Systems and relationships: Using the new Reducing Parental Conflict Planning Tool in Rochdale
Helen Chicot, Place Integration Lead at Rochdale Borough Council, describes how they used the Reducing Parental Conflict Planning Tool to understand where they are now and where they can get to in terms of supporting positive parental relationships.
Rochdale's RPC Planning Tool
Rochdale Borough Council sees a future where the whole community, including citizens, businesses and major public bodies will have a deeper understanding of the importance of positive relationships and what they can do to contribute to these. This includes understanding the impact of poor-quality relationships, such as when parents are in conflict with each other, and how this affects children’s life chances.
Our work in Rochdale on relationships started with children’s services picking up on poor-quality relationships resulting in demand for high-cost interventions for children. We knew that this was a huge priority but needed to be clear about where we were going – what could happen if we changed how we thought about relationships. We wanted to build on the strengths of the countless positive couple relationships happening across the borough right now, not just focus on where things have gone wrong.
The new Reducing Parental Conflict Planning Tool from EIF and DWP presented a great opportunity for us to understand where we are now and where we can go on parental relationships. We see working on relationships as a key part of our reform and integration of services, and working through the Planning Tool helped us to explore what good-quality integrated work looks and feels like. It also contributed massively to the collective confidence we have about the direction and future of our work.
We’d previously done this type of multi-agency self-assessment a couple of times on different topics to do with public services and vulnerable families. We liaised with DWP and EIF to prepare for a half-day workshop to work through the tool, linking it in with our existing work as we went. (You can see our completed self-assessment here.)
The workshop was convivial and a testament to the trust that already exists between our local partners. We were able to speak candidly and analyse the evidence we have. The Planning Tool helped us to understand this evidence in the context of the whole system.
We were able to step back and understand the effect of relationships on people of all ages, and to take account of the priorities our citizens have identified. They feel that people in our borough deserve to benefit from positive relationships, and to be able to access support if they are affected by conflict.
The tool itself provided us with a clear pathway towards our destination, and the steps along the way were recognisable. There was no need for us to feel or act defensively about areas where we’re only just starting out because the language in the tool is strengths-based: it celebrates what’s already happened and describes clearly what we will see as we progress.
This is hugely important to us. Working together on a relationship-focused approach is different and unfamiliar for us. We need the reassurance that a tool like this provides to help us keep moving forward. Our steering group already feels different: the conversations that take place are passionate and human. And we have prepared a manifesto (rather than a strategy at this stage) which includes wide contributions from citizens, stakeholders and workers.
We’re really glad to have been able to test and use the Planning Tool. As it rolls out, we hope to be able to share others’ learning, and find friends who can work with us on the things we find all find tricky.