Patrick Myers

Patrick Myers, Senior Ambassador of the Reducing Parental Conflict (RPC) Programme at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), explains how the programme aims to improve children’s lives, as well as outcomes across the life course.

Parental conflict is a significant issue. Where a child lives with both parents in the same household, more than one in ten children (11 per cent)  have at least one parent who reports relationship distress - and children living in workless families are three times more likely to experience parental conflict than in families where both parents are in work. That’s why I’m excited to be working with the RPC Programme, led by DWP.

I was involved in the early pilot work with DWP, as Assistant Director from Dorset County Council Children’s Services Department. And I have now been seconded to work on the roll out of the national programme as its lead ambassador.

From previous experience, I know that the programme has been built around strong evidence and, as such, will make an impact on family relationships and improve children’s lives and outcomes. This is why I want to share with you the aims of the programme, and also the scale of the issue it is focused on tackling.

Parental conflict that is frequent, intense and poorly resolved is damaging for children and can result in negative outcomes that can be felt across the life course. It can affect their early emotional and social development, educational attainment and later employability - limiting their chances to lead fulfilling, happy lives.

This is why the Government is committed to reducing conflict between parents - whether they are together or separated. Sometimes separation can be the best option for a couple, but even then, continued co-operation and communication between parents leads to better outcomes for their children.

Backed by up to £39m, the programme will encourage councils and their partners across England to integrate evidence-based services and approaches to addressing parental conflict that work for local families.

The Government has already announced plans to transform the way we think about and tackle domestic violence and abuse, and we know that local authorities and their partners already do a lot of valuable work in this space. The focus of the RPC Programme is on conflict below that threshold, which can range from a lack of warmth and emotional distance, right through to swearing and shouting. 

Early pilot work with 12 local authorities has informed the development of the programme. There are four main strands:

  1. Funding to support strategic leadership across local authorities footprint  - helping them to make effective plans with partners to address the issues related to parental conflict.
  2. Practitioner training across all 152 top tier local authorities to equip frontline staff with skills and knowledge to help families where conflict is evident.
  3. Four areas (31 local authorities) piloting a range of interventions to reduce parental conflict with the express intention of improving children’s outcomes.
  4. Specialist training in those pilot interventions should they prove to be effective. 

Through close work with Public Health England and the Department for Health and Social Care, we have made explicit the relationship between parental conflict and alcohol dependency and are jointly funding a £6m package of measures to improve the outcomes of children of alcohol dependent parents, including a £4.5m Innovation Fund. This connection places the programme right at the heart of public health initiatives, tackling an issue that impacts across the life course for children, young people and adults.

Many national organisations have welcomed this initiative. They have indicated that this is an important area of family policy and, as such, deserves support across all those services that work with families. 

I look forward to working with and engaging with key stakeholders, partners and organisations from across the England to help take the RPC programme forward.

For further information please contact me by email.