Taking #CPV services online, Part 1

As we entered lockdown in March in the UK, there was significant anxiety initially that families would find it impossible to access the help they needed across many service areas, quickly followed by the development of an online offer, which has continued to evolve and improve over the ensuing months. It is clear that things will remain “different” for a long time, as we get used to living in this new world; but there is already a lot we have learned, and as always we can benefit from sharing and learning together.

In the first of what I hope will be a series of posts exploring taking services online, I bring you an interview / discussion with a team of practitioners in Bedford, using the Who’s In Charge? programme to support families experiencing violence and abuse from their children.

 

What is the programme that you deliver? Can you give a little detail for those unfamiliar with it

The Who’s in Charge? (WIC) parenting programme is designed specifically to support parents where their child/ren are displaying violent behaviours towards them or their siblings, this can be physically, emotionally or psychologically. It is an evidenced based parenting programme developed by Eddie Gallagher and has been designed as a part-therapeutic, part-skills based programme. The programme is designed to challenge deterministic thinking; with the underpinning belief that “parents are part of the solution and not part of the problem”. Four Who’s in Charge? trained facilitators (Rebecca Hall, Heather Noble, Sonia Rai and Julia Weatherill) deliver the programme as part of parenting support offered by the Early Help team at Bedford Borough Council.

 

How does it normally work? What level of communication is there normally between sessions, do you check in, is there always some online / phone contact?

The Early Help Parenting team receives referrals from a variety of professionals to work with families in need of support from the WIC programme. Referrals are made to the Early Help Allocation Panel  through an Early Help Assessment, as an outcome of a Team Around the Family meeting or a social care joint working request or step down request. Following this, Rebecca contacts all families via telephone and/or email to outline the programme in greater detail and to talk through what is happening for them within their family at present. Once a family accepts a place on the course, an information pack is sent out with all of the handouts for each week of the programme. Accompanying this is a letter outlining the information of the group facilitators, session details and so on. We will make contact with a parent in-between sessions if a parent would like to talk something over in more detail or if a parent has seemed to be particularly upset during one of the sessions.

 

With lockdown, one of the first things that happened was a sense that it would be difficult for people in trouble to access help. How did you / your organisation get things moving after lockdown?

As a Borough we have been very proactive in creating a robust parenting offer to parents across Bedford. We identified that we were able to deliver WIC online: all families who were referred to the programme were contacted and offered the option of  completing the programme virtually via Zoom.

We have offered a virtual run through for parents who have been nervous about accessing the programme virtually.

“As we implemented this quite early on in lockdown it has been successful. I feel that the parents we have had in the zoom discussion have been more open and comfortable via zoom than they would be in person and probably because they are in the comfort of their own homes” said Sonia.

A number of options were also offered to those parents who did not feel comfortable completing the programme on line, these have included:

  • being able to complete a face to face group when it is safe to do so
  • accessing our parent led Triple P online programme (3-12yr olds and 13-18yr olds)
  • accessing one-off Triple P webinars on a variety of different topics including managing challenging behaviours; managing fighting and aggression, reducing family conflict and coping with teenagers’ emotions
  • sign-posting and linking in with voluntary organisations who have delivered webinars for SEN children with violent and challenging behaviours

 

What are you currently offering? How is it different? How is it the same?

We are still offering the same number of sessions and have tried to accommodate families with small children by adapting start and finish times, which has worked well. Normally we would stick with the same times if sessions are face-to-face.

Many parents commented that “they preferred sessions online because they are at home, don’t need to find childcare and can be available for their children who are just in the next room” adds Julia.

 

What would you say you have learned from the experience?

“I have learnt that we are all very adaptable; as a practitioner I have really enjoyed doing the virtual WIC programme, I was initially worried about levels of engagement and technical difficulties, however in reality our groups have been fantastic and all participants have shared more openly”, says Rebecca.

“I have learnt that there are always other options when restrictions such as lockdown apply to help the families at the most vulnerable times in their lives. Parents are living with their children 24/7 so are more likely to put strategies into place sooner as they are more available. It has been discussed that maybe once or twice a year we could hold an in-person coffee morning where parents could meet each other and create a support network” adds Sonia

I have learnt that we are all very adaptable

“I have learnt that WIC online is not much different to our face-to-face programme: parents still engage really well, they do not talk over each other, (they are patiently waiting for their turn to speak, parents are apologising to each other if they accidently interrupt someone), they are still supporting each other, sharing ideas and reassuring each other. To be honest, by the third week I almost forget that all of these parents are not in the room with me, it feels natural as it would normally be if we are all together in one room” says Julia

“Having had a lifelong dislike of online technology I have learned that with a bit of practice it’s not that bad after all! I actually enjoy delivering the program virtually, it seems more relaxed which makes it easier for parents to engage with the material,” says Heather

 

What things will you change for good as you continue to offer support in future?

“I would like to continue to offer the programme virtually as well as in person, this provides greater access and opportunity to reach as many families as we possibly can. We work with a number of families who might have childcare difficulties, find it hard to travel or who are extremely anxious about leaving their homes or having to physically walk into a group. Virtual programmes are a way of bridging the gap for these families” explains Rebecca

“I would like to think that we could offer WIC sessions in person when we are allowed to and WIC sessions online for parents who have no childcare and have to stay at home. This way everyone gets an equal opportunity to access the support” says Sonia

This provides greater access and opportunity to reach as many families as we possibly can.

 

What do you worry about most?

We definitely must continue face-to face parenting programmes, not move every service online

“I worry that people will become more anxious and not want to leave the house as they are now accessing services online” says Sonia

“Face-to-face parenting programmes have various purposes, one of them meeting with people who are going through similar difficulties. They are also valuable for people who feel lonely and isolated and need to have support network. We also need to remember those parents who have social anxiety and it is beneficial for them to make small steps to overcome it by attending small groups. With that in mind, we definitely must continue face-to face parenting programmes and not move every service online” adds Julia

 

What has surprised you?

“The commitment of parents has surprised me and how well people have engaged in this programme. We have made ourselves more available and this could be why parents are so engaging” says Sonia

“The support the parents still give each other online really surprised me, I thought it would be stiff and business like but it might actually be just as powerful as parents feel safer as they are in their own homes, comfortable and not worrying about their children. I was also surprised how easy it was to co-facilitate but perhaps that is because we are all very supportive of each other and as we all trained at the same time, found a natural way of working together” adds Heather.

 

What advice would you offer to other people thinking about offering help online?

“Go for it! Do not suffer in silence, we are all in this together and it’s important that we work with parents to shape what you’re doing to meet their needs. It is a learning curve but barriers can be overcome and it will work well” says Sonia

If parents who live with an abusive child can do it … then I can put up with being a little bit uncomfortable in front of the camera!

“I think the lockdown created opportunities for all of us to think outside the box and helped me personally come out of my comfort zone to try things I would normally be uncomfortable with (like presenting WIC programme online and see other people watching me, also watching myself talk would normally make me blush and feel VERY uncomfortable), but it was amazing how quickly I got used to it. What helped me continue with the group is the sense of being helpful to parents who are struggling with their children and who wanted to try anything to make it better for their families and if parents who live with an abusive child can do it (come to the group online and share their difficulties with people they had just met), then I can put up with being a little bit uncomfortable in front of the camera. I also have a sense of achievement, I can’t believe I can use Zoom, something I did not even know existed back in February!!!!” shares Julia

“Have a practice, get to know how the video conferencing Platform operates, YouTube has tutorials. The more comfortable YOU are, the more comfortable the parents will be. I would suggest sending the online invites out 24-48 hours before the group. Any closer to the group and some parent might have become anxious they have not got it but any longer than 48 hours they might lose the email or forget about the group” says Heather

 

Is there anything you would like to tell funders or commissioners?

Who is in Charge? is a very helpful and vital programme that needs to be advertised everywhere so parents can access this and know there is light at the end of the tunnel and they are not alone in parenting. If you would like further information on how to access the Who’s in Charge in Bedford Borough, please email parenting.referrals@bedford.gov.uk.

 

It is so encouraging to hear about how services have adapted, keeping in mind the needs of families – and about how we are all able to learn from the current situation about ourselves and our own skills if we are open to do so! 

If you are thinking of taking a service online, but not sure how to go about it, I hope this might have been helpful. For more information about the safeguarding aspects of working online, do check out the guidance from Digisafe.  For more information about the Who’s in Charge? programme generally, check out the website run by the team in the UK. 

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CPV Lockdown Reflections #2

As we emerge out of lockdown in Britain, I have been musing about what we’ve learned in this period about the issue of child to parent violence and abuse, and about some possible answers to the kinds of questions we are always being asked: Is it getting worse, why is it getting worse – you know the ones!

Each of us has experienced lockdown in a unique way, according to our circumstances, but there are many commonalities. People have reported poor or troubled sleep, the intensity of living in close quarters with the same people and the “pressure cooker” effect as tensions build; the anguish of not being able to touch or hold people we are close to, not feeling able to comfort people in distress, increased anxiety with loss of control over our situation and lives. Many people have also experienced bereavement, financial difficulties or poverty of resources. Some have seen a huge increase in work and all that brings, while others have been left wondering about their long term employment. There have been concerns about the length of time children are spending on their screens, and about the mental health of both old and young. For some there has been the stress of supporting school work, for others the relief of fewer demands to comply with rules and expectations. There has been a notable rise in reports of domestic abuse during this period, and, alongside greater interest in the media, more people have come forward too to talk about the abuse they experience from their own children.

So, while we wait for the results of the various pieces of research, what can we draw out of this in an admittedly anecdotal way? Here are my tentative proposals:

  1. Loss/lack of control over your environment is extremely stressful
  2. Stress is indeed a factor in children’s abuse of their parents
  3. Increase in stress is likely to make the abuse worse and may be the start of abuse for some families
  4. Different families find different things stressful
  5. Changes in society have impacted on how families relate to each other
  6. The thing about not being able to hold people and be held. This has made me think more about children in school particularly who may use behaviour to “get attention” even to the point of “restraint”

In the past (BC!) I would have offered a vague answer to the question of whether CPV is getting worse – about  not knowing for sure because the data is so thin, and maybe talked about changes in society that have taken place that may offer some insight into different pressures faced by families. Now I believe we are able to offer more definitive answers and commentary.  Looking at the different characteristics, and trigger points, we can start to see how important it is to know the family’s individual circumstances, how there are very many different contributory factors, and how these work together. This is not particularly new understanding, but the new world situation and the new observations have offered confirmation of what many people have long suspected or suggested.

And some other thoughts:

  1.  Not being able to access a face-to-face service has added to stress for some families
  2. Many agencies have found that the move to an online offer went more smoothly than they had feared, but this depends on technological resources and skills.
  3. Some services were already operating online and this has underlined the potential effectiveness of this model
  4. Training opportunities have blossomed as services went online, along with greater access and affordability! Is this the way ahead?

As we embark on the long summer holidays, some parents are already tweeting about their anxieties facing six weeks with everyone at home again and fewer opportunities for activities and holiday clubs to keep everyone amused than in the past. As schools plan for return in September, there remains great uncertainty about what this will look like. Different headteachers have different priorities and philosophies, which will either encourage parents to think that everything will be OK, or drive more people in to exploring home-schooling full time. Will there be a second spike and lockdown? Is this with us for the long haul? What lies ahead? What can we take from this new understanding as we move forward?

We will shortly have the benefit of much COVID-specific research to add to our bag. And we have opportunities now to build on the coverage we have received, and the knowledge we have developed. We must not lose the momentum, but work now for the next stage of understanding, resourcing and provision!

 

 

 

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Does the Domestic Abuse Bill go far enough in addressing adolescent to parent abuse?

Coinciding with the third reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill in Parliament, Caroline Miles and Rachel Condry argue that, as it stands,  it represents a missed opportunity in the development of understanding of and provision for families experiencing adolescent to parent violence. (published July 6th 2020)

Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-2021: Does the inclusion of ‘relatives’ go far enough in addressing the issue of adolescent to parent violence?

 

  • The Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-2021 covers violence and abuse from children (aged 16 and over) towards their parents but stops short of identifying violence from children towards parents as a specific subtype of domestic abuse.
  • The omission risks adult to parent violence remaining an invisible phenomenon that is not readily identified, recorded or counted, and also misses an opportunity to develop a national policy response.
  • The Bill creates an offence covering 16-18 year old perpetrators but no guidance as to what police powers should be used to deal with domestic violence and abuse by children, especially when perpetrated towards parents.
  • There needs to be a coherent and strategic police response to adult to parent violence, which addresses the needs of parents but also recognises the safeguarding needs of adolescents.

Read the full blog on the University of Manchester website here.

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Behavioural Science and Child to Parent Violence

I am pleased to publish this blog from Eleanor Haworth of Adoption UK, about her interest in Behavioural Science and what we can take from this to aid our understanding of child to parent violence and abuse. You will also find it published on the Adoption UK website. 

I am a great fan of behavioural science. I love the idea of using gentle linguistic and behavioural nudges to move us all forward, rather than the world being governed by big, bureaucratic, behemoth systems. You might question what connection this could possible have to the issue of child to parent violence. You would not be alone in suggesting that I am making an outlandish connection, this is sort of my stock in trade. However, I am begging your indulgence and asking you to bear with me on this one. I promise there is a connection, really. Behavioural science is clever and complicated and I am sure that it is beyond my humble powers to explain. However, the key elements that I think are essential to a discussion of child to parent violence are fascinating. Continue reading

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#CPV Resources for Practitioners

The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare in Victoria has taken a strong interest in the issue of child / adolescent to parent violence and abuse, recognising gaps in knowledge and understanding through their work on Family Violence. “Funded by Family Safety Victoria (FSV) and in consultation with Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic), the Centre is leading this state-wide initiative aimed at identifying, translating and embedding the best available research and practice expertise to build the evidence base in relation to adolescents who use violence in the home.” The project aligns with recommendations in the Royal Commission into Family Violence and Roadmap for Reform: Strong Families, Safe Children, about bridging knowledge gaps and providing appropriate supportive interventions which recognise that young people can simultaneously cause harm and require care and support themselves. Continue reading

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Lockdown reflections

It’s been a few weeks since I posted anything here (though I’ve been busy on other pages) but I thought I would treat you today to some ramblings and reflections. Like many people I am sure, over the last 3 months I have experienced both periods of intense, pressured work to tight deadlines, and days of feeling bereft of direction and purpose. Conferences, training events and report launches have been cancelled, and it is too easy to forget the hours of work and preparation that will have gone in to them by all involved. For some families, lockdown has brought a relief as stresses have been removed, and more harmonious relationships are formed and developed. For others the pressure cooker environment has increased fear and risk. Practitioners have been forced in to new ways of working – at short notice and without always having the kit or the skills – and yet some of those ways have paid dividends as they have learned to communicate with young people electronically – on their own “territory” – for a change. Being in Lockdown has intensified the sense of importance of what we do, but also the despair that things take so long to accomplish. Continue reading

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Violence to grandparents in kinship care roles

The show must go on as they say, and so the launch of findings from a research project investigating violence towards grandparents took place this week with all the requisite fanfare – but online rather than as originally envisaged! Perhaps it is a metaphor for the situation experienced by the 27 grandparents interviewed for this study by Dr Amanda Holt and Dr Jenny Birchall, in that their life had taken a sudden and often dramatic change of course with the arrival of the grandchildren they were caring for. Continue reading

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You take into this pandemic the risk you carried with you.

There has been much discussion about the increase in domestic abuse that has been seen and documented around the world, as country after country has responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by locking down the population. A less discussed aspect of violence within the family in the past, but one which is increasingly receiving attention, is that of child to parent violence, with people now asking how quarantining and isolation are impacting this group of families. I am pleased to bring this guest post, discussing this issue, from Eleanor Haworth of Adoption UK. Eleanor is Director for Service Delivery at the charity. With her social work background as well, I am hopeful that we can start to see a greater influence in this area of practice. 

 

Professor David Spiegelhalter has one of the best job titles in the world, he is a “Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk.”  I was listening to him talking on the radio, and he has a calm and reassuring manner. He does not patronise, but he convinces me that I can understand complex statistics. This is not something that my school mathematics teachers ever accomplished. Continue reading

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An important message from the adoption community. 

Sue Armstrong Brown, CEO of Adoption UK, wrote on their website this week about the potentially devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown for families. Reassuringly, she also writes about the growth of online support, including the provision of therapies, and peer to peer work. Getting help early is important at the best of times, but even more so now, while so many families find themselves facing additional day to day stresses.  

The Support Gap

The past six weeks have taught us more about adoption support than the previous year. It’s been a deeply uncomfortable experiment into what happens to adoptive families when social, medical and academic infrastructure is disrupted, family routines are upended, pressure on relationships goes up and respite goes down.

This is what we’ve learned. Continue reading

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Responding to CCVAB / CPV: developing a dataset

The absence of consistent, reliable, and comparable incidence data in the field of child / adolescent to parent violence and abuse is not simply frustrating; it presents a significant barrier to raising awareness and the development of a comprehensive response system. It is not only that we have no solid figures to offer, but that there is no widely adopted method of counting in the first place, compounded by the understandable reluctance of families to seek help and become one of those statistics. A new piece of research from CEL&T and Northumbria University in conjunction with Northumbria Police, released this week, sought to develop a dataset which could be adopted easily, and would provide vital information about those young people coming to the attention of the police in order to better inform the development of services. This particular piece of work is one of the strands coming out of the 2016 DHR into the death of ‘Sarah’. The research, and subsequent report, uses the term CCVAB: Childhood challenging violent or aggressive behaviour. The findings were presented to the police on Friday, 24th April by Al Coates, Dr Wendy Thorley, and Jeannine Hughes; and released to the public on Monday 27th. Continue reading

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