Local Family Offer Network

The Local Family Offer (LFO) Network is a group of 11 areas funded by Department for Work & Pensions to pioneer whole system approaches to reducing the impact of parental conflict on children.  The Network is supported by the Early Intervention Foundation.

The purpose of the LFO Network is to bring together research evidence and practice learning to support local areas to deliver the Government’s ambitions on interparental conflict as set out in ‘Improving Lives: Helping Workless Families’.

Each of the LFO areas is also funded to be an ambassador or advocate to help other local areas that want to improve outcomes for vulnerable children by reducing the impact of parental conflict.  You can find out more about their programmes and contact details below.

Contact details

Joanne Stewart,
Service Leader Early Intervention/Prevention (interim),
joanne.stewart@blackburn.gov.uk

In phase 1 of the Local Family Offer Blackpool has undertaken an enquiry driven piece of work aimed at developing a tool for frontline Early Help practitioners to support routine questioning around couple and co-parental relationships. The aim of the tool is to increase staff skills and confidence with a view to making the focus on couple and co-parental relationships part of standard practice in assessments and interactions with parents. The assumption behind this is that any relational issue between parents will be identified early and the appropriate support can be offered to minimise conflict, with a view to improving outcomes for children.

We established a series of focus groups including practitioners from the Local Authority Early Help teams (Families in Need, Children’s Centres, Specialist Support), the Health Visiting Service, School Nursing service, NSPCC, A Better Start, Head Start, Job Centre Plus and Connect.  The multi-disciplinary focus groups undertook an appreciative enquiry exercise to explore what each service could do to support the inter-parental relationship and what would help practitioners to do this. Salient insights coming out of the appreciative enquiry exercise were:

  • Agreement across practitioners that the couple/co-parenting relationship is important and yet it is not something they regularly explore as part of assessments or interventions;
  • That the reluctance to address the topic of inter-parental relationships was due to confidence and an implicit need to get ‘permission’ to address a topic that feels personal and ‘sensitive’.

Learning from the appreciative enquiry fed into the development of a practical tool to support practitioners in promoting better communication between parents with a focus on problem solving at difficult times. This is in recognition of evidence pointing to the fact that parents’ ability to communicate with each other  has a significant influence on parenting practices and in turn on children’s long-term mental health and future life chances and that frequent, intense, and poorly resolved inter-parental conflict puts children’s mental health and long-term life chances at risk.

The development of the tool was informed by:

  • Practitioners’ analysis of strengths and weaknesses of our current assessment process and practitioner materials regarding neglect;
  • Practitioners’ insights on their experience of having conversations with parents on relationship quality, conflict and domestic violence;
  • Practitioners insights from conversation with parents about what they want to be asked about relationship quality and at what points in their lives.

In phase 2 we are rolling out the tool to a wider workforce and implementing an Early Help Hub (Duty System approach) which is about deploying experienced practitioners from the early help workforce to support colleagues across different services to:

  • identify opportunities to engage in conversations with parents to diagnose relationship qualities issues
  • and, where relevant, provide some immediate support to improve communication and resolving conflict, as an alternative to referrals to specialist services, where appropriate.

More information is available online.

For more, please email:

Sara McCartan, Children’s Centre Partnership Officer, sara.mccartan@bkackpool.gov.uk.

The hypothesis of Croydon’s Local Family Offer is that if parents are helped to identify and address relationship stressors at the same time as tackling financial instability, this may have a greater impact on long term outcomes for children and young people than in addressing financial instability as a single factor.

One of the key services families experiencing financial distress are likely to approach is Croydon’s Gateway service (including Welfare, Enablement, Housing, Discretionary payments). Frontline Gateway staff have been trained in the One Plus One Brief Encounters model providing them with the necessary skills and evidence based framework to identify and address couple conflict.

In order to effect a whole culture change and embed the ‘Brief encounters’ model in business as usual, in phase 2, managers were also trained in an adapted version of the BEST model.

The LFO also aims to strengthen the link between Gateway and Early Help ensuring that families are referred on for further support if appropriate. A key development in this is the Parenting and Relationship Hub, which coordinates the parenting support offer (including Parents as Partners, Triple P and Teen Triple P) as well as providing referral advice and guidance to practitioners.

Croydon can offer guidance on workforce development (e.g. to upskill practitioners whose interactions are typically more transactional), strengthening the link between Early Help and other frontline services, developing a graduated parenting offer.

For more, please email:

Debby MacCormack, Service Manager, Early Help and Partnerships,  Debby.Maccormack@croydon.gov.uk

Karen Ploghoeft, Parenting and Relationship Hub Coordinator,  Karen.Ploghoeft@croydon.gov.uk.

Our Local Family Offer aims to maximise the central role we, as a local authority, have in our Weymouth and Portland community, in delivering and managing family-centred services, but with a particular focus on strengthening the couple and co-parental relationships.

We have a family and couple counsellor who works for Relate as well as for the Chesil Family Partnership Zone, who can support parents who are struggling to co-parent constructively, whatever the reasons for this may be. Support is available for a wider range of family issues too.

The support through this offer can be in the form of counselling, either with our relationship specialist or another counsellor, a one-off chat, group work, or signposting to other help. Our relationship specialist can attend any drop-in sessions for parents, speaking with them individually, or delivering an information session. Similarly she can support teachers, teaching assistants and other support workers individually, or via meetings/afterschool sessions, with information and signposting to appropriate local services.

We are also offering training in Brief Encounters through OnePlusOne for professionals in a range of public-facing services over autumn 2017, in addition to a series of six CPD sessions for staff on supporting and improving relationships, which is being delivered by our relationship specialist. We would be happy to support other local authorities in their development of similar services.

For more, please email:

The objective of Unity is to upskill the workforce across our children’s system to develop a culture that enable practitioners to work competently and confidently with parents in conflict.  They will do so in a meaningful way that enables parents to manage relationship distress and understand the negative impact their conflict could have on their children.  Multiagency training is being delivered to practitioners from across children’s services and organizations, and is enabling them to recognize, respond and review with parents their relationship conflict and when necessary refer on to a clearly identified pathway of self-help and or support.

Essex can offer guidance on phase 1, evaluation report and materials, practitioner materials, experiences of multiagency workforce development approaches and learning to date.

For more, please email:

James Cliff, Project Manager, James.cliff@essex.gov.uk

The Gateshead Local Family Offer programme focused on a significant strand of workforce development with the aim that frontline family support practitioners would be better able to recognise the signs of relationship distress, make a more effective first response and know when to broker access to specialist relationship support services. The LFO also funded a new pathway for couple counselling services, a new directory for relationship support services and consultancy on the use of validated scales and measures to record the impact of new interventions.

We can offer support on commissioning the right type and level of workforce development,  implementing new performance measures for relationship work, promoting the benefits of a couple focus to partners both in and outside of the LA and integrating couple content into existing parenting programmes.

For more, please contact:

Gavin Bradshaw, Team Manager – Family Intervention Team, Care, Wellbeing and Learning, Tel – 0191 433 2663, email: gavinbradshaw@gateshead.gov.uk

Better Relationships Better Parenting: In Hertfordshire we have focused our pilot on supporting parents in conflict as part of our early help offer. We have delivered a training programme for practitioners working with families which aims to support them to identify parents in conflict and provide early support, and this is supplemented by our online toolkit. We have also commissioned couple mediation and counselling services for parents in need of more extensive support.

We’re happy to talk to any interested local authority areas about our programme and its impact – please email FSC.Team@hertfordshire.gov.uk

Contact details

Laura Griffin,
Interim Lead Commissioner, Children, Adults and Health Directorate,
lmgriffin@lambeth.gov.uk

The Local Family Offer strategy provides the platform for delivery of our work on intra parental couples relationships. The focus is three fold and includes systems change, primary prevention and targeted early help. The LFO sits within Flying Start Luton’s Pregnancy to Five Strategy and implementation plan.

The project plan for this second phase builds on the work done in Phase 1 and consists of three main elements:

  1. Workforce development delivered by the Tavistock Relationship. Tavistock have been commissioned to deliver four one day skills- based training sessions to a maximum of 100 front line staff. Training days are planned for September and November 2017 and January and February 2018 Tavistock will also deliver a one day introductory session to Luton Borough Council housing officers.
  2. Relate couple counselling. Relate are commissioned to deliver 12 hours counselling per week. The service has been designed to provide an early help provision to families particularly with young children. The family must have at least one child under the age of six years. The service specifically targets families with children who have disabilities, those who are living with pressures and tensions including unemployment, debts and poor housing. Relate is using three tools to evaluate this work: PHQ9, Enrich and for the children over two years the SDQ tool. The aim is to test evidence based interventions to reduce parental conflict.
  3. Communication and publicity. Development of an on-line booklet for parents and professionals giving details of all services that can support families where there is inter-parental conflict.

More information online on Couple counselling one element of the Local Family Offer in Luton.

We can offer other authorities information about our experiences of developing and commissioning services for the LFO (including the challenges and lessons learned), details of the evaluation and evidence  to date and the opportunity to ask us questions about any aspects of this work. We can provide this support on a 1:1 basis (by phone), by visiting or receiving visits from other local authorities or attending regional/national events.

For more, please contact:

Stephanie Cash, Flying Start and Healthy Child Programme Service Manager , Email: Stephanie.cash@luton.gov.uk, Tel: 01582 547980, Website: www.flyingstartluton.com

The Local Family Offer in Newcastle developed from the belief that healthy relationships are the cornerstone of a thriving economy and society and that they are fundamental not only to adults’ health and wellbeing, but also for positive outcomes in children.

The offer has two strands:

  • counselling for couples or ex-partners delivered by Relate;
  • workforce development for frontline staff, to raise awareness of interparental conflict and increase confidence in responding when it is raised as an issue.

Direct counselling can be accessed where interparental conflict has been identified as impacting on family functioning as part of a children’s social care or early help assessment. Transport and childcare, where necessary, can be provided. For more info, visit the online toolkit.

Workforce development activities include briefing sessions, reflective practice sessions, training courses, and advice for team managers around how services can become more proactive in supporting staff working with this issue.

Newcastle could offer support around developing referral pathways, using reflective practice sessions, delivering parenting programmes as part of this area of work and developing specific posts to increase participation of frontline practitioners in this area of work.

We are happy to be contacted by email or phone:

Cath Elsy,  Service Improvement Lead,  People Directorate, Tel: 0191 2774373 / 07974266469, Email: cathryn.elsy@newcastle.gov.uk

Westminster are committed to changing the culture around Interparental practice; supporting practitioners within the council, the third sector and the voluntary sector to develop the confidence and skills to work effectively with a ‘whole family’ approach. Here in Westminster we are developing an accredited curriculum for professionals around Interparental conflict which we hope will impact the development of Westminster practitioners and practitioners across the United Kingdom.

Westminster can provide advice in the following areas of interest: consultancy around sustained culture change, the implementation of ‘relationship champions’ and the inter-parental curriculum for professionals.

For more, please email:

Bridie Collins, Parenting Development Manager:  bcollins@westminster.gov.uk

Jayne Vertkin, Head of Early Help Services: jvertkin@westminster.gov.uk