To help reduce the impact on children of inter-parental conflict, the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) funds a Reducing Parental Conflict programme working with 31 local authorities in England. It supports them to integrate services and approaches for families to reduce parental conflict, and funds training for frontline practitioners and strategic leaders.
Tavistock Relationships, alongside partner organisations, delivers the DWP Reducing Parental Conflict programme in Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Essex, as well as seven London boroughs (Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, Camden, Hammersmith & Fulham, Croydon, Brent, and Lambeth).
Sarah Ingram, Head of Tavistock Relationships’ Reducing Parental Conflict programme, explains: ‘Research shows that exposure to frequent, intense and poorly resolved parental conflict can affect children’s emotional and social development, educational attainment, later employability, and physical and mental health.
‘Our Reducing Parental Conflict programmes are usually delivered face-to-face, but in March the national lockdown forced us to switch the delivery of all support online. This new online approach has reached parents across a far wider geographical spread, improving children’s well-being in the majority of families, and demonstrating that online delivery is as effective as face-to-face working.
‘Problems with distance and parental travel arrangements have been overcome, enabling parents as far north as the remote areas around The Wash, rural parts of North East Essex and the less well-connected parts of Buckinghamshire to receive help. This is a real equalities triumph, as geographical location no longer prevents access and the possibility of positive change.
‘Our mentalisation-based therapy for parents, which is one of the interventions which the Reducing Parental Conflict programme is testing, seeks to address and defuse heightened states of dysregulated emotion, such as hostility and aggression. We have found that the new online approach, with separated parents dialling in from their separate homes, rather than having to sit together in the same room, has proved extremely helpful therapeutically. It reduces the amount and intensity of emotional behaviours which we sometimes see in face-to-face work, and optimises the circumstances under which beneficial work for the parents can take place.
‘Group work interventions have also been put to the test online, and we are heartened to learn they have been very successful with expected outcomes met, and, in some cases, exceeded.’
Established after the Second World War, when traumatised families were in crisis, Tavistock Relationships remains relevant and at the forefront of clinical, research and policy thinking about couples today. The organisation specialises in relationship counselling and psychotherapy, and runs a series of programmes and interventions to support families.
Tavistock Relationships had been offering online therapy as an option since 2016, so when lockdown hit, the charity was quickly able to move all its services online. This year, 95% of its clients expressed satisfaction in relation to their therapeutic contact, a similar level to previous years, when face-to-face delivery was the norm.