Our Capturing the Learning programme has found five elements agreed to be important for effective family support practice and implementation of the Reaching Out, Supporting Families Programme.
1. Understanding the diverse nature of adversity
The families supported are facing a wide range of adversities, including poverty and financial pressures; health issues and disability; trauma; violence and abuse; stigma, exclusion and discrimination.
Combined or intersecting adversities can fuel each other, pushing families further into disadvantage and isolation, compounding their hardship.
2. Partnership with families.
An enabling factor for partnership working with families is adopting a relationship-based approach. Investing time and effort in building and maintaining relationships with families allows them to feel safe and to trust the service.
The voluntary nature of the Programme supports true partnership with families; projects have also developed a range of effective approaches to encourage initial engagement.
Families impacted by multiple sources of disadvantage and adversity are sometimes referred to as “hard to reach”, but this term is problematic. To ensure it is not they who are hard to reach, projects in the Reaching Out, Supporting Families Programme developed services that are simple to access, and flexible in their approach to addressing families’ identified needs. One size does not fit all.
4. Using a ‘whole family’ approach
The Programme is based on a whole family, connected approach which acknowledges that children are part of families, communities, schools, and recognises the fundamental importance of involving that ecology in approaches to supporting families.
5. Working in partnership
Partnership working does not just happen, but needs to be cultivated, invested in and led, even after it has been formally negotiated and agreed. Effective collaboration between family support services – voluntary and statutory – brings rewards for families working with more than one organisation.