One of the UK’s leading parenting experts warns that front line professionals need knowledge of at least three evidence based parenting models, such as those announced as part of the Government’s ‘Can Parent’ initiative, for greatest impact to be achieved.
Evidence based parenting schemes are being rolled out across the UK and are achieving impressive results – prompting the Government to fund pilots in Middlesbrough, London and Derbyshire. But Middlesex University Professor of social work research Lynn McDonald told delegates at a UK wide conference, that managers and commissioners within public authorities must do everything possible to equip practitioners (such as teaching assistants, social workers and health visitors) with more comprehensive training.
Professor McDonald, responsible for the FAST parenting programme in the UK – one of a number of ‘Can Parent’ partners, said: “We are now in a good position in that evidence based parenting programmes have been adopted and we have seen some incredible results from these. But while it’s common for practitioners in health, social care and education to be trained in one of these schemes, we need people trained in at least three evidence based programmes.”
“Rather than looking for a one size fits all approach, there are many different approaches and not all will be appropriate for every situation. Professionals need to have the means to evaluate programmes to ensure they deliver the proven benefits of academic achievement, social inclusion and family wellbeing.”
Professor McDonald suggests that professionals working with and for children need to take an active role in analysing the different programmes. With a full range of knowledge, professionals can then compare the aims, theories, delivery method and how socially inclusive they are.
“The effect on the families, schools and healthcare system when we get it right is remarkable. We’ve had moving testimonies from schools which have seen significant developments in terms of children’s behaviour and parents’ integration after these programmes. We must ensure that we do not waste this fantastic opportunity to make a difference to society and most importantly the lives and prospects of the families involved.”
The ‘Evidence-based Parenting Programme and Social Inclusion’ conference was held on 20 Sept at Middlesex University’s campus in Hendon, London, in partnership with The British Psychological Society.
Dr Fabian Davis of the British Psychological Society told the audience of health, social care, and education managers and practitioners about his organisation’s work to ensure that parenting programmes were socially inclusive. Dr Davis’s presented the key findings from a report he co-wrote, with Professor McDonald and Nick Axford (Social Research Unit), which is available as a download.
Other speakers included Chris Wellings of Save the Children UK, key partners in rolling out Middlesex University’s Families and Schools Together (FAST) parenting programme across the UK, funded both by Save the Children and via the Government’s Can Parent Scheme.
Photo: Middlesex University Professor of social work research Lynn McDonald speaking at the conference