The Brighton and Hove Argus recently published an article about the Break4Change project as part of a domestic violence feature.
Break4Change, addressing parent abuse, has now run 6 successful courses, with the 7th due to start in October in Brighton. The model, which includes work with parents and young people separately, and places high value on restorative features, is the subject of an ongoing evaluation by researchers at Brighton University, and interest has been sparked around the world, in countries as diverse as Sweden and Bulgaria, Spain and Ireland.
The article in the Argus is, to put it bluntly, rather sensationalist. I’m not sure that this does the cause any good as it seems to me more likely that readers will find it too hard to believe. It is a shame that there was not more focus on the real positive outcomes of the work. Martyn Stoner, parenting lead for the Youth Offending Service, and project leader, has sent me, with permission, the following two responses to the article.
Great article! Single parents can be men or women of any age; perhaps lone parenting due to being widowed young, abandoned or a victim of domestic violence themselves; some are even grandparents, friends or neighbours. Each case is different and unique. To make such sweeping comments about single parents shows a lack of education of the real issues faced by this disadvantaged group. Parenting as a couple is challenging; doing it alone is obviously harder. I have attended Break for Change (B4C) with my teenage son; it really helped me deal with his challenging behaviour and achieve more positive outcomes for the 3 of us at home. I am very pleased that such a course is now available to offer much needed support to others. I am aware of the international interest it has caused, as the course is currently unique to Brighton. We should be proud to be the first city to recognise this important issue and be tackling it positively instead of ignoring it. Matters do deteriorate when left hidden. I thank RISE and B4C facilitators for their support. Compassion costs nothing and caring for one’s fellow human being (irrelevant of their circumstance and without judgment on matters many here appear not to understand – ignorance truly is bliss on this matter) is a sign of decent community spirit and a healthy society.
Dear Martyn, Thanks for passing this on. It appears brief but to the point. I am glad B4C got the exposure but it did not reflect your success rate. With out your course I am sure we would not be experiencing the harmony we have in our home at the moment. It made me stronger and showed my child’s behaviour under a microscope. We have just had the best summer ever and we express love and fun so much more. I keep vigilant, clear and boundaried and it works. Jason is maturing into a lovely young man who is managing his feelings so much better and is a pleasure to be with. Thank you all so much for your kind intervention. Regards Shelly
(the names have been changed with the permission of the family)
The evaluation so far has shown some evidence that change is possible even if parents come without their children, which should be of encouragement in situations where young people refuse, or are not ready, to attend. As awareness and interest develops around the country, and indeed the world, Martyn has been called on to deliver presentations to other YOTs as well as for Parenting UK. Funding – as we are all well aware – is a continual headache, particularly in relation to the creative aspects of the work with young people, but also with respect to continuing support longer term for parents. Martyn would like to be able to establish a way of following up families who have attended, in a more formal programme of aftercare. One of the frustrations about being involved in live research, of course, is that it is not possible to make changes to the programme as issues emerge, other than small “tweaks”.
While many referrals come from within the youth justice system and social services, Martyn notes an increasing amount from CAMHS and expressed frustration that, at Break4Change, they do not have the skillset to work with youngsters with pressing mental health needs or diagnoses. We noted the reversal of traffic from the infancy of parent abuse work, when the CAMHS service was often the only agency offering family therapy in this situation.
Running a service such as Break4Change is incredibly demanding. News coverage is so important in bringing the issue to wider attention, but we all need to see and acknowledge the successes to maintain our own sense of momentum. It would be good to think we can see more of this positive side too in future reports.