Building the Capacity of Parents

We recently showcased how the Early Years Collaborative is contributing to the Early Years Strategy in the Scottish Borders.

Here, Linda  Pople, One Parent Families Scotland Project Manager in North Lanarkshire highlights how local partnerships are helping to improve outcomes for children and families

“One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS), through delivering one to one and group work support services in North Lanarkshire, has identified that targeted parenting programmes to support the most vulnerable parents is required to help improve outcomes for children in the early years. OPFS has received over £1 million from the Scottish Government Third Sector Early Intervention Fund [2013-14 to 2015-16] and has recently been awarded funding for a further three years – receiving £354,000 in 2016-17. Peer led Mellow Parenting (MP) Programmes were developed to improve the parenting capacity of lone fathers and young parents and OPFS has received funding through the Early Years Change Fund to test this work In North Lanarkshire using Early Years Collaborative (EYC) Improvement Methodology.

“The MP family of programmes has been developed to support parents and their children to build good relationships. The foundation of the programme is attachment theory with particular emphasis on the transmission of attachment and relationship styles over generations.  This relationship based intervention promotes positive parent-child interaction and the strength of this programme is that it does not dictate how to parent but instead it aims to change parents’ philosophy.

“To enhance the MP programme a tailored package of support is provided by volunteer Peer Mentors to all families taking part, to address any issues or concerns quickly and encourage participation.   Peer Mentors are lone fathers or young parents and act as positive role models.   They co-deliver the programme alongside professional workers and their observations are an important aspect of measuring the impact on families.  Since September 2014, four programmes have been delivered with eight to ten parents participating in each.  Improvement, using EYC methodology tests and measures the effectiveness of the programme:

  • 79 per cent of parents felt a significant decrease in in overall stress levels ,
  • 83 per cent of parents reported a decrease in intensity of daily hassle such as shopping with and dressing and feeding children
  • 75 per cent of parents reported an increase in confidence when dealing with challenging situations.
  • 79% parents have reported improved interactions with their children – such as reading and playing with them and in turn they feel better able to recognise and respond to their children’s feelings.

“Peer and professional observations have also reported an increase in appropriate social behaviour and that children are more ready to take part in play and social activities within their home and in groups within their local community such as Bookbug and play groups.   Parents have also reported that they are now less socially isolated.  There has also been a significant increase in uptake of local services, for example Social work, Health and Addiction Services.  The programme has been extremely successful in allowing parents to share their life stories, address the root cause of their problem and seek the specialist support they need to move on in their lives.”

Stephen’s and Suzanne’s stories:


Stephen who took part in the MP Programme said:  “I feel a lot closer to my kids and more confident in getting my children to do things I have asked them to do. My children are so much happier and my oldest son Lewis doesn’t mind doing things with the dads’ group because it isn’t social work – as he has been involved with Social Work for most of his young life.  And since I have been working with Neil, my MP Mentor I feel I have a better relationship with my social worker.  Neil has made me realise they are there to help and are only there to look out for the kids.  I now have someone I can talk to and someone who will support me if I need help with anything that is worrying me, the kids, money, anything; he’s always at the end of the phone and always makes time for me.  My time keeping is so much better and I am going to all of my appointments and my social worker is happy with my progress

My middle child has now turned and told me ‘I love you daddy because you are really good at looking after me’. I now feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel.  My life is so much better and I am happy to wake up each morning. I no longer feel like looking after my kids as a job but as a blessing.”

Stephen continues to meet with his Neil regularly.  There have been significant changes in his confidence and his understanding of his children‘s needs.  His children are now tidy, clean and seem happier.  This has resulted in Home Care no longer being required to support the family.  Stephen and his children’s now have regular weekly outings accompanied by his mentor who has observed that the children now seem happy to take part in local activities resulting in increased interaction with their father and a decreased level of challenging behaviour.


“Before I came MP, I mostly sat indoors myself or with Kian, only leaving to take Kian to Nursery or to do a weekly shop. Before my son came to MP he could hardly speak, he had outbursts and tantrums daily and his behaviour was very erratic, up one minute and down the next. Right from the first day at PM, I made friends, something I hadn’t really had for a long time.   Kian’s behaviour always made me wary of getting involved in anything.  I had been very depressed for a period of time and getting out of the house had made a huge difference to me.  Kian was also invited to another participant’s son’s birthday party. This is something that had never happened before.  My family never wanted me or my son around them as they said he was a problem child.  It felt good to receive an invite it made me feel I was no longer alone and that people actual liked me and my son, He isn’t a problem child he is just different from other kids because of his autism.  Through MP, Kian has come on leaps and bounds with his speech and behaviour.  I have now set a routine and Kian is much calmer. The crèche staff were brilliant with him and helped me to understand Kian’s specific stage of development.  MP has made me realise that I am a good parent but just needed some help and support to understand how to deal with Kian and why he was having tantrums”.

Suzanne is currently sourcing autism awareness training and Kian is in a new nursery that has autism specialist staff to provide him with the best possible start in mainstream education.  Suzanne now has more confidence in accessing other additional support services.

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Healthier Scotland

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2 thoughts on “Building the Capacity of Parents”

  1. One of the best ways to improve Scotland’s health in the long-term must be to cater for the physical and mental health needs of young children, and projects of this kind are clearly an extremely worthwhile investment — not just for the children’s overall well-being but for that of their parents and family as a whole.
    However, the international evidence shows that, while investing in parental support in the early stages can set children on a much improved trajectory in terms of overall well-being, further support is necessary to maintain this trajectory. In a previous post, as Chair of Upstart Scotland, I put the case for a introducing a kindergarten stage in Scotland for children aged 3 to 7, with a focus on all-round health and well-being — as in the Nordic countries — rather than the premature introduction of formal education (as is the tradition in English-speaking nations).
    Young children need time and space to develop as learners through play, which is also a vital factor in physical and mental health, but 21st century life-styles means that many Scottish children do not have the opportunity for the active, creative (preferably outdoor) play they need for optimal development. Children from disadvantaged homes, and those with developmental conditions of various kinds, would particularly benefit from a less high-pressure, academic start to the educational process. A play-based, developmentally-appropriate kindergarten stage would complement the excellent work with children and families already under way in most Scottish regions.
    For further details, including a condensed version of the evidence-base on which Upstart Scotland’s argument is based, please see


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