Ten pioneering projects have been chosen to help separated couples resolve long-standing grievances, and agree their own financial and other parenting arrangements, in the best interests of their children.
The projects, worth £3.4m, will test new ways for separated parents to overcome conflicts that may have become entrenched over many years, as part of a £10m investment through the Innovation Fund.
The successful schemes include court-based ‘shuttle mediation’ sessions, practical family activities including painting, gardening and homework clubs to motivate change, and the latest international expertise on relationship support.
Work and Pensions Minister Steve Webb said:
These groundbreaking projects find new ways to help separated couples put aside their differences, so they can agree their own maintenance payments and parenting arrangements in the best interests of their children.
We are investing £20m to help separated parents through these innovative projects and a web app signposting relevant services.
We know it can be tough to negotiate with an ex-partner, but we want to help more parents break free of deadlock and sort out their own arrangements, rather than fall back on the state or resort to the courts.
The projects will be evaluated to identify what works best in helping separated parents to resolve their difficulties and collaborate in the interests of their children.
The government awarded £6.5m Innovation Fund money to 7 projects in April 2013 in the first round of bidding.
Child Maintenance Options, a free government information and advisory service, has already helped around 150,000 separated parents reach their own family-based arrangements.
The new projects
Children 1st – 3,119 families in Scotland
A bespoke online, telephone and face-to-face family decision-making service, based on a collaboration between Children 1st, Scottish Child Law Centre and One Parent Families Scotland.
Family Lives – 180 Muslim couples in Leicester, Waltham Forest, Gloucestershire
Working with the Barefoot Institute, an Islamic relationship support organisation, the project will provide emotional support before encouraging joint working and parenting agreements.
The service uses conversational analysis and response methodology and the principles of restorative justice will be used to engage and motivate parents so they address the issues identified by the children.
Headland Future – 120 parents in the Tees Valley
Trained therapists work with individual parents individually to identify blocks to change and triggers for conflict, and help the children express their views through art to help motivate their parents to change.
Provides support in communication and conflict management skills, incorporating expertise from a programme used by over 3 million couples in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America.
For families where the conflict between parents is so entrenched that the non-resident parent is required to see their child on neutral ground at a supported child contact centre. Help for parents in 6 regional hubs and a new online screening tool.
Parents in the court system will get help through a new programme including ‘shuttle mediation’ to change attitudes and behaviour.
Pinnacle People Limited – 140 families in Bristol, Avon and the South West
Practical activities for parents and their children with a dedicated family coach to encourage parents to communicate and collaborate, including through painting, pottery, horticulture and homework clubs.
Sills & Betteridge, Limited Liability Partnership – 2,400 families in Lincolnshire
Face-to-face or webcam and telephone support for families who struggle to get help because of low income, poor facilities and limited transport links. Assisted by Dr David Briggs, a leading psychologist who has developed programmes for behaviour change.
Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships – 100 parents in London
Free therapeutic services for parents caught up in intractable conflict and litigation, including the first UK trial of a risk assessment tool devised in Australia, working with the London Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.
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