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Reducing Parental Conflict

12 August 2019 | by Guest

Patrick Myers is a BPS member currently involved with the Department for Work and Pensions as part of its ongoing programme to reduce inter-parental conflict and mitigate its effects on children’s development.

As Assistant Director from Dorset Council Children’s Services Department, currently seconded to work on the government’s Reducing Parental Conflict programme, I want to share with you the aims of the government’s work to reduce parental conflict, as well as the scale of the issue.

Inter-parental conflict that is frequent, intense and poorly resolved is not good for children and can result in negative outcomes that can be felt across the life course.

It can affect their early emotional and social development, their educational attainment, and their later employability - limiting their chances to lead fulfilling, happy lives.

Our goal is to reduce conflict between parents, and we know that this is important whether the child’s parents are together or separated.

We know that sometimes separation can be the best option for a couple but, even then, continued co-operation and communication between parents is better for their children.

Backed by up to £39m, the Reducing Parental Conflict programme is encouraging councils and their partners across England to integrate evidence-based services and approaches to addressing parental conflict that work for their local families.

The government has already announced plans to transform the way we think about and tackle domestic violence and abuse, and the focus of the Reducing Parental Conflict Programme is on conflict below that threshold, ranging from a lack of warmth and emotional distance, right through to swearing, shouting, etc.

And we also know that this is a significant issue. Where a child lives with both parents in the same household, more than one in ten children have at least one parent who reports relationship distress – and children living in workless families are three times more likely to experience parental conflict than in families where both parents are in work.

The poor outcomes for children exposed to parental conflict can also lead to increased pressure on public services, and yet we know that support to reduce parental conflict is not yet fully reflected in the local services offered to families.

Early pilot work with 12 local authorities has informed the various strands of the programme.

There are four primary strands.

  • Funding to support strategic leadership across local authorities’ footprints to make effective plans with partners to address the issues related to inter parental conflict
  • Practitioner training across all 151 local authorities to equip frontline staff with skills and knowledge to help families where conflict is evident
  • 4 areas (30 local authorities) piloting a range of interventions to reduce inter parental conflict with the express intention of improving children’s outcomes
  • Specialist training in those pilot interventions should they prove to be effective

In addition, the department is collaborating with Public Health England and the Department for Health and Social Care on the Innovation Fund for Children of Alcohol Dependent Parents, which has provided nine areas with support to work in this challenging area.

And our £2.2m RPC Challenge Fund is funding 10 innovative projects, to support families who face particular disadvantages, as well as digital support to reduce parental conflict.

As a member of the society and having presented on the programme at the Annual Conference, I am sure this work will be of interest to a range of psychologists who work with families and children.

For further information, please contact me at [email protected]


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