Over a 12-month period ending in December 2012, Friendship Works ran a pilot project to widen the referral criteria for the service to include two-parent/carer families, as well as single-parent families.
The objective of the project was to assess whether the number of children accessing the service would increase if the single-parent criteria were changed. By removing the single parent criteria we hoped to increase the number of children accessing the service. We also aim to put the needs of the child at the forefront of the assessment process, and we recognised that there were potentially many children in London from two-parent families who may be in need of additional support in the form of a mentor.
The goals of the pilot were to:
- determine the possible demand from two-parent families for the service
- ascertain what changes might need to be made to our service in order to work with two-parent families and ensure the service remains safe, robust and responsive to needs
- measure the impact of working with two-parent families in terms of risk to staff and volunteers, staff time and resources.
At the end of the pilot project period, we drew together information from our records as well as from caseworker and volunteer experiences to make a decision about whether to extend our services.
Our findings showed that there was a relatively low number of referrals to the pilot project across the period. This may be due to lack of demand from two-parent families, or it may be due to the new nature of the service, which might need longer in place for Friendship Works to promote it more widely to two-parent families.
There did not seem to be a significant difference in how many referrals continued through from start to completion of the assessment process. There was no difference in the reasons why referrals do not continue when compared to referrals for single-parent families. The most common cause affecting referral attrition rates is that either the parent or child change their minds about having a mentor.
Once the results had been collated and reviewed, a recommendation was made to the Friendship Works Board to open the criteria for the Friendship Works service to allow referrals from children with more than one parent/carer across all geographical areas.
This recommendation was agreed and the Charitable Aims for Friendship Works have been amended accordingly, to allow the charity to provide services to two-parent/carer families in London.
We will continue to review over time the assessment procedures used with two-parent/carer families to ensure these are working, as well as monitoring statistics against the number of single-parent/carer families, so that we can get a clearer idea of how this impacts over time.