Interview with Sue…

In December 2010, the EFA Team were commissioned by Sue Boniface (Commissioning Lead for Parents, Southampton City Council) to write Parents’ EFA. A pilot cohort, consisting of Mums and Dads, has been running since 4th March and finished on 8th April 2011. Throughout the last 6 weeks, the EFA team together with the parents from the pilot cohort have developed Parents’ EFA. Sue joined Stuart Gemmell (EFA Manager) to provide her thoughts around the newest EFA addition.

photograph of Sue Boniface (Commissioning Lead for Parents, Southampton City Council)  and Stuart Gemmell (EFA Manager)

Interviewed on: 23rd March 2011

Why did you commission the EFA team to write Parents’ EFA?
“Because we thought it was a good idea Stuart! (laughs). We have seen the benefits of how EFA works with children and young people and wanted a tool that would focus firstly on parents own health and wellbeing; so that they would be in a better position to make positive changes in themselves and consequently in their parenting; recognising how their own emotional health impacts on their children and young people. We also anticipated that parents having a better understanding of their own wellbeing would enable them to be more tuned in to pick up distress and anxiety in their children and young people and do something about it.”

How did you choose the 12 (ended up as 10) parents to act as a focus group to contextualise Parents’ EFA?
“The original plan was to involve 6 professionals and 6 parents. It has ended up with slightly more professionals than parents, but they are all parents themselves. We have a variety of mums and dads with children and young people of different ages representing a good cross section of society.”

How does Parents’ EFA fit in with other policy documents or outcomes you hold as a parenting commissioner?
“In Southampton’s Parenting Strategy we recognise the importance of early intervention as well as working with parents with more complex and entrenched needs. Practitioners find that some parents are not ready to make the best use of evidence based parenting programmes or individual interventions because they need time to work out what is going on in themselves first. They need to understand how their own emotions and stress are causing barriers to them making changes for themselves and their family. It’s so important to see both parents and children in the context of the whole family, then we have a better idea of how we can work in partnership with them to improve outcomes for their children and young people.”

As a parenting commissioner have you thought about how to attract funding so that parents can access Parents’ EFA?
“Yes. We have already put some funding and thought into initial delivery. but we need to create a dialogue with our community partners for sustainability. This might include funding bids or other ways of pooling some budgets. We don’t have the whole plan in place, but we’ve made a start.”

What do you hope Parent’s EFA achieves for parents that come on the courses to be rolled out?
“For the parents to have a better understanding of their own emotional wellbeing and responses, to improve their resilience and to promote empathy so that they can do the same with their children.”

Is there anything (conceptually) that you hope to see in Parents’ EFA?
“Good parenting practice involves modelling what you hope parents will then provide for their children. This programme will create an opportunity for parents to be valued in their own right and not seen primarily as a ‘means to an end’ to achieve better outcomes for children. It recognises that for all of us who are parents, there are times when we need to stop, reflect and make changes. That’s particularly hard to do when you feel that you are on a treadmill or if you don’t have appropriate supportive family or friends around you.”

Have you any ideas about what you don’t what to see in Parents’ EFA?
“I wouldn’t want it to be confused with other support or interventions that parents who have enhanced needs require. The title ‘Emotional First Aid’ makes it clear that this is around early intervention and accessibility, so we intend that it will be something that parents want to come to, rather than be ‘sent’ on. Some might need a bit of encouragement to have the confidence to attend , but we would like to see it offered as widely as possible. Parents who need specific clinical interventions should still access those in the usual way.”

Are there any questions you want to ask me as the EFA Manager and one of the contextualising staff for parents EFA?
“What pre and post course evaluations will you be doing? Some thought needs to be given to the evaluation of the course as well as how it will be promoted and rolled out.”

Any other thoughts?
“Just that I think this is an exciting new development, and I’m looking forward to getting our first cohort of trainers trained, so that we can begin to see it used across the city. The group who have been contextualising the materials have been buzzing with it – their interest and commitment to doing this has been a real highlight for them. I’m also looking forward to getting some feedback from the parents who will attend the course about what difference this has made for them.”

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