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EIF report

Engaging disadvantaged and vulnerable parents: An evidence review

This report sets out the findings from a rapid evidence review to understand what is known from the literature about encouraging disadvantaged and vulnerable parents to take up, fully participate in and complete parenting and parental conflict programmes and services.

Summary

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Full report

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The objectives of this rapid evidence review were to summarise the evidence on how to engage disadvantaged and vulnerable parents in parenting and parental conflict programmes and services, to inform policy and practice in this area; and to provide practical recommendations on how to effectively engage and retain families in DWP’s national Reducing Parental Conflict programme.

The report covers common barriers to engaging parents and couples, including barriers related to awareness of support, accessibility, and acceptability; issues specific to recruiting and retaining particular hard-to-reach groups; and strategies for recruitment and retention within evidence-based parenting or family programmes and services. 

It also makes a set of recommendations. While the review was designed to inform delivery of the national RPC programme in particular, these recommendations are relevant to a range of audiences, including those programme developers and providers, local managers and commissioners, national policymakers, DWP, and research funders.

Methodology

The review employed a mixed-methods approach, combining a rapid evidence assessment with a qualitative evidence synthesis. In total, 79 papers were included in the final analysis. 

Research questions

  • What enables the recruitment and retention of disadvantaged and vulnerable parents in parenting and parental conflict programmes and services?
  • What are the barriers and challenges to recruiting and retaining disadvantaged and vulnerable parents in parenting and parental conflict programmes and services? Why are disadvantaged and vulnerable parents less likely to access or complete these programmes and services?
  • Which parents are the hardest to engage in parenting and parental conflict programmes and services? Which parents are underserved by these programmes or services? Why?
  • What are the barriers to engaging low-income parents, fathers, and both parents (whether together or separated)?
  • What are some of the effective strategies for recruiting and retaining disadvantaged and vulnerable parents in parenting and parental conflict programmes and services?
  • How can the awareness, accessibility, and appropriateness of parenting and parental conflict programmes and services for disadvantaged and vulnerable parents be improved? How can we increase recruitment and retention within this population?
  • What practitioner skills or programme characteristics contribute to effective engagement of disadvantaged and vulnerable parents?
  • How can both parents be encouraged to attend and complete parenting and parental conflict programmes and services?
  • How can we engage parents with high levels of conflict? How can we recruit parents early before problems reach crisis point?
     

About the authors

Dr Inês Pote

Inês is a senior research officer at EIF.

Laura Stock

Laura is a senior research officer at EIF.

Ben Lewing

Ben is assistant director, policy & practice, at EIF.