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Case study

Birmingham: Engaging partners and wider services in developing a needs assessment

This case study sets out how Birmingham Children’s Trust developed a reducing parental conflict needs assessment and mapped out its support pathway. The project highlights the benefits of working with your partners, and explores some of the obstacles to including the child and family voice.

The story of this project is told by Nikki Plummer, head of service – domestic abuse and interpersonal violence; Ravinder Kaur , senior learning and development officer – reducing parental conflict from the domestic abuse and interpersonal violence service from Birmingham Children’s Trust; and Olivia Martin, local development advisor at WWEICSC. The case study is written by Robyn Tulloch, project support officer at WWEICSC.

Find out more about our series of case examples or submit your local area's story.

Our starting point

Birmingham Children’s Trust had worked with the Early Intervention Foundation to improve the evaluation of its reducing parental conflict training. The Trust concluded that its next step would be to develop a population needs assessment and map current support for families to reduce parental conflict. The aim was to support Birmingham to think strategically about the support that families needed to address conflict between parents and to understand how far that support was currently available.

The assessment was seen as key to ensuring the sustainability of Birmingham’s Reducing Parental Conflict Programme by closing knowledge gaps around:

  • local demographics and how they intersect with parental conflict risk factors.
  • the prevalence of parental conflict in Birmingham and local demand for support.
  • the support pathway of services available for families experiencing relationship distress and how well this matched with local needs.

This work was also seen as important for developing pathways of support for families, building practitioner confidence to refer into services, and clarifying the difference between domestic abuse and parental conflict.

Actions taken and impact

Birmingham used EIF’s reducing parental conflict needs assessment guidance and local expertise about the area to identify the required data. Some of this data was accessed via existing local and national sources such as the Birmingham Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, Census data and Fingertips public health data. The Trust worked alongside partners to collate service-level population data and understand how it was changing over time in the local area.

In addition, the Trust developed a child and family survey to collect data on the child and family experience of local support, but it was unable to use this due to delays caused by extra ethical considerations around obtaining parental consent and responding in the event of a disclosure.

Birmingham also used EIF guidance to develop a survey for practitioners and community organisations to map the reducing parental conflict support offer in Birmingham. The survey questions were presented to the Reducing Parental Conflict Working Group for feedback, and then used to collect local data on what support is currently offered for parental relationships across the continuum of needs and who is providing it.

From this data, Birmingham was able to compare available services with population need and determine gaps in provision.

Learning from the project

This project was a multi-agency effort and work with partners was key to this project’s success. This included wider services and partners providing service-level data, attending steering groups, and supporting survey development. The cross-agency partners included children’s services, public health, schools, NHS, police, and the voluntary and community sector.

This far-reaching engagement across a range of services and teams improved knowledge and galvanised interest in the reducing parental conflict agenda in Birmingham. This included frontline practitioners attending steering groups and senior leaders at the Strategic Partnership Operational Group.

“We’re engaging all levels from top down and bottom up.”

— Nikki Plummer, head of service – domestic abuse and interpersonal violence

“It’s been great to start seeing some of the data that has driven the work. It has been a positive experience and enabled us to engage our partner agencies to be actively involved in the process.”

— Ravinder Kaur, senior learning and development officer – reducing parental conflict domestic abuse and interpersonal violence

The project also helped to develop internal collaboration among different teams within Birmingham Children’s Trust, including with data leads, research teams and safeguarding teams. This joint working approach supported the project to reach its primary aims and has informed future project planning in Birmingham.

Project lead, Ravinder, reported that working on the project has also enhanced her own personal development by increasing knowledge, skills and confidence collating and analysing data:

“Its been great to see Rav learning new skills and building her confidence in things she initially felt uncomfortable doing.”

—Nikki Plummer, head of service – domestic abuse and interpersonal violence

Birmingham Children’s Trust is committed to including the child and family voice as part of the needs assessment process. The Trust planned to conduct a survey with children to inform the evidence of parental conflict in the area. Although it was unable to use the child voice survey in this project, the learning was not lost, and Birmingham Children’s Trust still plans to hear from children as part of its ongoing work:

“To get feedback from somebody who’s experiencing parental conflict would provide richness that is currently missing at the moment with only the practitioner voice.”

— Nikki Plummer, head of service – domestic abuse and interpersonal violence

Next steps

The needs assessment and support mapping work in Birmingham is creating a comprehensive understanding of the local context and will increase understanding of the challenges and the gaps in service provision regarding reducing parental conflict.

Once completed, the findings from the needs assessment will be shared with relevant stakeholders in a final workshop. This will provide an opportunity for feedback and discussion, including how the needs assessment can be used to inform practice and future service planning.

Birmingham plans to continue working closely with partners to raise awareness around parental conflict and its impact on child outcomes. This includes further work engaging fathers and minority ethnic families. Additionally, the Trust is investigating the connection with the needs assessment currently being developed for Family Hubs:

“The project has, and will, provide us with really valuable information to help us better understand the extent of need experienced by children living in households where there is parental conflict and inform how we can strengthen our responses to these families.”

— Graham Tilby, assistant director (safeguarding and partnerships), Birmingham Children’s Trust

About the authors

Robyn Tulloch

Robyn is a project support officer at EIF.

Olivia Martin

Olivia is a local development adviser at EIF.