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23 parenting interventions that work

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Donna Molloy

Donna has led work to translate and communicate Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) evidence and to support its use since 2013. She works directly with local areas, sectors such as local government, policing and government departments. Before joining EIF she spent over 10 years in central government in various roles developing policy and leading implementation programmes to provide targeted support to children and families including at Department for Education on families at risk, Think Family and increasing the availability of evidence based parenting programmes.

Early Intervention Foundation and what works in parenting

In partnership with the Troubled Families Team, the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) has identified 23 parenting interventions which have evidence of improving outcomes for children and families with characteristics similar to those eligible for the Troubled Families Programme. It has produced a report outlining these interventions and also provides advice about implementing these programmes effectively.

Do we know what works?

Phrases like ‘using what works’ are easy to say, but not always easy to do. We still don’t know ‘what works’ in relation to too many issues. But there are some areas where we do have some good evidence and when we do, it’s important we use it. This is why we are really pleased to have published work for the Troubled Families Programme on commissioning parenting and family support for troubled families.

Why use this evidence?

There is some good evidence on interventions which have been shown to deliver improvements for children in families where there are a number of problems, such as those prioritised by the Troubled Families programme. Some parents are dealing with multiple problems such as worklessness, poor mental health, and poverty - all of which can take their toll on the relationships between parents and between parents and children, which can in turn affect children’s development.

There is a strong case for considering this evidence when making local decisions about what to deliver for troubled families, many of whom struggle with parenting. It goes without saying that in the current financial climate it is more important than ever that scarce resources are directed to interventions that have been shown to deliver improvements. Whilst local innovation is vital, the fact remains that, on balance, families and children who receive interventions shown through robust studies to improve outcomes, are more likely to benefit and to a greater degree, than those who receive other services.

The report we recently published for the Troubled Families Team identifies 23 parenting interventions which have evidence of improving outcomes for children and families with characteristics similar to the families targeted by the programme. It also provides advice about implementing these programmes effectively. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as taking these programmes ‘off the shelf’ and dropping them into existing local arrangements. Making them work in the local context can be tricky, for example, some of the programmes are intended to be delivered by practitioners qualified to a high level of skill (QCF level 4/5 or above).  This may not necessarily be a good fit with the workforce skills level of existing Troubled Families key workers, and the need to bring in specialists or upskill existing workers needs to be considered carefully as part of any commissioning decisions.

We hope this report will help local Troubled Families Teams in deciding what is most likely to be effective and the best fit for the needs of the families they’re working with. If these interventions are implemented carefully and targeted appropriately, they have the potential to improve things significantly for highly vulnerable families.  They can also offer real value for money and the potential to reduce the overall cost of working with these families.  Our view is that these programmes would be wise investments for local teams and there is a strong case for more of them being delivered.

If you want to discuss this report or give your own views on parenting programmes please enter a comment below or you can also contact me at



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