Parent Champions


Parent Champions originated as a small-scale pilot scheme following research conducted by Daycare Trust between 2004 and 2007, which found that despite advances in childcare provision in the UK in that period, disadvantaged groups still remained less likely to take up childcare. 

Organisation submitting example: The Family and Childcare Trust and Action for Children

The context and rationale

Summary Parent Champions is a peer to peer delivery model that informs and engages disadvantaged families who have not previously engaged with early education or childcare services.

Background:

The Daycare Trust (which merged with the Family and Parenting Institute in 2013 to become Family and Childcare Trust) was commissioned by the then Department for Children, Schools and Families to coordinate six-month Parent Champion childcare pilot schemes in Camden, Newham and Tower Hamlets. The project provided an opportunity to test a variety of methods of reaching and engaging with parents and to consider the effectiveness of Parent Champions. The outcomes of these trials were very successful and the Department for Education (DfE) continued to support the development of Parent Champions.

Knowledge Base

The Parent Champion model has been established within the context of developments in Government policy to improve the access of two year olds to high quality early education.

Recent research suggests a strong case for investing in the foundation years (pregnancy to age 5). Graham Allen’s (MP) Early Intervention: The Next Steps (Allen, 2011) points to the way that children’s neurological pathways develop before the age of 3 and the benefits of early support and intervention to ensure all children develop the social and emotional foundations they need. In his report of the Independent Review of Poverty and Life Chances, the Rt Hon Frank Field MP also stressed the critical importance of the foundation years upon disadvantaged children’s life chances (Field, 2010).

40 per cent of 2-year-olds are now entitled to 15 hours a week of free early education. Local authorities have a duty to secure these places for income disadvantaged two-year-olds, as well as those who have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), or whom the local authority looks after. This approach is central to the Government’s ambition to narrow the achievement gap between disadvantaged children and their peers, with strong evidence of the long-term benefits of high quality early education.

With the continued support and funding from the DfE, the Family and Childcare Trust has supported successive stages of development and evaluation which have included six pathfinder projects, including the Liverpool Project in 2011/12 and the launch of the Parent Champions National Network in 2012, with practical tools, resources and training provided to schemes to support implementation and learning across the Network – providing a wealth of experience to draw on.

The Family and Childcare Trust supports 134 members in the network ranging from inquiry, development and active – there are 37 active schemes run by or commissioned by local authorities and some independent/voluntary sector schemes.

The Family and Childcare Trust provide a number of resources to help set up Parent Champion Schemes.  

The Parent Champion National Network Model

Parent Champions should be delivered by parents, ideally those who reflect the communities they are trying to reach, with the aim of increasing take up of early years services and the active engagement of parents in the education of their young children.

The Champions are parents who have had positive experiences of using childcare and/or supporting their child’s early learning, and who act as advocates and peer advisors to other parents in the community.

Being local parents, they can chat informally, drawing on their own positive experiences. In this way, they can build parents’ confidence and overcome language, cultural and other barriers to service use.

“ To see new faces coming through the doors of the Children’s Centres and getting praise from the local groups to say that they are over-run with new people and to know that it’s our doing makes you feel so proud to be part of a brilliant team”

(Quote from Parent Champion in Coram’s Trust Parent Champion Evaluation report, 2014)

The Parent Champion’s role is one of peer outreach workers engaging with parents in the community to offer information and support:

  • Help parents to understand the benefits of quality childcare and early learning;
  • Encourage parents to participate in early learning activities with their children inside and outside the home;
  • Help parents to find out about and take up formal childcare places for their children;
  • Encourage parents to participate in local childcare and early learning services.

The Parent Champion Plus Model (2013-15)

This is a project led by the Family and Childcare Trust in partnership with Action for Children and funded by the DfE and is being independently evaluated by Coram Trust.

The Parent Champion Plus differs from the Parent Champion Network in the following ways;

  • The model is fully funded by the DfE including the employment of Parent Champion Coordinators who are managed and supervised by Children Centre Managers/Co-Ordinators;
  • The structure of the model is clearly defined with clear targets;
  • The project is being independently evaluated by the Coram Trust.

The Aim

To improve access to early education and childcare services for non-engaged disadvantaged families by developing and delivering ‘Parent Champions Plus’: a new approach embedding delivery of the evidenced Parent Champions model through Action for Children Children’s Centres and diversifying the model to target particular support needs.  

Objectives: 2013-15

  • Diversify and enrich the Parent Champion model to focus on specific support needs, for example promoting the new two year old entitlement;
  • Pilot Parent Champions Plus delivery through 36 Parent Champion Plus volunteers across 37 Action for Children children’s centres (Parent Champions can cover more than one centre) across 4 local authorities in year one  and repeated in year two;
  • Encourage wider participation of non-engaged parents in children’s centres.

Fulfilling these objectives will lead to improved outcomes for children; disadvantaged children will benefit particularly from high quality preschool provision and early childhood interventions will boost children’s confidence and social skills, which provides a better foundation for success at school. (Daycare Trust, 2012)

A parent case study from the Liverpool Parent Champion Project (Daycare Trust, 2012) evidences the impact on parents in their own words:

“The children now have nursery places and I thought the Parent Champions were very, very helpful…My little girl’s speech is much loads better. She had problems with her speech but she is coming on a treat. It is much better”

In addition, because she now attends a mother and toddler group, as recommended by the Parent Champion, she has improved her own quality of life by making friends:

“I go to mother and toddler groups and I’ve made loads of new friends in the groups and my life has changed considerably”

The focus of the programme remains the same as the Parent Champion Network model, Parent Champions reaching out into their communities to engage with parents who are not engaging with early years services.

The Parent Champions Volunteers

The volunteering approach used in the project has had a positive impact on the parent volunteers. The benefits of volunteering for parents are highlighted in the Parent Champion Toolkit (Family and Childcare Trust) and include:

  • A route to employment or a chance to try something new, which may lead to a career change;
  • An opportunity to gain new skills and knowledge through training;
  • Away of getting to know and support the local community;
  • A way to gain confidence and self esteem;
  • A chance to socialise and meet new people;
  • An opportunity to give something back to an organisation or community that has had a positive impact on a person or their family;
  • A way of supporting their children.

The Liverpool Project (Family and Childcare Trust 2012) had a clear vision of the outcomes it wanted to achieve, including transferable skills and increased confidence, communication and aspiration, which would improve the parents’ job readiness.

The 6 Parent Champions had all been unemployed, some since leaving school, and had little or no experience of skilled employment and few formal qualifications, however five out of the six obtained paid skilled work and there had been significant improvements in confidence, work readiness, self-esteem and the acquisition of important skills to enhance their career prospects.

The Action for Children Parent Champion Plus pilot is also finding a similar impact and in the Coram Evaluation Report 2014 (page 36) feedback from volunteers indicated in many cases the role had been a challenging experience from which they had gained personal skills. Strong gains in self-esteem and confidence were commonly reported. Volunteers spoke of going into the role unconfident in their abilities and nervous about speaking in public. They had thrived in the responsibility of working as a Parent Champion and felt they made a positive contribution to the community in their work.

 A quote from an Action for Children Parent Champion highlights their confidence:

“It is nice knowing that after speaking to a person/family we have made a difference to them by helping or just chatting and I find now they come back for more advice. I attended a volunteer event at the local pastoral centre but they were looking for people to volunteer and unfortunately I just didn’t have the time to give. But they have asked me to go back and talk about my volunteering at some point.

I now volunteer at my local children’s centre two days a week in the reception, which I love and I can also do some Parent Champion work here. I have been lucky enough to sign up for a NVQ in Business and even luckier that I’m getting support with my childcare. It is a nice feeling to be SHARON and not just MUM.

(Family and Childcare Trust ‘Parent Champion Case Studies Booklet’ 2013)

2.            The practice

Further details about the practice

There are two sets of outcomes /impacts being measured in the Coram Trust Evaluation:

1. Parents/families and children from the Parent Champion intervention

2. Parent Champion volunteers journey and development

The Family and Childcare Trust with its partners Action for Children and Coram Trust have been following the journeys of Parent Champions with interviews, case studies and surveys of their experiences. In December 2014 they created a volunteer form to capture information on why Parent Champions wanted to become volunteers. A review/follow up on how being a Parent Champion has impacted on the volunteers is carried out a later stage.

The following description not only highlights the process but also the learning, development and support of the volunteers.

Parent Champion Model

The Parent Champions model uses the knowledge that parents trust other parents for information about childcare, to reach out to those who do not access services and to ensure that all those who need it receive information.

The model is particularly useful for targeting communities in which participation in children’s early learning and the use of childcare is not the norm, to introduce the concept of childcare and early learning and how it can benefit children and families to parents in a non-intrusive way. A comment from a parent in the Coram Trust survey states;

“To help other parents in the community understand what the children's centre provides. To share experiences I have had on the course and activities they provide and how they have positively impacted my family” (Parent Champion) 

There are two sets of outcomes /impacts being measured in the Coram Trust Evaluation:

1. Parents/families and children from the Parent Champion intervention

2. Parent Champion volunteers journey and development

The Family and Childcare Trust with its partners Action for Children and Coram Trust have been following the journeys of Parent Champions with interviews, case studies and surveys of their experiences. In December 2014 they created a volunteer form to capture information on why Parent Champions wanted to become volunteers. A review/follow up on how being a Parent Champion has impacted on the volunteers is carried out a later stage.

The following description not only highlights the process but also the learning, development and support of the volunteers.

Parent Champion Model

The Parent Champions model uses the knowledge that parents trust other parents for information about childcare, to reach out to those who do not access services and to ensure that all those who need it receive information.

The model is particularly useful for targeting communities in which participation in children’s early learning and the use of childcare is not the norm, to introduce the concept of childcare and early learning and how it can benefit children and families to parents in a non-intrusive way. A comment from a parent in the Coram Trust survey states;

“To help other parents in the community understand what the children's centre provides. To share experiences I have had on the course and activities they provide and how they have positively impacted my family” (Parent Champion)

Parent Champions National Network

The Family and Childcare Trust provide a comprehensive web site, Parent Champion Tool kit and other excellent resources and training to support the implementation and development of a Parent Champion scheme. A comment from a Parent Champion coordinator in Liverpool highlights the benefits of the resources:

“We have worked with you since 2011 and the programme has worked extremely well in Liverpool. Hundreds of families have received and acted on information about childcare and children's centre activities from the Parent Champion teams”. 
(Family and Childcare Trust 2012)

Parent Champion Scheme Structure

  1. Membership of the Family and Childcare Trust ‘Parent Champion’ web site
  2. Recruitment of Parent Champion Coordinator 19 hours per week (this can be done by existing roles e.g. children centre worker)
  3. Recruitment of a minimum of 6 Parent Champion volunteers working 5 hours per week (where possible) ideally across a cluster of 4 to 8 children centres or other organisational bases
  4. Training and development for Parent Champion volunteers
  5. Support package for parent champions
  6. How to make referrals
  7. Parent Champions data monitoring forms (Coram Trust Evaluation)
  8. Progression and development of the Parent Champions journey

1. Membership of the Parent Champions National Network

Anyone can register an interest with the Family and Childcare Trust to become part of the Parent Champions National Network. They will be given a login for the Parent Champion member’s area where they can download all the information and resources they need to develop a scheme of their own. Presently this is funded by the DfE, however in the future there may be a fee to become a member and additional fees for consultancy advice and training if required.

2. Parent Champion Coordinator role and responsibilities

The role of the Parent Champion Coordinator is to manage the development of the scheme and recruit, train, support and supervise the Parent Champion Volunteers. This role can be done by one person either employed specifically for the role or an existing worker can be identified for the role. However, it must be made clear that the time required is protected for these workers to succeed.

3. Recruitment of Parent Champion volunteers is a key component of this model. We recommend a minimum of 6 volunteers as a start up as there can be a number of reasons within this cohort group that a high level of drop-out can occur.

A regular recruitment campaign will ensure capacity of the scheme. The Action for Children ‘Oldham Scheme’ put a high profile local media campaign together using a DVD which the volunteers made which was shown in children’s centres and health centres. They contacted their local radio and newspaper for interviews and also ran regular events in the market square. The campaign resulted in the recruitment of 16 volunteers.

However there are also challenges in recruiting volunteers and in our survey for the Coram Evaluation 50% of respondents felt that the recruitment was good; 31% felt it was satisfactory; and 19% said it was poor. The work required to recruit and retain volunteers should not be under estimated.

Interviews and Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS)

 

The Family and Childcare Trust has a very good Parent Champion Tool Kit for start up of a project and this gives a job outline for letters, interviews etc. It is important to have a role and responsibilities job outline ready for interviewing the prospective volunteers. This formalises the process allowing the volunteer to see their roles and responsibilities and also the coordinator to explore with the volunteer their skills, knowledge and expectations of the role.

Parent Champions generally work directly with parents and are not left alone with children. VBS checks should be completed if the Parent Champions work with children directly; however, the scheme needs to follow their own organisation’s policies and procedures.

4. Training and Development

There are two aspects to the start- up training for Parent Champions:

The Family and Childcare Trust Parent Champions Training Package

The organisations own policies and procedures, including Safe Guarding, Health and Safety, Lone Working and Fire Safety.

The Family and Childcare Trust have delivered the training through specialist consultants over a full day or two short days. The training is interactive and comprises of the following:

Day 1

  • Aims and Objectives
  • What is a Parent Champion
  • Services the Parent Champions will need to link with
  • Referring parents to services
  • Introduction to Childcare
  • Understanding Boundaries
  • Health and Safety – good working practice
  • Action Research

Day 2

  • What is engagement
  • Role Play on how to engage parents
  • Capturing and monitoring information
  • Questioning Techniques
  • Communication skills
  • Self fulfilling prophesy
  • Next Steps

Depending on the targets set for the Parent Champions and their own personal journeys additional training maybe required.

5. Support Package for Parent Champions

The reasons that people give for volunteering and participating in local services, include:

  • A route to employment, or a chance to try something new, which may lead to a career change;
  • An opportunity to gain new skills and knowledge through training;
  • A way of getting to know and support their local community;
  • A way to gain confidence and self-esteem;
  • A chance to socialise and meet new people;
  • Opportunities to give something back to an organisation or community that has had a positive impact on a person or their family’s life;
  • A way of supporting the development of their children.

(Family and Childcare Trust Parent Champion Tool kit)

Parent Champions require a robust support package. The organisation will have expectation of them but the Champions should also have expectations of how they will be supported by their organisation. There should be an identified worker who will be given the time and skills to offer the following:

  • Contact details of their supervisor and other parent champions;
  • Weekly phone contact;
  • A monthly face to face meeting with their supervisor;
  • A monthly peer group meeting with other Parent Champions to give support, share learning experiences and planning next steps;
  • Expenses (travel and phone call);
  • Support to access training opportunities for their own development and progression.

6. How Parent Champions Make Referrals

Communication and listening to the parents to identify what they most need is essential if the referral is to be taken up. There is no point forcing information on a parent if they are not ready to hear it. Parent Champions need to be knowledgeable about their local services to enable them to sign post and refer parents on.

There are two ways of a Parent Champion making a referral:

  1. Parent Champions gives contact information to the parent and they contact FIS/Children’s Centres directly to ask for information
  2. Parent Champions take the parents contact details and they contact FIS/Children centres on behalf of the parents and pass the information on.
  3.  Some parents need further support to access the service/activity and Parent Champions can offer support and introduce them to the service/activity.

Other agencies and professionals can also refer parents, which enables the Parent Champions to reach some of the most vulnerable families.

7. Parent Champions data monitoring forms (Coram Trust Evaluation)

Parent Champions have responsibility to fill in the monitoring forms, which enables the scheme to measure the impact they are having. Where possible, the Parent Champion needs to ask for contact details of the parent so that they can do a 4 week follow up to see how the parent got on with their referral and also to see if they need anything else. If parents do not want to give their details then the first part of the monitoring form is filled in and submitted online to Snap Survey.

Forms

Parent data collection form - for recording data from one-to-one chats with parents.

Group outreach monitoring form - for recording summary information from group events.

Parent Champions: Volunteer survey (V1:  Before volunteering) - for volunteers to fill in when they first start volunteering.  

Parent Champions: Volunteer survey (V2:  End of volunteering/6 months review) - for volunteers to fill in when they finish volunteering, or after six months if they are continuing to volunteer.  

Guidance

Parent Champions Data Collection guidance - Parent data - the guidance for collecting data on parents talked to, during both one-to-one chats and talks to groups. 

Parent Champions Data Collection guidance - Volunteer data - the guidance for collecting data from Parent Champion volunteers on their volunteer journey.

Parent Champions data reporting guidance - the guidance for the SnapSurveys data entry of the four forms above, covering both the data on parents talked to, and on the volunteer journey.  

Others Agencies Involved

Partnership working is a vital part of this package to support the right information and services/activities to meet needs. It is important that the Parent Champions have the most up to date and accurate information so they do not let parents down. It is also important that partner organisations understand what Parent Champions do and use them effectively to refer parents/families and children who are most vulnerable.

  • Family Information Service
  • Children’s Centres
  • Health Centres
  • Health Visitors
  • Libraries
  • Parent and Toddler Groups
  • Schools
  • Other early years local services
  • Adult Education

7. Progression and development of the Parent Champions Journey

It is now recognised that Parent Champions have their own journeys and have found volunteering very beneficial to their own development. Collecting case studies directly from Parent Champions has enable their journey to be evidenced in their own words. The Parent Champions Stories can be found on the Family and Childcare Trust website

Parent Champions Conference

In 2015 for the first time the Family and Childcare Trust celebrated the success of Parent Champions and the first Parent Champions Awards were given out at the second Parent Champions Annual Conference on 11 March. The conference gives Parent Champion coordinators and volunteers time to celebrate and share their learning and experiences across the network particularly looking at innovation and diversity.

Parent Champion ‘Chatter’

This is a magazine produced by the Family and Childcare Trust to share up to date news and information across the Parent Champion Network and to help celebrate success by sharing stories.

Evidence and evaluation - making a difference to children, young people and families

Evidencing your practice has made a difference to children, young people and families

The Parent Champions National Network and Action for Children Parent Champion Plus has been extensively reviewed and monitored and the model has been validated through its repeated use across 37 local authorities across England and 12 Pilot areas within Action for Children.

The following reports, reviews, and resources, which can be accessed through the Family and Childcare Trust Website Parent Champion Members Area:

  • Coram Trust Parent Champions Final Evaluation Report (Coram Trust 2014)
  • Family and Childcare Trust Parent Champion Tool Kit (Qualitative reports 2014)
  • Parent Champions National Network An evaluation report for the Department of Education (2013)
  • Liverpool Parent Champions – An evaluation report for the Department for Education (2012)
  • Parent Champions – who we are and what we do – case studies
  • Parent Champion Tool Kit
  • Parent Champion Monitoring Forms (for Snap Survey)
  • Parent Champion Starting up Leaflet
  • Parent Champion Resource Leaflet

The Coram Trust independent evaluation is based upon collecting information through:

Snap Survey, a web based monitoring system which all Parent Champion members can access and input their data. Each scheme is able to download their own reports and on a national level we can look at the analysis across all schemes.

On site interviews with selected schemes and survey questionnaires to all schemes, which include gathering the views and experiences of Parent Champion Coordinators; Parent Champion Volunteers and Parents to explore the qualitative impact of the model.

The impact on Parents/families and children from the Parent Champion intervention

The Coram Trust Parent Evaluation 2014 showed that within the trusting environment created by Parent Champions parents were able to listen to advice and take on new ideas and suggestions, in a way that may not have occurred had the parents received the same information through other channels:

  • In 57% of cases recommendations made by Parent Champion was used by parents with 43% of referrals leading to regular use of the service or activity recommended;
  • 44% of contacts had a broader positive impact on parents, including improved parenting confidence and awareness of local services.

The 2014 Report data recorded that 144 parents were contacted on a one to one basis with the Parent Champions giving 166 referrals of these.

A notable highlight of the data was the high referrals and take up for the 2 year old offer: 23% of Action for Children total referrals and 13% of the national network referrals led to regular use of the offer. Referrals for children centre services/activities were 44% for Action for Children and 31% for the national network.

Using the research highlighted in section one we can assume that the increase in attending these early childcare and early intervention services will have a major impact on the children’s neurological development, learning and social and emotional health. The Parent Champion intervention has had a very positive effect.

Impact on Parents

A key indicator of the efficacy of the Parent Champion work was whether the contact with parents led to any action or changed behaviour. The 4-week follow up following referral given enabled the parents to be asked what impact the referral had, and about their take-up of the service offered (see above results).

Parents were also asked if there were any other impacts and 77% stated they were more aware of local services and 9% stated that they were more confident. As this was not a stated objective of the Parent Champions it has highlighted that the impact is broader than just giving information and referrals.

In the Liverpool Parent Champion Project Report a parent talked about the noticeable improvement in her parenting skill:

“I can now engage more with my daughter and I have a lot more of an understanding of what her needs are…before the positive parenting she was getting a bit unruly because I didn’t know how to deal with her bad behaviour…now we can have a good day and I am not shouting at her”

(Daycare Trust 2012)

The impact on the Parent Champion volunteers journey and development

The Coram Trust Evaluation report data shows that a total of 45 volunteers were trained by Family and Childcare Trust in the Action for Children Pilot sites and 100 volunteers across the Parent Champion Network Schemes.

In the Action for Children Pilot of the 45 volunteers trained 36 became active Parent Champion. This represents 80% retention which compares favourably to other volunteer led services.

Volunteers reported that working as a Parent Champion had been a challenging but very rewarding experience, leading to significant gains in personal development and soft skills:

  • Improvement in self confidence and self esteem;
  • Improvement in communication skills and public-speaking ability;
  • Gains in administration skills helping improved employability;
  • Experience led to gaining employment in children’s services sector;
  • Feelings of personal efficacy in helping to improve lives of parents and contributing to community.

One Parent Champion commented;

 “It is great to feel you have helped someone by signposting them somewhere to help with their problems”

The Parent Champions were very positive about their experience of being a parent Champion. Of the 36 Parent Champions 42% were very satisfied and 47% satisfied. 89% of Parent Champions said they would recommend becoming Parent Champions to other parents.

  • The Liverpool Parent Champion Project is closely linked to their Volunteers into Practice (VIP) programme. This enabled them to measure the journey of the volunteer effectively:
  • Five out of the six Parent Champions have obtained paid skilled employment;
  • Volunteering and training were critical pathways to paid employment, which has improved the financial and emotional wellbeing of the whole family;
  • They have been inspired to pursue further educational and training opportunities with one Parent Champion planning to enter Higher Education;
  • They have become recognised role models in the local communities inspiring other parents to seek volunteering opportunities.

The Coram Trust Parent Champion Evaluation Report concluded that building on previous Parent Champion work the programme offered further evidence of the effectiveness of the peer to peer based model. In both Action for Children children’s centre Parent Champion schemes and the National Net Work schemes Parent Champions proved effective in communicating to parents and encouraging take up of early years services on a regular basis, so improving the life chances of some of the most vulnerable children and families.

References

Daycare Trust (2012) Liverpool Parent Champions Project An evaluation report for the Department for Education. London: Daycare Trust.

Family and Childcare Trust Parent Champions Case Studies
http://www.familyandchildcaretrust.org/hear-parent-champion-schemes-across-country

Marden, R (and others (2014) Parent Champions: Final evaluation report. London: Coram Trust.
http://www.coram.org.uk/resource/parent-champions-final-report

Sustaining and replicating your practice
Helping others to replicate your practice
Replication has been proven across 37 local authority and children centre schemes and in the Action for Children pilot.

How will you benefit?

Parent Champions is a proven and cost-effective tool for reaching families who have not traditionally accessed childcare and other services for children. You can benefit from running a Parent Champions scheme, as it can:

For families

  • Raise parents’ awareness of local childcare and family services, improving their children’s outcomes;
  • Bring families into children’s centres;
  • Allow families to be involved in the development of local services;
  • Work to support minority groups and their engagement in services.

For volunteers and communities

  • Add value to the role of volunteers;
  • Create a pathway to training and employment;
  • Increase the quality and capacity of outreach work

For local statutory duties

  • Support local authorities to achieve legislative duties, for example, identifying families who are eligible for the two-year-old offer of free childcare, and providing information to the most deprived families, and those with disabled children;
  • The scheme is highly popular because parents often consider word-of-mouth as the most trusted source of information.

Top Tips for Running a Parent Champion Scheme?

Setting up does not have to be costly or time consuming. Here are some top tips: 

  • Involve local parents and volunteers in the planning as early as possible;
  • Match your Parent Champions as closely as possible to the groups or geographical areas you are trying to reach;
  • Go step by step — it is better to start with a small number of good Parent Champions, which in turn will bring momentum to your project;
  • Be realistic in what you manage;
  • Over recruit – due to likely natural dropout;
  • Reassure local outreach staff that Parent Champions are there to support not to replace them;
  • Keep careful records to show your impact;
  • Provide good support — ensure your volunteers know that they have back up when they need it;
  • Help the Parent Champions to support each other;
  • Celebrate both yours and the Parent Champions’ achievements;
  • Inform local organisations and decision makers about what you learn through your Parent Champion experiences.

Challenges to be Aware of:

  • Recruiting Volunteers – this needs to be done on a rolling programme
  • Retaining Volunteers – part of the success is that volunteers move on. Accept this and put a rolling programme in place for recruiting – remember over recruit.
  • Resourcing the scheme – setting up and running the scheme does not have to cost a lot but you do need to ensure that you have identified structures and responsibilities to support the scheme. The Parent Champion Tool Kit is an excellent resource for this.
  • Accessing the most disadvantaged families need robust partnership work. Parent Champions may need additional training and development to visit people’s homes - in Torbay Action for Children Scheme the Parent Champion goes out with the Family Support Worker to visit people homes.

Golden Threads – Build on existing local need and priorities

  • Getting the buy in of local authorities and/or local partners is paramount to good partnership working and the access to the right information for Parent Champions.
  • Good leadership is essential to support the Parent Champions in their role, they may require more support to raise their confidence and self-esteem – they must be able to go at their own pace and within their own networks.
  • Set clear targets which meet local need and ensure you can measure the impact of what you do.
  • Try to embed Parent Champions into your service – do not see them as a separate entity this will make your scheme more sustainable.
  • Celebrate; have fun; and learn from mistakes.
  • Remember the Parent Champions journey – what do they want to be, what are their ambitions.

The Parent Champion model can be adapted

The Wandsworth case study Parent Champions Supporting parents of disabled children.

Like many councils, Wandsworth has a Disabled Children’s Register, which families of disabled children aged 0-19 can voluntarily join. Members of the register receive regular information about activities and services, and the council and health services have a better understanding of the needs of families to inform service provision.

In 2012 the WAND card was introduced following feedback from members of the DCR- the aim of the card is to reduce the need to give lengthy explanations when seeking assistance when out and about. The card also gives concessions to families to local attractions and with businesses. All families who join the Disabled Children’s Register are automatically signed up to the card and issued with their own WAND card to use around town

In order to increase awareness of the WAND Card and the DCR, Parent Champion volunteers were recruited via the DCR newsletter. Nine volunteers underwent Family and Childcare Trust training and began outreach work a few months later. Between them the Parent champions speak a range of languages including: Polish, Cantonese/Mandarin, Twi, Edo, Bengali, Hindi and Urdu.

Through visiting schools, summer fairs, local community events and talking to SENCos, Parent Champions have increased the members on the DCR by over 140.

The long term vision is for every town centre in the borough of Wandsworth to have a hub of shops and services which are WAND-friendly, thanks to the Parent Champions!

Other developments of the model

Seeing the potential benefits, schemes have themselves wanted to adapt the model, for instance including breast feeding information (Barnsley), oral health and obesity messages (Brent), working with health visitors (Carlisle) and building on parenting classes (Leeds).

Innovation hub

As well as the continued ever-increasing interest in Parent Champions with new enquiries coming in every couple of weeks, schemes have recognised the flexibility and value of the model, and requested help in adapting the model at a local level.  The Parent Champions National Network has naturally evolved into a hub for innovation, with a whole range of applications coming from the ground upwards. During the last two years the National Network has expanded and diversified much more than expected.

Costs of running a Parent Champion

The costs of running a Parent Champion scheme can be minimal, however, getting the right leadership and support for the Parent Champions is essential:

  • The cost of a Coordinator, support worker level 2 or 3 for 19 hours per week/or build coordination into existing roles as additional responsibilities for workers helping them to develop their skills. There is still a cost to workers’ time with this approach.
  • Management time for supporting the coordinator
  • Supporting travel costs and expenses for Parent Champion Volunteers (these can be minimal if working in local area)
  • Training and resources can be done in house with Family and Childcare Trust support (there may be a charge for this service in the future).
Contact Us

t. 020 7833 6825
e. contactus@C4EO.org.uk

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  • Operation Encompass, Plymouth

    Themes this local practice example relates to: Vulnerable (Looked After) Children Safeguarding Families, Parents and Carers General resources Early Help Priorities this local practice example relates to: Protecting children living in families where they are at high risk of abuse, harm or neglect Basic details Organisation submitting example

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  • Parent Champions

    Parent Champions originated as a small-scale pilot scheme following research conducted by Daycare Trust between 2004 and 2007, which found that despite advances in childcare provision in the UK in that period, disadvantaged groups still remained less likely to take up childcare. 

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