I do love a good coincidence! It seems we are in CPV conference season at the moment, just as the political parties get going on theirs, but more impressively, the themes that are emerging for me resonate from one event to the next.
I attended the Break4Change Annual Network Event in Brighton in September, and one of the key themes of the day was the need for collaboration across services in the delivery of support for families experiencing child to parent violence. Ideally, this was seen as taking place in a multi-disciplinary project, such as B4C Brighton where Children’s Services, the Youth Offending Service, Rise (domestic abuse) and AudioActive (an arts and media charity) not only work together on a day-to-day basis but are all represented on the Steering Group. More particularly to this project, it was considered that it should be embedded in the local authority in order to be delivered effectively.
As has been attested at other events as well, such as the Respect Young People’s Practitioner Day in Gateshead at the end of September, bringing together expertise from across agencies makes best use of the range of knowledge and skill sets, it establishes the programme very firmly within people’s minds across the whole area – and it spreads the funding issue out neatly! Funding is always going to be a huge issue for a field of work that falls outside the statutory offer. Some areas have been more successful with this than others, but all must feel vulnerable with the latest news of potentially savage cuts to Early Help services next year. It is a tragedy that services which can potentially save thousands through avoiding reception into care are slashed, creating further demand once a situation reaches crisis and more drastic action is needed to support a family.
Capacity is another theme that comes up again and again. Across the country, this is being addressed in a range of ways, sometimes by training a large number of practitioners who are available for sessional work, sometimes by skilling up the workforce generally, and sometimes by dedicated teams who focus on this area of work exclusively. Each has its own pros and cons, but there is an overwhelming sense that it is impossible to meet the need at the current rate of work. As awareness is raised, more and more referrals come in, and some practitioners spoke of not needing to advertise at all because of demand from current caseloads within their own service.
Facilitating engagement – by both parents and young people – can be a worry. It was recognised that there is no single typical scenario. Often parents will be desperate for help, but there are occasions when they might have difficulty in conceiving of their experience as abusive, or it might that they find it easier to locate the problem within the child rather than the relationship. While many practitioners speak of the young person’s own shame at their actions – and a desire to change – it can be difficult to persuade them over the threshold initially. Projects such as Break4Change include a ‘creative element’, partly as a tool in its own right, but also very specifically to create a more ‘young person friendly’ atmosphere. Above all though, developing relationships with individuals was recognised as key in this respect, and having the time necessary to do this.
With statements such as “I have never been so exhausted,” and “You never sleep after a course,” the importance of supervision cannot be over-emphasised. Many people speak of the impact of working with such painful and difficult situations and of needing a way to contain and process their own responses. Having this written in as part of the programme was seen as vital to ensuring the space and time for it to happen.
So, two conferences down, more to come! I look forward to making more connections between the work going on around the country, and to thinking about what we can all learn from each other.