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Parenting programme under the microscope

Delivering SFSC in a research study

The Race Equality Foundation’s Strengthening Families Strengthening Communities Programme (SFSC) is currently the subject of a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded research study, led by UCL. 

Supporting programmes to take part in this research has been part of the role of the Race Equality Foundation and its SFSC team.  We have been particularly keen that voluntary and community organisations and facilitators take part in the research, given that they are providing services to the target group of this study, are a key part of the SFSC approach and are often not included in randomised controlled trials.  

Earlier this year, a programme was included in the Together Study that was delivered to the Arabic-speaking community in the London Borough of Westminster. Whilst funding was secured from the local Community Safety Team to provide the programme, it was managed by the Race Equality Foundation and delivered by two community facilitators: Intisar and Ikram, with support from the Together Study team.

One of the major challenges of the study has been to recruit sufficient participants to research sites, because the study’s design requires a waitlist control group and this means recruiting more than twice the number of participants than is usual for any programme. This is where the skills of the community facilitators are crucial,  as they hold such unique connections to local communities and direct and trusted relationships. They also have the community language skills that mean they can explain the study and programme in participants’ home language.

One of the facilitators had been delivering short online courses to parents during the preceding lockdown period and used these contacts to recruit parents.  In addition, by using their networks, presentations were made in various forums, including to the Sudanese and Eritrean communities. As the facilitators were experienced, they were able to present information about SFSC that resonated with the parents they were speaking to, highlighting issues as diverse as mental health, access to children’s services, safeguarding, and the risks of drugs and gangs for young people. These activities, as well as many social media posts and other communications, led to interest in the course. This was supported by incentivising participation through offering vouchers for the completion of questionnaires. In the end, both the intervention and the waitlist groups were consistently well attended and all parents completed the programme.

The facilitators were supported by Jade Briant, Parent Programme Officer at the Race Equality Foundation, to ensure everything was set up in a Covid-safe way.  Facilitators identified a need for SFSC posters in Arabic and Jade arranged for these to be produced. She also liaised with the research team to ensure that communication was clear between all parties. Jade’s experience of running a programme for the study the previous year was invaluable in making the programme a success.

The research team reported that the facilitators taking such an active part in recruitment, with Jade’s support, made for a smooth-running research site. Facilitators were especially good at ensuring all admin was completed for the study in a timely fashion.  Annemarie, the research lead for this study identified it as a “dream group” requiring minimal intervention, where recruitment went smoothly, delivery ran without a hitch and parents reported a rewarding experience, where much was learnt, relationships impacted and community connections made.

Leandra Box is Programme Manager at the Race Equality Foundation and manages the Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities team.