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.

4. Action for Children 'What Works' Report

What Is This?

This independent study by Jane Scott was commissioned by Action for Children to identify core elements in the organisation's family support approach, and strengthen the national evidence base. It focused on four diverse Action for Children services in Aberdeen, Highland, Glasgow and Dumfries & Galloway. All participants were asked to identify what changes for families could be linked back to support, and what might have happed without it.

What Did Families Say?

Many positive impacts of support were identified for families, including individual changes (e.g. self-confidence, increased trust in services, reduced stress/anxiety) and relationship changes (e.g. less family conflict). Families were "helped to find their voice and be clear abouttheirrights", allowing greater participation in decision-making, and support to build connections to other services. Some families were fearful that asking for help would involve social work or police. In rural areas it was hard for families to access services anonymously. Most felt without support their situation would have stayed the same or worsened:

"Families … were clear about the reasons why they had been referred to services and honest about the concerning behaviours of their child or young person, about possible neglect, parents' own mental health and feelings of isolation, anxiety and, at times, an overwhelming in ability to cope."(p2)

"Values of being open, honest, respectful, able to listen and express empathy and the principles of services being needs-led, accessible, flexible, working at the paceof the individual, and providing both practical and emotional support were common to all four services which participated. Key to it all are relationships.This was also recognised by families."(p3)

"Families reported significant changes to their child's behaviour, to routines and boundaries and experienced more positive family relationships which had improved family life, parental stress and anxiety. Families were supported to build or re-build their relationships.…There was less shouting and fighting with fewer arguments within the family."(p2)

Three Take-Home Messages

1. Taking a child-centred and whole family approach helps "get underneath the issues"and understand family dynamics. Getting the beginning and end of support right is vital.

2. Common principles underpinning family support included trust, openness and flexibility; non-judgmental person-centred support; workers as humans with relationships being key; and worker consistency and "stickability".

3. Effective service features included services "being present", accessible, quick to respond and flexible in terms of duration (including time for the family to effect change); offering a range of interventions plus advocacy; helping to build social supports.


Scott, Jane (2020) 'Action for Children - What works for children and young people in family support? Executive Summary' (unpublished)


Email: alcoholanddrugsupport@gov.scot

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