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EIF report

Reducing parental conflict in the context of Covid-19: Adapting to virtual and digital provision of support

This report focuses on how Covid-19 and the lockdown have impacted on issues relating to parental conflict, and how those seeking to reduce parental conflict can adapt to the current situation using virtual and digital methods.

Summary

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Full report

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Appendices A & B

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Appendix C

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Appendix D

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We present findings from an EIF survey, conducted in June and July, through which 42 local authorities and 13 intervention developers and providers described how Covid-19 has impacted upon their ability to support families.

  • The vast majority of local authorities and intervention developers and providers have adapted their provision to be available virtually or digitally. Prior to the lockdown in March 2020, many responding local authorities (63%) and intervention developers and providers (eight out of 13, or 62%) did not offer virtual and digital interventions targeting interparental relationships. By July, however, three months after lockdown began, almost all – 89% and 93% respectively – had adapted their provision to ensure continued support.
  • Almost three-quarters (74%) of the local authorities who completed our survey report an increase in parental conflict since the start of lockdown. However, it is difficult to develop a clear understanding of the impact of Covid-19 on referrals to parental conflict support services, as local authorities have had differing experiences, with some seeing a fall in referrals at the start of lockdown and others experiencing a steep increase.
  • There have been many challenges faced by the sector in delivering virtual and digital interventions, including difficulties in identifying escalating risk with limited home visits and face-to-face contact, a lack of funding to quickly adapt services, and difficulties maintaining privacy and confidentiality. Despite this, survey respondents suggest that positive changes have emerged as a result of Covid-19 that should be retained in the future, including improved partnership working within local systems and an increase in parental help-seeking behaviour.

We also provide a summary of 12 virtual and digital interventions available to support interparental relationships, and offer practical guidance on how to assess the impact of such interventions and how to effectively engage parents remotely.

  • Most of the pre-existing virtual and digital interventions targeting interparental relationships have yet to show robust evidence that they can improve outcomes for children. Of the 12 virtual and digital interventions on which we conducted a preliminary assessment, most were found to either have no or limited evidence or preliminary evidence of improving child outcomes, with only one intervention found to have robust evidence.
  • There is an opportunity to generate stronger evidence about the effectiveness of virtual and digital interventions, although this is likely to need support. Most responding local authorities (83%) and all 13 intervention developers and providers are planning to assess the impact of their adapted provision. 

About the authors

Dr Virginia Ghiara

Virginia is a research officer at EIF.

Miriam Sorgenfrei

Miriam is a research officer at EIF.

Max Stanford

Max is head of early childhood education & care at EIF.