Validated local practice details


C4EO theme: Youth

Parenting Initiative at Court, Northumberland

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Safeguarding
  • Youth
  • General resources
  • Local area early intervention strategies

Priorities this local practice example relates to:

  • Protecting children living in families where they are at high risk of abuse, harm or neglect

Basic details

Organisation submitting example

Parenting Initiatives Service and Youth Offending Service, Children’s Services, Northumberland County Council

Local authority/local area:

Northumberland County Council


The context and rationale

Background details to your example

The idea

The Youth Offending Service recognised that parenting is one of the key risk and protective factors in reducing young people’s offending or anti-social behaviour; this was verified through recent research by the Youth Justice Board. Therefore, the initial idea was to increase the voluntary parenting support for parents of young people that offended, to increase the protective factors and reduce re-offending; however, the take up of the service was very low and it was recognised that the gap between the offending youth’s appearance in court and the offer of help to parents was too large, as parents often indicated they needed support from the point of crisis, i.e. when the young person was at court.

Whilst Parenting Orders can be issued by the court if magistrates deem that parenting is a contributory factor in the young person’s offending, the ethos in Northumberland is that voluntary parenting support should always be on offer first as an early and preventative intervention and we have found that parents who accept voluntary support engage with the service more readily.

So how were we going to meet the needs of parents at Court?

Introducing the new idea, Parenting Initiative at Court, stemmed from concerns that the parenting service was not being utilised to its full potential because of the time lapse between the court appearance, the long referral process, and no immediate face-to-face contact with the parenting service, thus resulting in a low uptake. Due to no initial interventions for parents at court, parents then fell into an average two week gap, from the time the young person and parents were at court to first contact with a member of the Parenting Initiative (PI) team.

2006 previous process
2006 Previous process
View larger image here

What did we want to do and why:

Evidence supporting the need to change:

• Parenting Initiative to be utilised by parents whose children/young people were offending to be offered support immediately, i.e. one-to-one and evidence-based parenting group work programmes resulting in the take up to be maximised, as parents who were offered the service two weeks after the court appearance were not utilising the support offered (see appendix 1, page 9 of the External Evaluation).
• The lack of direct working by the Parenting Initiative with the court and Youth Offending Service meant they were not promoting the parenting service that was available.

What we were trying to achieve:

• Change process – immediate face-to-face referral at court where parents, magistrates and Youth Offending Service Court officer have direct contact with Parenting Initiative through a Parenting Initiative Worker at court;
• Parenting service to be utilised by parents whose children/young people were offending and for this service to be offered immediately at court;
• To see increased take up of parenting programmes;
• To see an increase in parental confidence in their family life;
• Through parental support and improved family life, a decreased in the amount of youths reoffending and also greater engagement with education or employment.


The practice

Further details about the practice

A Parenting Initiative Worker attended South East Northumberland Magistrates Court and was a visible presence and actively engaged with parents after a court appearance. This gave parents face-to-face contact with the parenting service and an initial relationship was established, with the longer term outcome being the number of parents taking up the parenting support on offer.

The support offered to parents included:
• One-to-one and evidence-based parenting group work programmes and the take up to be maximised with parental satisfaction;
• One-to-one parenting sessions for up to twelve weeks working on identified parenting issues in a solution-focused approach;
• Evidence-based group parenting programmes are also offered, including Strengthening Families and Triple P. These are both nationally-recognised parenting programmes based on good practice. An assessment takes place on what is the most relevant approach to meet the parents needs;
• Educating Youth Offending Service workers, magistrates and parents to understand and engage in the service offered;
• Parenting Initiative to be utilised by parents whose children/young people were offending to offer support immediately that one to one and evidence based parenting group work programmes and the take up to be maximised
• Change process – immediate referral at court where parents, Magistrates and Youth Offending Service Court officer have direct contact with Parenting Initiative, i.e. Parenting Initiative Worker at Court

Parenting Initiative Service offered a series of workshops to both magistrates, Youth Offending Service and parents who have had experience of attending court with their children. The development of these meetings has enabled parents to meet and share views with magistrates in an informal setting. This enabled parents to express their views about court; the feelings and issues that parents and young people feel in court; and the issues around parenting support both voluntary and orders. It also enabled magistrates to gain a greater understanding of the parenting support that is carried out and provided the opportunity to explore issues and find possible solutions to barriers encountered at court. Most recently, in July 2010 a partnership event was held with Parenting Initiative, Youth Offending Service, magistrates and parents to celebrate good practice achieved and how this could be disseminated. Over 80 delegates attended and feedback was collated.

“Finding out the positive outcomes of Parenting Initiatives and effectiveness of interventions.” (Comment from magistrate)

A parenting worker was present in the Youth Court on a weekly basis with up-to-date parenting information, which included support that was on offer and general parenting information sheet with useful tips and resources that could be used immediately.


Evidence and evaluation - making a difference to children, young people and families

Evidencing your practice has made a difference to children, young people and families

Current Process – what now happens differently

Instead of taking 14 days for parents to be put in touch with parenting workers, there is immediate contact at the point of crisis.


1st Day
1st day
View larger image here

We have already been able to see a reduction in the number of parents who refuse help which shows that contacting the parents on the first day of need is hugely important.

Table 2

View larger image here

Feedback from parents has shown that they have found the parenting initiative has made a positive impact on them and their child:

“I joined Triple P hoping that it might change my daughter’s life, but it done so much than that, it’s changed my life greatly too. I now have loads more confidence. I have gone on to do more sure start courses and I’m now doing English and just passed my first exam. Triple P gave me a brand new start and most importantly I don’t smack my kids no more.”

“I would recommend everything as I found even just meeting other people who are in the same situation and the staff who held the course were really nice and made me feel confident to talk about things.”

“All of it, it all had absolute relevance, it even made me realise I had a potential or existing problem when prior I hadn’t recognised it. It allowed parents to address their issues and concerns throughout whilst covering all topics, with the support of the group and 1 to 1 support and feedback from the tutors whilst gaining knowledge and confidence to become a better parents.”

Table 1 shows that there has been a clear reduction in the number of young people reoffending, with a reduction of 33% from 2005-2010.

Table 1
Table 1
View larger image here

Table 2 shows that there has been a enormous reduction in first time offenders since 2005 with a decrease of 52%. These results are encouraging and show that the parenting initiatives are having an effect on families and, in particular, on young people offending.

Table 2
Table 2
View larger image here

Another area that we have seen an improvement in is the number of young people being encouraged to participate in further education, training or employment. As graph 1 shows, figures for April-June 2010 (81.6%) show significant improvement compared to the same period in 2009 (75.5%), which is encouraging given the current economic climate.

Graph 1: Engagement in suitable education, training and employment:

graph 1
View larger image here

Through the contribution of the service, there is now a perception of a stronger co-ordination of organisations’ roles and parent referrals, which has seen a positive development in the levels of engagement with parents and the role of the magistrates in supporting parents and being integrated into the process for support. Strong evidence of the success of this outcome can be demonstrated through the established partnership with the Youth Offending Service. The close working partnership between the agencies has demonstrated that an effective referral process has worked when the teams have come together and have detailed knowledge and understanding of the programmes. Using the sample of data, relating to the Triple P programme during the period September 2009 to July 2010, it is evident that the service has been able to establish a number of effective partnerships with agencies that has ensured families who are engaged in a number of services’ interventions are also offered parenting support. With 158 referrals, it appears that practitioners from a wide variety of service providers, for example Health, Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) teams, Children’s Centres, and Child and Adolescence Mental Health Services (CAHMS), do value the work the service can deliver in support parents – the service has received referrals from 8 different service providers.

Based at the Youth Offending Service, the Parenting Initiative will always be a priority within the overall service plan. Linking in with early intervention, the parenting service will always be offered at South East Northumberland Magistrates Court as it has been evidenced that intervening early at this stage allows families to positively engage with the service, often in a voluntary capacity, which decreases the risks of developing problems occurring.

Not applicable.


Sustaining and replicating your practice

Helping others to replicate your practice

The Parenting Initiative was independently evaluated in 2010 by Helmepark. The evaluation focused on the benefits the programmes had on parents and a summary of its findings are as follows:

An analysis of the data gathered using the distance travelled model has demonstrated that the programmes have supported parents on average to report a 13% increase with regard to their parenting skills and behaviours. Parents who have accessed support from the service have on average:
• Increased their confidence as parents by 7%;
• Increased how they value their parental role by 6%;
• Increased their understanding of their own family’s needs by 8%;
• Significantly increased their perception of their ability to support their family by 16%.

The increase in the parent’s confidence to support their family mirrors an increase in the parent’s ability to set clear boundaries and stick to these with their children (18%). This data indicates that as parents feel more confident in defining boundaries and acceptable behaviour for their children and feel more confident in applying these boundaries, so the perception of being able to understand family needs increases. The external research considered earlier also supports these findings and concludes that these parenting skills are those which will help parents protect the children from becoming involved in substance misuse and problem behaviours. Qualitative feedback from parent 10, for example, also provides a strong testimony to the work of the parenting work, in contributing to a positive change in parental behaviour:

“It has been an enormous help and support. It has enabled me to take positive action and things seem to be improving within the family, which would not have been possible without the help” (March, 2010)

The Youth Offending Service (YOS) data for the period September 2009 to June 2010 indicates that 12 parents have been able to demonstrate significant changes in parental behaviour, with a reduction in their risk level. Eight cases have been successfully moved from child in need to cases being closed and four families have moved from looked after care to child in need.


This would be really useful information for other areas who might wish to implement a similar programme.
Cost of Parenting Worker salary (Friday morning at court):
• £32,972 / 52 weeks = £634.08 per week
• 37 hours = £17.14 per hour x 3 hours = £51.42

Hot tips

• Do not underestimate the interest of magistrates in parenting work;
• Parenting Workers who attend court need to have an understanding of their own work setting, as well as being able to respect the cultural difference of the court.

Key learning that has occurred

• Parenting education had to take place within the Youth Offending Service, whose key remit is to work with young people who have offended; to emphasise the importance and value of jointly working with parents, which then have positive outcomes for all the family. This service had to take place consistently to embed it within the Youth Offending Service/South East Northumberland Magistrates Court. Presently, four years on, this parenting service is now integrated within the Youth Offending Service and local court.
• Timely – we have learnt that if parents are seen when they immediately need support, the take up of the parenting support is doubled.
(March, 2010)

Back to resources