The Family Hubs Network has a close relationship with the Reducing Parental Conflict (RPC) programme at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), stemming from the shared desire to reduce family breakdown and improve parental relationships to achieve better outcomes for children. Patrick Myers – Senior Ambassador of the RPC Team – and Amanda Hales-Owen – Regional Integrated Lead – here emphasise the importance of linking RPC training and interventions with Family Hubs. We endorse their call for relationship-based support to be available through Family Hubs in every local authority area.
Patrick Myers is Senior Ambassador of the DWP’s RPC Team
I have been involved in the RPC programme since its conception and am proud to be the ambassador sharing the evidence and encouraging others to support better child outcomes and family functioning in their areas of work. We now know that frequent, intense, and poorly resolved conflict impacts children and, when left unchallenged, casts a long shadow.
I have been reading Gabor Maté’s book When the Body Says No – The Cost of Hidden Stress and there is one story of a girl whose asthma flared up when remembering the scars from childhood conflict.
When I was young, I operated in fear of the anger that was displayed. I was never hit, but there was a lot of anger around my family – my fathers and my brothers. My mother was complicit in this. She did not defend me from the anger. The anger was not necessarily directed at me it was around me. I felt helpless in all that. Part of my inability to say no has been always the fear of displeasing, of being in difficult situations. Even now, I find it difficult to deal with problematic situations.
The constant presence of anger in the house – even when she was not the target – was enough to cast a persistent shadow over her later life, on both mind and body.
Our programme is about changing children’s experiences so that they do not have to bear the long shadow of emotionally volatile home environments, while working alongside parents to understand the impact of their behaviour on their children. We are pleased that the Government has endorsed the programme through a three-year funding commitment, money which will make children’s lives better and eradicate the long shadow of conflicted and emotionally volatile home environments.
Family Hubs are integral to how we deliver relationship-based support to the parents who are together as well as those who can no longer be together. We need parents to be the best they can be so that their children can flourish and thrive, which comes from the family support services Hubs offer. Reducing parental conflict is only one part of creating nurturing, stable home environments in which children can flourish.
I finish with a poem I wrote on the topic.
About everything and nothing,
Like a pattern, like a habit,
So hard to change for, even for one day,
Questions about our future if it goes on this,
Children never knowing when and how,
We will disagree next, habituating to this norm,
That should never be theirs,
No peaceful childhood, no good role model,
Reactions of their own rage,
At any age,
Because they see not just one day,
But every day, their childhood slipping way,
If it stays the same,
Playing the spiralling game,
Amanda Hales-Owen is the Regional Integrated Lead for the RPC Programme, and Family Hubs Lead within her team at DWP.
I have worked in early help for several years and it is where my substantive post remains. I have always believed that support and services should be where families need them to be, in their local communities. The vision for Family Hubs resonates with my own vision for supporting parents in their relationships whether intact or separated.
I remember very clearly being the only person in a Family Hub at the end of the day and getting ready to leave when a woman turned up in distress. I had no idea what was wrong with her but was able to bring her into a room and make her a cup of tea and sit with her. When she had finished crying, she told me her story. It wasn’t complicated and stemmed from an argument between her and her partner. She didn’t need a referral to be made, she just needed to speak to someone and to feel heard in a safe space. She dried her eyes, thanked me for listening and went to collect her children from her friend. I saw her a few months later and she remembered me and apologised for the previous meeting but also told me how important it was that I was there on that day and that I listened to her.
I am always reminded of this story and the many others I have heard over the years, because they illustrate how Family Hubs offer support to families in the best and worst of times.
We must maximise the support available to families by linking our RPC training and interventions with any Family Hub offer. The sooner we can offer relationship support in our Family Hubs – equipping staff and partners to understand the triggers and warning signs of parental conflict – the sooner we can cast away the long shadow.
In most of our local authorities, someone is appointed to hold responsibility for the authority’s response to the RPC Programme. They liaise with regional integration leads that support them on their journey to integrate RPC into their local service offers. They have read the research and know RPC is not just a parenting programme or parenting support but is vitally important to how families function.
As Family Hubs roll out across the country, local authorities must consider the RPC programme a necessary part of the Family Hub offer, otherwise the long shadow of parental conflict on children and families will never be pushed away.
Patrick Myers and Amanda Hales-Owen can be contacted at: