In order to obtain permission to interview social care staff I have been asked to think about some questions posed to me through a research governance application.
What is the purpose of your project and why is this important?
The purpose of this project is to plan, develop, implement and evaluate a training programme/workshop aimed at professionals responding to mothers who have become, or are at risk of becoming, separated from their children in a context of violence and abuse.
This project is important because there is a lack of specialised help and support for this group of women who have a range of needs that are not currently being met by the professionals/services/organisations that are involved in their situations. My research shows that women in these situations have complex needs and are accessing a range of services that are not meeting their primary needs because very few specialised services exist. Training is needed to raise awareness of this problem and encourage a multi-service approach to responding to this vulnerable group of women who have complex needs.
Importantly, where there is domestic violence, a range of perpetrator tactics have been identified in the literature that involve ‘the use of children’, and includes undermining mothering roles and damaging mother-child relationships. Using such strategies, children are being groomed and mothers and children are being alienated from one another as a form of violence against women and children with profound and long-term effects for both. Research shows that perpetrators of domestic abuse are exploiting institutions and manipulating professionals who are unwittingly colluding with them. Training for professionals is needed to raise awareness of these important aspects of domestic and sexual violence and abuse.
What other projects/studies have been carried out in this area (if any?)
Most recently, the Mothers Living Apart from their Children (Mothers Apart) service is being delivered by WomenCentre, which forms part of their Mental Health and Wellbeing Service funding by Kirklees Council and the two Kirklees NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups. This project is involving ‘Mothers Apart’ who are providing input to the training of social work students at the University of Huddersfield and are now also contributing to the professional development of post-qualified social workers.
Research by Peter Jaffe and Susan Loosley into ‘cross-training’ highlights the need for the expertise of each system to be shared across other systems. Cross-training is a collaboration between children’s workers and women’s workers and designed to increase the knowledge and skill levels of professionals in both child protection and domestic violence agencies. Cross-training is a key component to a coordinated, collaborative approach to family violence. The authors state that cross-training initiatives should be encouraged at an interagency level and should receive local funding as a demonstration that interagency coordination and collaboration is a priority of senior decision-makers.
Research by Anne Morris (with mothers of sexually abused children and survivors of domestic violence who were mothers) involved the development of a preventative, early intervention framework in the Maternal Alienation Project. Educating professionals was an important part of this project and Morris recommended Professional training across services and sectors.
How will your research add to any previous work?
I have conducted a masters project into maternal alienation by working closely with the charity, MATCH mothers, who are also involved in this community based research that is called the Mothers Apart Project. The planning group for this project involves both service users and service providers who are contributing to the development of training for professionals. I also run a monthly support group for mothers apart through the charity MATCH Mothers. This project extends the work by Morris as I am aiming to form a collective of volunteers to provide a range of help, support, advice and advocacy to mothers apart in all circumstances as well as offer training to the professionals working with them through multi-agency workshops.
I have begun discussions with Coventry University about having input into the social work modules on their degree course as a survivor and mother apart myself and plan to recruit other volunteers from MATCH mothers who are on the planning group of the Mothers Apart Project. The women are being consulted about participating directly in the training programme in a similar way to the Mothers Living Apart from their Children Project at the WomenCentre mentioned previously are already doing. Survivor-focussed training and education is recognised in the literature as being a powerful method of raising awareness of complex issues and has already been identified in the interviews that I have conducted as a valued component of training.
How will your research be of benefit to the Warwickshire People Group? i.e. improve services, influence policy and contribute to operational/organisational change?
The centre point of this research is the community based project, the Mothers Apart Project, which has at its heart a collection of academics, service providers and service users. This community venture is intended to run beyond its current primary purpose of informing the planning and development of a training programme by providing training and consultancy. This could be of benefit to the Warwickshire People Group through the development of a working relationship to address the needs of mothers and children who would benefit from remaining together if support was available to them. The Mothers Apart Project is keen to collaborate with a variety of services in the community with the intention of improving those services through the well-researched and recognised strengths of multi-agency thinking and action. Influencing policy-makers is an overarching aim of the Mothers Apart Project, which is intended to be achieved through consciousness-raising research and the subsequent dissemination of findings, as well as through input into Coventry University’s social work training programme, as previously mentioned. In these ways, through collaborative efforts of researchers, educators, service providers and service users, there is potential for real and meaningful organisational change.