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Eurochild organisations conduct peer review of practices: early intervention and prevention in family support

28/08/2012

In the context of its thematic working group on family and parenting support, Eurochild organised a mutual learning seminar (peer review) 30 May – 1 June 2012 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Four Eurochild organisations (Children in Northern Ireland ; Action for Children, Wales; Nobody’s Children Foundation, Poland and National Network for Children, Bulgaria) presented and reviewed  inspiring practices in prevention and early intervention that show what works in Europe to improve outcomes for children. Stakeholders were represented by Eurofound, the Council of Europe, the Dortmund University (Germany) and the European Commission.

 

holding hands, © Istock

Objective of the workshop

As the workshop’s organizershighlightedpdf:

“Parenting support is relevant to Europe 2020 and, is implicit in at least one of the ten integrated guidelines (guideline 10 on promoting social inclusion and combating poverty). However, family policies and parenting support are not within the competence of the European Union. Member States set their own targets within the collaborative framework of the Open Method of Coordination (OMC). A challenge, therefore, is how one can replicate practice across Europe when there is no shared political consensus about investment in early intervention and prevention. “

The peer review had three overarching objectives:

  • To make an in-depth review of the good practices presented;
  • To understand whether there is a potential for replication and adaptation of experiences elsewhere; and
  • To contribute to the development of a common assessment framework that provides a credible and robust basis on which to assess inclusion of good practice in Eurochild's database.

Findings

The term ‘Early Intervention and Prevention’ was interpreted broadly,  as it includes incorporating  both universal and targeted provision and presenting holistic packages of support to meet families’ identified needs... A unifying factor in the case studies was their commitment to involve families in the planning, organising and development of practice.

All the case studies presented innovative aspects, capable of replication within their country or across Europe. However, differences in the review and assessment of the projects made comparison difficult.  Habitat’s Bulgarian practice and the Polish network were considered by the peer reviewers and stakeholders to be best positioned to be replicated by other countries.
The Peer Review Seminar also discussed the opportunities and challenges emerging from the EU’s increased attention to move resources towards evidence-based approaches that embrace social innovation and social experimentation. The participants proposed a categorisation of case studies based on the social challenges addressed by individual practices within the framework. However, the participants to the Peer Review underlined the importance of basing the evaluation of the practice on common principles, rather than shared quantitative standards.

Best practices presented - an overview

BULGARIA, NATIONAL NETWORK FOR CHILDRE (NNC): Home-improvement loans for low-income families and families at risk

The Fund for home improvements is provided by the leading NGO called Habitat Bulgaria (member of the NNC) to local community-based organisations, which, respectively, offer  small loans to the target families. Partner community-based organisations provide additional specialised services and training according to the individual needs of the different communities. Loan repayments are fed back into the Fund for Home Improvements to serve families at risk.

POLAND, NOBODY’S CHILDREN FOUNDATION: Good Parent – Good Start: Early prevention of young child abuse

The program’s goal is to create a system for protecting young children from abuse and neglect through supporting their parents/caregivers in positive parenting by offering them free access to educational resources and support services.  The practice aimed at setting up an interdisciplinary system of cooperation between local authorities, welfare centres, health centres, police, probation officers, psychological consultation points, day nurseries and NGOs. Its activities involve provision of information on the project, identification and support of families at risk and intervention in cases of abuse.

UK, NORTHERN IRELAND, CHILDREN IN NORTHERN IRELAND: The Family Support Hub

The purpose of Hubs (and the connected Locality Planning initiative) is to ensure more effective access to family support services. They are about integrated planning, that includes linking services together rather than creating them from scratch. Hubs are virtual organisations with no space of their own. They have developed information sharing protocols/referral processes and other systems to support effective interagency working and are designed to improve access to services for individuals.  Another aspect of the programme, locality planning, exists to ensure agencies also collaborate on service planning and aim at improving access to services for populations.

UK, WALES, ACTION FOR CHILDREN: Neath Port Talbot Family Action Support Team (FAST)

The service aims at preventing family breakdown and promoting the reunification of families, where appropriate, by supporting referred parents to achieve  acceptable standards  of care for their children. The range of community-based services includes early preventative support, including work with parents with learning difficulties, through to intensive work with families where there are serious concerns for children's safety or welfare. For some children the project's support makes it possible for them to remain with their families rather than being accommodated by the local authority.

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