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The Parents Plus ‘Parenting When Separated Programme’ Case Study
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The Parents Plus ‘Parenting When Separated Programme’ Case Study

The Parenting When Separated Programme is a practical and positive evidence-based programme for parents who are preparing for, going through, or have gone through a separation or divorce. It helps parents to develop co-parenting skills, listen to and focus on the needs of their children, help their children cope and thrive, as well as cope themselves. 

Where is this programme running?

The Parents Plus – Parenting When Separated programme is run by an increasing number of Local Authorities throughout the UK under the Reducing Parental Conflict programmes. It runs in some Family Hubs and in other services offering family support in the community. See the Case Study below from Jackie Liddell who is a Family Support Practitioner in Northumberland County Council area.

A Case Study from Northumberland County Council

In the North-East of England four Local Authority and County Council areas, including Northumberland, South Tyneside, Newcastle, and Gateshead, have come together as a region to avail of training in and rolling out the Parenting When Separated programme under the RPC, through Early Help and Family Hubs. 

Jackie Liddell, Practice and Project Development Worker, Northumberland Family Hubs, Northumberland County Council, has given their experience of the Parenting When separated programme including the impact for her as a practitioner and for the families attending:

“I have run Parents Plus, Parenting When Separated Programmes since 2019. The programme consists of one two-hour session each week for six weeks. The programmes I’ve run have been predominantly virtual, but we have also delivered it face-to-face. 

Thanks to the programme, parents learn to separate personal thoughts and feelings in order to put the needs of the child first. They also feel less stressed about attending joint appointments and at handovers. Parents felt that their relationships with their children improved as a result of working more harmoniously with the other parent.

One Dad reported having difficulties with his ex-partner where he couldn’t bring himself to speak with her at handovers. After one particular session, he said it had “dawned” on him that he didn’t have to like or agree with his ex-partner, but by being polite and calm when speaking with her, the level of stress and anger at handovers was significantly reduced. He also explained that because he wasn’t “prepared for battle”, his child was less emotional and anxious when being picked up or dropped off. As a result, they were able to communicate about other things without arguing in front of the child.

For us in Northumberland County Council and our parents attending the programmes Parents Plus has impacted on several levels:

  • The therapeutic value of parents meeting together in a group is the golden thread throughout the sessions.
  • It is for universal and targeted families so this gives a nice mix of experiences within the group format.
  • You can adapt the sessions to fit the needs of the parents’ circumstances so that it is more bespoke to them and the situation – for example, involving family court or substance misuse.
  • The sessions support the parents and help them refocus on the experience and needs of the child.
  • The mid-term review of parent progress is great to keep parents focused.
  • It gives the parents a space to hear other parents’ experiences which can help them to put their own circumstances into perspective.
  • Great evaluation tools are provided.
  • There is high quality supervision for facilitators post training.

As with any intervention there are challenges to be overcome when implementing this medium intensity programme. Getting parents to sign up and commit to the six weeks can sometimes be difficult but meeting them individually in advance and helping them understand what the programme outcomes are and how attending can help them in their goals around managing conflict and preventing the potential negative impacts on their children.

Overall, for me as a practitioner, I value this programme as I have watched it give so many parents an opportunity to have a voice and be heard and their experiences acknowledged. Something so simple makes such a difference to the confidence of parents. The parent book is a great addition too – it’s something that belongs to the parent that they can write in and refer back to. The Parents Plus team has been great to work with – responsive, supportive, and knowledgeable.

NameJackie Liddell
ProgrammeParents Plus – Parenting When Separated
Job titlePractice and Project Development Worker 
LocationNorthumberland Family Hubs
AreaNorthumberland County Council 

Training for Practitioners

Parents Plus www.parentsplus.ie offers training and programme materials for professionals looking to deliver this programme in their services supporting families navigating the often-difficult territory of separation and divorce.

In the training, practitioners will learn how to support parents to: 

  • Solve co-parenting problems in a positive way that tunes into the needs of their children
  • Help their children cope, both emotionally and practically 
  • Enhance communication with their children and with their children’s other parent 
  • Improve and maintain the quality of their parenting 
  • Manage the stresses and changes in their children’ s life, post separation 
  • Cope with the emotional impact of separation and learn stress management for themselves
  • Deal with the challenges of lone parenting or being a ‘live away’ parent 

Using a solution focused model, drawing on parent’s strengths, the programme can be delivered over 6 weeks in small groups (usually 12 parents attending) or with individuals. 

Parents Plus – Evidence and Impact 

In a large-scale study of primary care, mental health and community settings families who completed our Parenting When Separated Programme reported:

  • Reduction in inter-parental conflict
  • Decrease in child behaviour problems
  • Decrease in parental adjustment problems
  • Increase in parental satisfaction
  • Increase in goal attainment for parents and children

In 2016, Professor of Clinical Psychology, Alan Carr, University College Dublin, published a wider meta-analysis of the Parents Plus evidence base, which included over 1,000 families, concluding that the Parents Plus has a significant positive impact on family relationships, parent stress levels, satisfaction and child behaviour problems. https://www.parentsplus.ie/parentsplus-research/

You can learn more about the impact of the Parenting When Separated programme and all our other programmes here

The programmes follow international best-practice guidelines as described by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence in the UK, and have been independently reviewed by the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF), NHS Education for Scotland (NES) and the National Parenting Academy (NPA).

Our next Parenting When Separated Programme training is scheduled for February 2nd, 8th, and 9th,

Additional Information

To discuss how you can achieve the best outcomes in your agency and to discuss commissioning our training and make bookings please go to www.parentsplus.ie or contact +353 1 8545185 / or email vicki@parentsplus.ie for further info.

Please feel free to download the case study below or share it with your professional networks.

Read a Reflection from the Children’s Disability Network Team at the Wicklow Primary Healthcare Centre, who have been at the forefront of delivering the Parents Plus Special Needs Programme since it was launched in September 2020

Empowering Parents and Carers