What do we already know? our whole family evidence bank: report

Summary of evidence collated as part of the Ask the Family engagement project. The full detailed report can be found below.

3. Circle Families Evaluation

What Is This?

This evaluation of Circle's Children Affected by Parental Substance Use project in East Lothian was carried out by Dr Briege Nugent, an independent research consultant. Circle's Family Outreach Workers support families affected by parental substance use on an outreach and on a voluntary basis. They offer family group work and one to one support for individual family members, including emotional and practical support focused on building social capital and connecting with wider services. The evaluation was commissioned by Circle, and included interviews with family members, desk research, and videos of young people and their families produced by Media Education.

What Did Families Say?

These key quotes highlight the importance for families of Circle's whole family approach (not just supporting the adult or the child); their support for parents to advocate for themselves; the worker's 'stickability' ("He has always been here") and asset-based approach:

"This is different because with other services they either work with the adult or the child,they don't work with them both, but with this they do. He has helped us to come together and with attending meetings at the school with me he is helping me to understand and to be understood."(Mum supported by Circle)

"When we went to the Children's Panels, there were lots of services there and I find it hard to talk. At one of the meetings people were being really negative about thepast and Colin spoke for us about how positive things are now and it changed the way the meeting was going. He helps me to have the confidence to speak too and when I am not good at getting my point across he helps with that."(Dad supported by Circle)

"He (worker) helps me to do things I never thought I would be able to do, like the volunteeringā€¦ He always looks at things from my point of view and understands what is happening and is able to read the situation. He has always been hereā€¦ Before I would have been missing appointments but now I can make them. We areseeing the kids more and our whole lives have changed from how they were." (Dad supported by Circle)

Three Take-Home Messages

1. The relationship between the worker and the family is central to any progress made.

2. Helping families to engage and overcoming mistrust of services requires time and persistence.

3. The level of practical as well as emotional support, and that this is a whole family approach, sets it apart from other services.


Nugent, Briege (2020) 'Evaluation of Circle's East Lothian Children Affected by Parental Substance Use Project' (unpublished)



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