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Strength to strength: what’s next in EIF’s ongoing support for local reducing parental conflict programmes


26 Aug 2022

With a new cohort of participating areas on board, EIF head of local development Karen Noble describes how EIF works to support local reducing parental conflict (RPC) planning and delivery, and what we've heard back from areas who took part last year.

We’ve just selected the 11 areas that we’ll be working with over the next six months to help develop more effective, evidence-based support for families experiencing parental conflict. It’s a great opportunity for them to receive tailored support from the EIF team, bringing together a wealth of local area knowledge and evidence expertise to accelerate the progress of their RPC programme. It’s also an invaluable opportunity for EIF to test our own work, to ensure the tools and guidance we produce for local areas meet their needs and are accessible.

Why the focus on reducing parental conflict?

Strong scientific evidence shows that conflict between parents can affect multiple outcomes for children, including emotional, behavioural, social, and academic development. Supporting families effectively to improve parental relationships and make sustainable positive changes is complex. It depends on robust local arrangements for strategy and planning, multi-agency working, and evaluating progress. Establishing effective partnership arrangements will not only improve outcomes for families but also reduce the likelihood of needs escalating.

An opportunity too good to miss

Since the launch of DWP’s national Reducing Parental Conflict Programme in 2018, local areas have largely focused on raising awareness among the workforce and developing their skills to identify and support families experiencing conflict. However, DWP’s recent announcement of three years of funding has created a real opportunity to create sustainable change and evidence its impact at a local level. Local areas are recruiting programme coordinators to provide that much-needed capacity to facilitate local progress and evaluate the impact for families.

Building on what works 

Earlier this year, EIF launched an expression of interest aimed at local authorities and their partners, offering a programme of support and evidence-based expertise to help accelerate the progress of the local reducing parental conflict (RPC) programme. This builds on the success of a smaller programme last year, where we supported five local areas to develop needs assessments, support pathways and outcome frameworks, and to evaluate their training offers, applying EIF’s evidence-based tools and guidance.

This support was tailored around the needs of each local area, but included a range of activities and approaches, such as:

  • engaging senior managers in understanding the evidence on the impact of parental conflict on children’s outcomes as well as the risk factors, such as financial and housing pressure, that contribute to it
  • advising on the collection and analysis of data that tells the local story about the prevalence of those risk factors, outcomes for children, what support is available and, most importantly, where the gaps are
  • facilitating workshops with partners to examine what the data is saying and what can be done collectively by the partnership to reduce the likelihood of parental conflict in the area.

You can read more about their experiences in our RPC case studies (which also feature in our brand new interactive map of case studies on supporting families). Overwhelmingly, however, feedback from participating areas was very positive. While we varied the support provided to reflect their local needs at the time, the local area leads felt that being part of the programme developed new evaluative skills, re-energised their RPC programme, and increased partner engagement.

So here we are a few months later and we’re busy setting up this year’s local area programme. The programme will focus on several evidence-based areas of activity, ranging from understanding local population needs and developing outcomes frameworks (both at local and regional levels) to creating an evaluation plan to measure the impact of a new mediation service for families experiencing parental conflict. 

Last year’s local areas particularly valued the opportunity to come together and learning from other participants, so we’ve created more opportunities to do this kind of sharing, as well as providing bespoke 1:1 support for each area.

It’s an ambitious programme for us and the local areas, but we’re excited to see what the next six months brings and the difference we can make, both in terms of energising local progress and in building the overall evidence base for this crucial area of support for families.