced from protocols to show the impact of high quality design and production (from South Yorkshire ACPC, Bolton and Tower Hamlets).


Protocols from East Sussex are reproduced in full as an example of design and layout aiding clarity, brevity and ease of use.

Clarity of purpose

In the examples sent to the team, terms such as 'guidance’, 'procedure’ and 'protocol’ were sometimes used for documents that could not function as a protocol. Where protocols were described as agency practice guidance, this seemed to dilute their status. Some documents and handbooks clearly listed their contents and separated instructions from supporting material. These appeared easier and clearer to use in practice environments. See illustration of Westminster’s protocol.

Collaboratively written protocols are likely to benefit from a range of different styles of practice. For example, the team noted that those protocols that had a health input, were more likely to include questions to prompt readers as well as clear instructions.

Protocols that were developed and written collaboratively did not assume that all staff would be familiar with all of the legal frameworks or assessment processes in this complex area of practice. This enables staff to feel competent about their own area of practice and understand better the practice concerns of other disciplines. For example, the Westminster protocol takes the worker through the relevant legislation, summarising its application to this type of work.

Adults and Children’s Services Working Together Protocol

This protocol sets out the Social and Community Services Department’s reponse to families where parents, carers or other adult family members experience specific needs or difficulties requiring support or services in their own right, which may also impact on the well being of their dependent children. The policy has been agreed with Central and North West London Mental Health Trust.

  1. Service principles
  2. Legal framework
  3. Information sharing, consent and confidentiality
  4. Referrals and thresholds for services
  5. Working together in assessment and planning
  6. Assessing young carers
  7. Management oversight, decision making and supervision
  8. Professional development
  9. Structure Charts and Key Contacts Westminster City Council


Some protocols acknowledged other areas of professional anxiety and the realities of daily practice. They anticipated and articulated problems and offered solutions.

Peterborough’s protocol recognises that workers in adult mental health services may be less used to considering family support issues. It understands that differences of opinion will arise and includes designated arbitrators. It gives a list of factors to consider when talking to parents who have mental health difficulties.

Bolton’s Child Concern Handbook is a resource for the very wide range of staff who will come into contact with children.

Brent’s protocol is careful not to assume specialist knowledge of the area of work and gives staff a named contact within other services. This style of protocol needs to be updated regularly but offers concrete solutions to what are often unacknowledged and disempowering circumstances for staff.

Child protection procedures are stressful and can exacerbate mental health problems, which may suggest even higher risk than otherwise. Any assessment and intervention should, therefore, be handled with special sensitivity, keeping a low key supportive approach as far as possible.

Surrey SSD