Transcript: Aberlour Glasgow Bridges service

The aim of the service was to develop and deliver interventions with children and parents to improve children's educational, health and well-being outcomes.

Podcast Episode: Aberlour Glasgow Bridges service

Category: Substance misuse 

What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.

CB - Cheryl Burgess
SS - Sandra Sweeten

Child care and protection research collection. Talk by Cheryl Burgess and Sandra Sweeten, recorded 6th March 2012

CB Hello, I’m Cheryl Burgess, I am a Research Fellow in the School of Applied Social Science at Stirling University and I am going to talk to you today about the Aberlour Glasgow Bridges Service. I will also be joined by Sandra Sweeten who is the Service Manager for the service and she will also contribute to the talk. First of all, just a little bit of background by way of setting the context for the service. It’s widely recognised that a significant proportion of adults living in Scotland use drugs and alcohol in a way that has a negative impact on their lives and those of their families. Some of these adults are parents who are responsible for the upbringing of their children and who might be unable to do this effectively due to their drug use, and often because of other problems in their lives. Children affected by problematic parental substance use can also be at high risk of experiencing disadvantages in their health and social wellbeing including low self worth, low self confidence and difficulty in forming positive peer relationships. Improving the educational experience and attainment of children in this situation can help to mitigate the longer term effects of exposure to parental substance abuse. Children living in alcohol and drug using households are vulnerable to poor school attendance, low academic achievement and are often less involved in social and extracurricular activities at school. Research in 2005 in the Glasgow area identified parts of the city where parental drug use was prevalent and undertook a gap analysis to gauge the availability of services in these areas. As a result, local agencies came together and the Glasgow Bridges Service was developed. And now Sandra will tell you a bit about the service.

SS Aberlour Bridges evolved from two well established Trusts - the Robertson Trust and Cash for Kids who came together to support a partnership approach with the Glasgow Addiction Services and what was North Glasgow Community Healthcare Partnership to identify interventions which can make a difference to children affected by problematic parental substance use. The Service was established in the summer of 2008 with the aim of developing and delivering interventions with parents, carers and children which make a difference to the children’s education health and wellbeing outcomes at an early intervention stage. The work with children and families is resilience based and has been informed by the -Getting it Right for Every Child’ framework, with particular emphasis on enhancing protective factors in the areas of education experience and attainment, peer relationships and social networks and activities. Our aim is to provide a needs led flexible service, taking into account that the child is at the centre of the support package at all times, with a focus on the GIRFEC S.H.A.N.A.R.I. Wellbeing Indicators. Our focus is not the parent’s substance use, although we cannot ignore this - we will signpost parents to other appropriate agencies whilst working with them to manage their substance use and increasing their awareness that the impact their substance use and behaviours is having on their child’s development and their relationship with their child.

CB So how did we do the research? Well it was decided to employ an action research approach, and a small team from Stirling University were employed for this. The remit of the actual research was to review and evaluate the work of the service on an ongoing basis and also to develop evidence about what sort of interventions can be effective in improving outcomes for children - also to support changes which other services could make to similarly improve children’s outcomes, and also to embed sustainable evaluation processes within the service. The ongoing role of the action researcher was to act as a critical friend to help staff define their problems and support them in working towards effective solutions using the action research cycle of ‘Planning / Action / Evidence Collection / Reflection’. The methods used for the evaluation element included the collation and analysis of evidence from the following sources - case file examination and collection of qualitative and quantitative data to assess outcomes and evidence the general learning from the service’s work. Also interviews with service staff and service managers, face to face or telephone interviews with referring agents such as social workers and health visitors, and also with seven partnership agency staff. We also two focus groups to try and explore issues about how services intervene early with families. We also interviewed, either individually or in a group, sixteen parents and seventeen children. Sandra is now going to speak to you.

SS I am going to talk about the practice within the Service. I work with families - takes place using a three stage approach. Stage One is Assessment and Care Planning which takes into consideration the areas of a child’s development, both the child and parent’s resilience and parenting capacity. Stage Two is what we would term our ‘intensive intervention stage of support for children and families’, dependent upon their identified support needs. This stage includes practical and therapeutic approaches. And our Stage Three is our ‘maintenance’ stage for children and families. This stage may involve signposting to other agencies or it may be that due to the changing needs and complexities of families, we require to move back to Stage Two in order to support them. Our interventions are based on research findings and theoretical frameworks which draw on ecological approaches. These may include practical support, social and emotional support of parents and carers such as early morning support to establish routines, getting children ready to school and on time, individual and group parenting programme work, joint adult and child play sessions and educational supports through individual and group work, both within the school and outwith the school environment - and this includes homework support for children and their parents. We utilise a range of programmes and resources when working with children such as ‘Seasons for Growth’, ‘Time to Talk’, ‘Sensory Play’, ‘Puppets’, ‘The Huge Bag of Worries’ and ‘Rory’, which is a specially developed programme which helps children to understand their parents substance using behaviours.

CB So what did we find out through the research? Well first of all I will talk to you about the outcomes and Sandra will speak about the key message for practice. The Service had fifteen outcome indicators against which the progress families made was measured. Outcomes information was collated from a range of sources including the use of validated measurement tools such as the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire and the Parenting Daily Hassles Questionnaire, and we also used some customised tools designed for the Service. Overall the results across all the main indicator groups, that is in relation to children’s experience of school, their health and wellbeing and also parenting awareness skills and confidence showed that of the nineteen families for whom we had information, seven or (37%) achieved greatly improved outcomes, nine or (47%) made some progress, and only three (16%) made little or no progress, and this was mainly due to lack of engagement. School attendance rates were improved through the Early Morning Ready for School support provided by the Service. The individual and group work provided by the staff helped children to manage the school environment, concentrate in class and cooperate with their peers. Parenting capacity and children and parents health and wellbeing were improved through individual and group parenting work, literacy, numeracy and emotional literacy work, and through play and creative activities with parents and their children together. Parents themselves said that they had become more confident in their parenting and in their own lives. They benefitted greatly from the support of staff and other parents, and had seen a big difference in their relationships with their children. Their attitude towards schooling was more positive, and some parents had also ceased or reduced their substance use.

SS Key messages from the work of the Service include how staff interact and engage with children and families. What we found were that staff are skilled at balancing interpersonal and professional skills with an approach which combined empathy, support and encouragement and this helped to get parents to engage with the Service. Staff roles were flexible and could be adapted to the individual support needs of families. A persistent approach, gentle encouragement and interesting activities helped involve some parents who were cautious or inconsistent in their attendance to the Service. The creative and interactive interventions and activities used meant that parents and children enjoyed learning and developing their skills together. The educational support in schools worked particularly well and was most effective within schools which took a health and wellbeing approach to all aspects of school life. The Service contributed to the process of parents recovery, not just from substance use, but also from mental health problems - for example, by providing interest and activities and nurturing others to improve their community. Some parents have started to become involved in local community asset building and this is now at an early planning stage.

CB So the research enabled the Service to demonstrate its positive outcomes, and as a result it has been able to continue, at least until September 2012, with inspiring Scotland’s Early Years Early Action fund money. In addition, the Service is being replicated in Dundee by Aberlour, and the model of working in this way with families has been included in Glasgow City Council’s review of their Family Support Services. Thank you for listening.

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