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Project update: Improving parenting support in Lambeth and Southwark

The Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities (SFSC) team have been involved in an innovative project over the last three months to explore how we might continue to improve the uptake and impact of parenting programmes in Lambeth and Southwark, supported by the local funder, Impact on Urban Health (IOUH).  The work has been facilitated by Shift Design and saw two parenting programmes and five community representatives come together to explore the subject area.

The research aimed to speak to key people on the ground, including a number of parents (both those who had attended parenting programmes to those who chose not to attend a course, to those who had never heard of them), venues where parenting programmes might run, referral agencies, commissioners of services and community organisations. The research was entirely co-produced by the co-leads which meant as a group we decided on which kinds of parents to speak to and who were the key local stakeholders we wanted to involved in the conversation. As a result we identified gaps in knowledge that saw us prioritise engagement of African, African Caribbean and Latin American parents, young parents (under 25), dads, and LGBTQ+ parents, as well as decide what questions we wanted to ask them.

We ended up speaking to 28 parents (the majority of whom ticked at least one of the aforementioned groups) and from this we analysed the interview transcripts and identified the key themes.  We used these themes to highlight a series of hypothesis which we then tested with the 15 stakeholders we interviewed.  We wanted to know if what parents had told us about what the problems were and what would make a difference to the uptake of parenting programmes, was supported by others in the parenting space and interrogate why things that had long been accepted as good practice (offering programmes outside of office hours for example) were not always commonplace. We also held a focus group with the teams from both parenting programmes (SFSC and EPEC) to reflect on the findings from the conversations we had held so far.  

All the interviews were carried out by the team of co-leads  which included, myself, Bernadette and Joy from the SFSC team. We ended the process by developing a massive visual loop helping us to answer numerous ‘How might we….’ questions, posed around doing things differently to improve uptake and impact of parenting programmes.  Everything we did was shared across all the co-leads and the funder in a transparent and collaborative way, using a massive Miro board and creating a visual record of the research and our methodology. The findings are being written up and will be presented back to the funder and those who participated in January.

As well as learning a lot from this project, from how to use Miro boards really well to work together, to how much parenting programmes can benefit from communication and collaboration (despite being forced to compete with one another in the funding and delivery market place quite often), to how crucial community projects are in reaching the families we want to support and how often they are not kept in the loop; we also had much confirmed about what good practice looks like with parents and what needs to be done to be truly inclusive. It was good to have our own practice with SFSC vindicated. 

It felt really worthwhile to work in this way and we are glad that IOUH supported this research in Lambeth and Southwark; however, the really important work is yet to come.  We hope that all those involved in funding and delivering parenting support take notice of the findings when they are released and make the kind of system-wide changes and investment in parenting programmes that are really necessary to provide the kind of service that families want and need.

Leandra Box is Programme Manager at the Race Equality Foundation.