I feel very strongly that school-based family workers are ideally placed to offer parents support, where there is child to parent violence (CPV). Let me tell you why.
Parents can feel comfortable talking to staff based in schools about a whole range of issues. For many – admittedly not all – there is familiarity with the environment and at primary level particularly there may be known faces in the playground to gravitate to. As well as regular parent evenings and conversations with teachers, parents may have met with other support staff in the past.
For many families this is the first place they would choose to seek advice about parenting issues. See this graph for instance, from the 2011 Family Lives report, When Family Life Hurts (p12), showing the sorts of places that families had initially sought help for the difficulties they were facing.
Similarly, an older survey from 2001, The Home Office Citizenship Survey: people, families and communities, found that 55% of parents were aware of schools as a source of information on bringing up children, second after healthcare, and that of parents who received help from educational establishments, 84% reported finding it helpful.
School may be the first place that difficulties are recognised or named. While some children will confine the harmful behaviours to home, others will be acting out their anger and distress within the classroom, leading to opportunities to work together with parents to try to understand what is happening and how to help everyone involved. Or a child may be refusing to get out of bed and come to school, alerting the authorities that all is not well. I spent many years from 1993 working in schools in different guises, for some of the time with the organisation School Home Support. It was not unusual to hear from parents asking for help with a child who was “out of control” or who refused to get out of bed in the morning, or where teachers asked for help to prevent a child’s exclusion; and where the more obvious suggestions had already been tried to no avail. As a consequence, it did not come as a surprise to learn that one of the first support programmes for families experiencing CPV in Britain, PEACE, had arisen in schools in the Wirral.
As an almost universal service, schools can potentially reach the most families in need of help. Increasingly practitioners of many disciplines are based there to support a family’s wellbeing as well as a child’s learning and it is possible to work with a family earlier on to help prevent problems becoming entrenched. This might mean running support groups for parents experiencing child to parent violence on site, or one to one sessions, or an awareness raising session and signposting to services. There is space to work with young people on their relationships generally, and to offer individual counselling where there are concerns. It was great to read the recent blog from PEGS. Michelle was invited to take part in a school’s virtual SEND conference for parents, at which she spoke about CPV and the types of help available, including from PEGS.
Practitioners based in schools cannot do this on their own of course, but they hold a key piece of the jigsaw and have significant knowledge of families which may stretch back generations. Working together with other professionals they can help to bring hope and safety to families affected.