Discussion 2: Relationships: family formation and dissolution

Q1. How can services help parents and children to manage transitions in family life, such as re-parenting?

  • Flexible services are crucial: there are restrictions to the ability of providers to provide flexible services to meet the needs of individual families.
  • Calls to OPFS and ParentLine Scotland helpline often include difficulties surrounding family break-up.
  • Understanding family structure at a local level and designing services to fit with families need.
  • Targeted services do not work because a lot of families do not fit within target criteria.
  • Relationship education from birth/pre birth required.
  • Social isolation is crucial uniting factor throughout lone parent experience despite experiences being unique to each family.
  • Social media instrumental in reaching out to families: how do projects market their services with NO budget?
  • Vital links with partners: LA partners key
  • Education - Progress but not there yet! In relation to relationship education. Education should be based on children's experiences. Non discrimination around family type/structure vital in reducing stigma.
  • Reduction in fathers' involvement with their children when they leave the family home
  • Transition within families not given the same emphasis as other transitions for children eg in education
  • How do we encourage people to see family/relationship support when they need it?
  • Better multi-agency working - more coordination of support services/better signposting between services
  • Services designed to be client led rather than 'one size fits all'

Q2. What more do services need to know about blended families and their experiences of transition in order to provide appropriate support?

  • The questions  'jars' - should be looking at families in general rather than selecting one type of family to scrutinise in terms of what specific support is needed.
  • Universal services underpinned by information regarding different services, targeted universalism
  • Lack of information available (stats) relating to cohabitation/breakdown of cohabiting relationships and number of children involved
  • Need to start building a picture of the impact on the children from these relationships, how do we gather this missing data?

Q3. The number of births registered to married parents decreased, with slightly over half of all births in 2011 being registered to unmarried parents. What does this mean for policy and practice?

  • Complexity of families now means that a new way of categorising 'family relationships' in order that we move away from understanding marriage versus not married as fundamental.
  • New questions needed in large scale surveys - surveys need to be redesigned.
  • Parental responsibilities and rights of unmarried fathers
  • The importance of relationship education at various stages:   
    • Schools
    • Pre-marriage
    • Post separation
    • Poor relationship modelling in chaotic households
    • Media influence