Think child, think parent, think family: a guide to parental mental health and child welfare
A strategic approach
- A multi-agency-led review and development of services.
- Senior-level commitment to a strategic review and implementation of new policy and practice.
- Training and development of the workforce.
Implementing these recommendations requires more interagency working, joined-up services and pooling of resources. We therefore recommend conducting a multi-agency, strategic review that involves:
- Mapping the services currently available across all sectors to parents with mental health problems and their children, and identifying how well the services meet these families' needs across the full spectrum of problems.
- Working in partnership with parents and children at all levels and at all stages to ensure a service user centred approach to developing and delivering services that reflects what families say they want. Involving parents and children will lead to better service outcomes.
- Generating clear family-focused outcome measures, management targets, accountability measures and agreed audit and evaluation plans to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the strategy.
Children's Trusts and local commissioners of adult mental health services are well placed to initiate, manage, monitor and report on the development and implementation of a strategy. They will need to take the lead in coordinating and managing change.
There needs to be support from the top of organisations so that these changes become a 'must do' rather than an optional extra. Staff have found that the absence of a 'must do' incentive or lever centrally and locally has contributed to the difficulties in mainstreaming family-focused protocols.
Specific organisation or management targets are also necessary for these changes to become a priority for mainstream practice. Embedding the changes in culture and practice requires strong leadership and high-quality management. Managers and supervisors have a responsibility to ensure that the changes happen in practice by:
- supporting staff
- identifying what is needed to promote change
- recording the changes that happen
- ensuring their staff are accountable for delivering change
- monitoring the quality and impact of changes.
We therefore recommend that:
- a 'think family strategy' is developed for leaders and managers, to engage them in taking forward the recommendations for change
- local 'champions' are identified with specific responsibility for ensuring that recommendations are implemented
- training managers are charged with delivering the training programmes necessary to support all staff – frontline practitioners and senior-level managers.
Frontline managers and supervisors in all services are in a unique and important position to develop and lead practice change within and across services, but investment is needed in training and staff development before these roles can be used to their best advantage. There appears to be a need for training, particularly joint training, in this area.
We therefore recommend that in terms of professional qualifications:
- those responsible for professional education and training and workforce standards should introduce a family perspective.
In terms of continuing professional development we recommend that:
- For social workers (adult and child), accredited post-qualifying standards and courses should include specific material about how to deal with complexity, think child, think parent and think family, and how to work across service interfaces to promote the social inclusion and health and wellbeing of individuals and families. This is best delivered after a year or more in practice.
- Joint training is provided for staff in adult mental health and children's services or for other professional groups (e.g. primary and secondary care staff), as this can help to break down barriers and increases people's understanding of other service areas and responsibilities.
- A new leadership programme for adult and children's social work supervisors and managers should be developed. This should help managers to support staff who are working across agencies and dealing with complex cases.
- Final Draft Parental mental health and child welfare protocol
- Joint Protocol Responding to the Needs of Children whose Parents have Mental Health and/or Substance Misuse issues (Northern Ireland)
- Mental health framework (Northern Ireland)
- Protocol for Joint Working Across Adult Mental Health And Children’s Services
- Service Framework for Mental Health and Wellbeing (Northern Ireland)
- Practice example 13: Lewisham protocol
- Practice example 14: Southwark advice and liaison role
- Practice example 15: Workforce development - Drama-based learning in North Somerset
- Practice example 16: Workforce development – Family Partnership Model training
- Practice example 17: Northern Ireland knowledge and skills framework