Parental conflict is harming children during the pandemic

Families suffering from substance abuse, experiencing financial pressures and other challenges will be able to seek help via the Reducing Parental Conflict Programme 

Baroness Deborah Stedman-Scott
Saturday 09 January 2021 14:44 GMT
The Reducing Parental Conflict Programme aims to help families through their challenges during the pandemic
The Reducing Parental Conflict Programme aims to help families through their challenges during the pandemic (Getty Images)

Supporting families is at the heart of everything we do in government, and where we can step in to change lives for the better, we will.

That’s why I am announcing an £11m cash boost to promote healthier relationships between parents and help children get the best possible start in life through our Reducing Parental Conflict Programme.

Conflict between parents can harm a child’s mental health and life outcomes, including everything from school grades to job prospects. Research has shown that while some friction between parents is normal, when it becomes frequent, intense and unresolved, it can have long-lasting effects on children – even if the parents are separated.

Sadly, around half of children living in separated families are likely to be exposed to such conflict between their parents. Research by the Early Intervention Foundation suggests that children with both parents out of work are twice as likely to experience relationship distress as those whose parents are both working.

The Reducing Parental Conflict Programme currently works with almost 150 councils across England to find new ways of helping parents address the underlying issues of conflict. And it works in part because we refer parents through local services they already use, such as health and social services.

Every day, this programme is finding better ways to help motivate parents to make positive changes for their families. In one example, our Challenge Fund project #SeeItDifferently uses a series of videos to put parents into their children’s shoes, to experience their distress during heated arguments. Parents then watch how it could have played out more positively for their child if they had listened to and understood each other better.

These videos are also being used to help separated parents see the value in working more constructively ahead of court hearings, including contact proceedings. This is just one of many ways we are building our support into existing services.

We know that every family is different and conflict can stem from many things – from substance abuse to financial pressures, unemployment or even a parent’s own negative experiences growing up.

In one of our cases, a father’s binge drinking after work began to seriously affect his partner and three young children. He was sometimes found passed out, leaving the mum in a constant cycle of worry and picking up more parenting responsibilities, while balancing her own self-employment. It began to impact the family’s finances and they’d constantly argue in front of the kids.

Through the programme’s therapy and family fun days, both parents came to understand each other’s difficulties, and found better ways to communicate and to co-parent.

We also recognise that lockdown has brought new challenges for families and support such as this is more important than ever. That’s why we’ve ensured all of the programmes can be delivered virtually and have trained frontline staff to spot the signs of domestic abuse so any parent in danger gets specialist support.

This multi-million-pound programme has a vital role play as we do everything we can to help children everywhere get the best start in life. There are no easy answers to parental conflict, but we have never been better prepared to step up and help.

Baroness Deborah Stedman-Scott is Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in