Reducing parental conflict

Featured article - 10 February 2020
By Patrick Myers

Blog: Reducing parental conflict

Patrick is Assistant Director from Dorset Council Children’s Services Department seconded to work on the Government’s Reducing Parental Conflict programme.

I am really pleased to be given the opportunity to share with you the work that I am currently involved with. It’s about embracing the aims of the Government’s work to reduce parental conflict, as well as focussing on the scale of the issue. Having been involved in the early pilot work with the DWP, and now the roll out of the national programme, I know that the programme has been built around strong evidence and as such can have a clear impact on family dynamics - and improve children’s lives and outcomes.

Inter-parental conflict that is frequent, intense and poorly resolved is not good for children; and can result in negative outcomes that can be felt across the whole of someone’s life. It can affect their early emotional and social development, their educational attainment and later employability; limiting their chances to lead fulfilling, happy lives.

Our goal is to reduce conflict between parents and we know that this is important whether the child’s parents are together or separated. We know that sometimes separation can be the best option for a couple, but even then, continued co-operation and communication between parents is better for their children.

Integrating evidence-based services and approaches

Backed by up to £39m, the Reducing Parental Conflict programme is encouraging councils and their partners across England to integrate evidence-based services and approaches to addressing parental conflict that work for their local families. The Government has already announced plans to transform the way we think about and tackle domestic violence and abuse, and the focus of the Reducing Parental Conflict Programme is on conflict below that threshold. Parental conflict can range from a lack of warmth and emotional distance, right through to swearing and shouting.

And we also know that this is a significant issue. Where a child lives with both parents in the same household, more than one in ten children have at least one parent who reports relationship distress – and children living in workless families are three times more likely to experience parental conflict than in families where both parents are in work.

Local services: Do they support reducing parental conflict?

Early pilot work with 12 local authorities has informed the various strands of the programme. There are four primary strands:

  • Funding to support strategic leadership across local authorities’ footprints to make effective plans with partners to address the issues related to inter parental conflict
  • Practitioner training across all 149 local authorities to equip frontline staff with skills and knowledge to help families where conflict is evident
  • Four areas (31 local authorities) piloting a range of interventions to reduce inter parental conflict with the express intention of improving children’s outcomes
  • Specialist training in those pilot interventions should they prove to be effective.

In addition, the Department is collaborating with Public Health England and the Department for Health and Social Care on the Innovation Fund for Children of Alcohol Dependent Parents, which has provided nine areas with support to work in this challenging area of work.

And our £2.2m RPC Challenge Fund is funding ten innovative projects, to support families who face particular disadvantages, as well as digital support to reduce parental conflict. For further information, please contact me: patrick.myers@dwp.gov.uk

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