Think child, think parent, think family: a guide to parental mental health and child welfare
Putting it into practice - lessons about process
When setting up the implementation project, SCIE envisaged a relatively linear process, in which sites would develop plans (including outcome measures), implement those plans, and then review progress and outcomes. Although we hoped the plans would ideally be living documents, which would change over time, it was nevertheless anticipated that the planning process would be the main driver of activity.
The sites in Northern Ireland to some extent followed this model and worked to a detailed regional plan. They were able to develop several strategic documents which have regional coverage. However, in the English sites and, to a lesser extent the Northern Irish sites too, the process of implementation was more ‘organic’ than expected. This showed itself in a number of ways:
- Rather than implementing and rolling out a specific number of new, pre-planned activities, sites started to embed a Think Family approach in existing documents and ways of working. This was in part a response to the busy environment in which people were working on numerous other responsibilities in addition to the guide. This left limited time for undertaking substantial stand-alone projects.
- It was also an explicit strategy for achieving impact. For an initiative to be successful it needs to work, and to be seen to work, in unison with other similar initiatives. Embedding Think Family in a number of policies and initiatives may help to ensure its longevity during a time of change: even if one policy or initiative is discontinued, others will continue. This is known in the study of user involvement as ‘riddling the system’. See Practice example 20.
- The sites responded to opportunities and changes in the practice and policy environment. For example, one site incorporated Think Family into a new structure for children’s services. Others took the opportunity to include Think Family as part of general reform processes, for example, the Reform Implementation Team and the Bamford Task Force in Northern Ireland. Others hope to exploit the constraints and restructuring affecting the sector to promote the early intervention and efficient working patterns inherent in whole-family approaches.
There were significant differences in the way that the guide was implemented in the English compared to the Northern Irish sites. This was largely due to the regional mandate for this work in Northern Ireland, supported by two full-time project managers. This meant that, for example, in Northern Ireland more time could be spent producing strategic, regional-level documents – such as a knowledge and skills framework and regional multi-disciplinary working agreement – than was possible in most of the English sites.
The Northern Ireland project also had the capacity and mandate to engage in other strategic-level activities, such as liaising with the regulators and providers of professional education, and meeting on an ongoing basis with government departments and non-departmental public bodies to share information and coordinate activities. SCIE undertook this role to some extent on behalf of the English sites, meeting regularly with the Department of Health and Department for Education.