DDN October 2020 ‘We have a unique role in breaking county lines’ - Page 11

One effective tool was to use the Simpson family to help people understand the roles played within the family relating to addiction
Saklakova / iStock
The recurring conversations about a ‘ multi-agency approach ’ were frustrating , he added . After all the reports that had been produced , ‘ it shouldn ’ t really even be a conversation anymore ’. We were still having people being referred to as ‘ hot potatoes ’ and still having families experiencing 18 hours from 18 agencies instead of 18 hours of interventions from one or two workers and agencies . Good communication should be coupled with ‘ greater levels of respect between agencies and disciplines ’ to bring about holistic family interventions , he said .

The Building Bridges

project in St Helens , Merseyside , shared some techniques from their programmes working with families . James Mawhinney and Kayah Woods of the social work team at Change Grow Live explained that they focused on ‘ behaviour and behaviour change as opposed to specific substances ,
because that allows us to address a realm of issues .’
One effective tool was to use the Simpson family ( the Matt Groening animated sitcom ) to help people understand the roles played within the family relating to addiction , as it was much easier to talk about a family other than their own . Homer was the person experiencing addiction , with the other family members feeling powerless to make any positive change themselves . Marge was in the ‘ enabler ’ role , while trying to hold the family together ; Bart was the clown , deflecting attention from the addiction ; and Maggie was the lost child , left in the background .
Talking in this way had helped families with extremely complex needs to understand their situation and the perspectives of others in the family , and talk about what support they needed . The programme was achieving very positive results in improving family relationships , giving children the confidence to engage with school again , and helping adults to stop their alcohol use .
A key part of this success was the positive focus on a strengthbased approach , which was cancelling out feelings of shame and stigma . Lesley Davies , senior manager in prevention and early help at North Tyneside Council , added to this by explaining positive progress of the Bottled Up project . The North East ’ s drinking culture meant the area had a reputation as a ‘ party capital ’ and North Tyneside had ‘ the lowest number of abstainers in the North East ’, so they wanted to work with a wide variety of partners , including the
voluntary sector , to see what they could do differently .
The initiatives that were rolled out aimed to get people talking about alcohol , particularly in families , and enable children to be more open about it instead of feeling they had to hide it . A ‘ whole systems pathway ’ for North Tyneside included different training packages to include the whole workforce , from brief interventions to a more specialist approach .
Where there were problems relating to drugs and alcohol , the aim was to identify them early and
‘... merely the stopping of substance use in itself is never really a solution .’
DR WULF LIVINGSTONE
use a strength-based approach with the family , ‘ helping them identify what they can do to move on and change things .’
Getting to the stage of using evidence-based interventions
effectively depended on workers going out to meet the family within the community and forming a team around them from the beginning – a team with ‘ a really creative and flexible approach ’. ‘ We have had some parents that hadn ’ t engaged in programmes and treatment before ,’ said Davies , so going out to do work with them in the community had had ‘ a huge impact ’.

The situation around

COVID had obviously brought challenges with the lockdown restrictions , particularly as there had been no let-up in referrals . But it had also brought opportunities in reaching vulnerable children , as many of them enjoyed having online diary sessions and had started ‘ really engaging and getting their voice across ’. It had given an opportunity to talk to someone during lockdown about their parents ’ drinking , ‘ and also to be able to talk to other people of similar ages who are going through the same thing ,’ she said .
One of the main themes to emerge from the session was that there was evidence-based practice to implement and no shortage of expertise throughout the health and social care sectors . The challenge was to streamline the approach to the family so they could take one step , then the next , with a consistent professional partner . DDN
The webinar , ‘ Children of alcohol dependent parents ’, was held by Public Health England . Resources are available at the Innovation Fund Knowledge Hub : https :// khub . net / group / parental-alcohol-and-drug-use
WWW . DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS . COM
OCTOBER 2020 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • 11