Relationships Matter - a guide for practitioners

Relationships within families matter and are important for wellbeing, development and life chances.

When disagreements are poorly resolved and/or happen frequently, they can turn into conflict. Whether parents are together or separated, the way they communicate can impact on their children.

Bradford Council have partnered with 14 other Councils across Yorkshire and the Humber Region to help families who may be having relationship difficulties. Part of this work is to provide signposting and guidance to the public on strategies to deal with conflict and to various sources of support, according to need.

The partnership also identifies the important role practitioners play in identifying affected families and guiding them to appropriate support.

Relationships Matter Training

To ensure families are being supported appropriately, Bradford CFT are offering two courses to both internal and external practitioners:

Toolkit training - on completion of this course, practitioners will receive a free family friendly toolkit with resources to help families who need more extensive help

Parent Online Courses - to increase practitioners' knowledge of free online courses available to parents and give them the confidence to signpost towards those courses when appropriate.

The self-reporting questionnaire

The family relationships self-reporting questionnaire should be completed before and after you support a family.

The questions should be answered based on the current situation, not specifically on the day you see the parent but how things have been over the last few weeks. For example, if there has been an argument that day, the questions might be answered differently, therefore it is important to think about how they feel generally.

When completing the questionnaire

You might want to make notes in the relevant boxes of anything mentioned which you can follow up on during your support.

Distinguishing conflict from domestic abuse

The controlling and oppressive nature of domestic abuse means that we could cause survivors harm if we begin RPC work without first ruling out domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Identifying domestic abuse

Look for these presenting issues:

  • Day-to-day unresolved and unresolvable conflicts
  • A clearer 'victim' and 'abuser'
  • Clear 'abuser' and 'victim' who is at significant risk of harm
  • Children being adversely/significantly adversely affected
  • Children may show signs of distress and their mental health/behaviour may/and/or be affected
  • Children at risk of significant harm, children being traumatised

On identifying these issues:

  • Follow the domestic abuse/sexual violence pathway - for more support and information visit Bradford DASV
  • Complete a MARAC referral if appropriate or seek advice if unsure

Families who need advice and signposting

If you observe that:

  • The parental relationship is respectful, equal, co-operative and happy
  • The relationship has tricky moments
  • Children are experiencing constructive resolution of any arguments, characterised by mutual respect and emotional control

These support services and resources might help:

Families who need help

If you observe that:

  • The parental relationship is mostly respectful, equal, co-operative but experiencing difficulty
  • There is a lack of open and honest communication
  • Difficulties are minimised, not recognised or addressed
  • Children are beginning to be affected by conflict between their parents

These actions, support services and resources might help:

Families who need more extensive/goals-based help

If you observe that:

  • The relationship is conflictual, non-communicative but non-violent
  • Conflict is frequent, intense and poorly resolved
  • Conflict can consist of criticism, contempt for one another, defensiveness and deliberately ignoring (stonewalling)
  • Parents are emotionally unavailable to their partner and/or children
  • There is a lack of consistency in parenting
  • There is a feeling of isolation
  • There is a toxic atmosphere
  • Parents are unable to break the cycle of these challenging behaviours without support
  • Children are being adversely affected

These actions, support services and resources might help:

  • Undertake an Early Help Assessment, using the Early Help Assessment Tool (EHAT) to rule out domestic abuse and/or consider a referral for family support
  • Consider a parenting referral after improvements in the couple relationship
  • One Plus One intervention undertaken alongside support from a professional
  • Using the Relationships Matter toolkit (obtained by completing the RM toolkit training)
  • 6 structured sessions on Relationships Matter
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