Home > Public awareness of parenting, prevention and family support services: population survey final report.

McGregor, Caroline and Nic Gabhainn, Saoirse (2018) Public awareness of parenting, prevention and family support services: population survey final report. Galway: UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, National University of Ireland Galway.

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This report presents the findings from the follow-up population survey of awareness of the Prevention, Partnership and Family Support (PPFS) programme of Tusla. The report provides findings from the baseline and follow-up survey, which included 1,000 respondents from a cross-section of society. Three main areas were considered in the survey: public awareness and knowledge, public help-seeking behaviour, and public perception of Tusla’s PPFS programme. In the 2018 survey, another section was added on how best to inform the public about family support services. Overall, the findings of the baseline and follow-up report show that:

  • There is increased knowledge and awareness of PPFS and Tusla services.
  • Families generally look to their own internal networks for support.
  • When this is not available, they are most likely to go to the local GP or social service in their community.
  • All respondents increasingly associate family support with prevention, early intervention, and partnership.
  • There is greater awareness of the Meitheal practice model.
  • The public in 2018 are more likely to associate PPFS with early intervention, prevention, and partnership, showing an increased knowledge of what each of these elements of PPFS entails.

The findings also suggest that the public do not clearly differentiate family support from child protection and children in care. The findings indicate that family support is understood differently by the public than in professional definitions. The public, when referring to family support, emphasise support from their own family and generic supports. They also tend to connect family support with child protection. The findings show the need for differentiation between different subpopulations regarding awareness – for example, between adults and young persons and between rural and urban dwellers.

The 2018 findings also show the variety of mechanisms that the public identify as ways to find out about services and to become more aware that can inform short-, medium-, and long-term strategies in Tusla. The evidence from the 2018 data strengthens the main recommendations of the 2016 report. It provides further evidence that families generally rely on their own networks for help. This report recommends that this be emphasised in publicity work by Tusla. It should also be used to advocate strongly for partnership working and improved general support services to families from other Government departments responsible for family and community support.

The report recommends that the public be more informed and educated on what family support is and how it relates to child protection in the context of the overall services of Tusla. This needs to include the message that while it is necessary to differentiate between the CPWS and PPFS strategy and its related practice models to ensure fidelity and clarity of purpose, the common principles of practice should underpin the work and ensure that the notion of ‘stepping up’ or ‘down’ from protection to support is understood as the complex and nuanced process that the evidence and knowledge show it to be.

p.24 Overall, only five services were identified as Family Support at a significantly different rate between 2015 and 2018: Services for Child Protection, increased from 32.4% in 2015 to 37.6% in 2018 (p < 0.05); Services for Children in Care, increased from 23.7% in 2015 to 28.9% in 2018 (p < 0.01); Residential or Foster Care, increased from 14.2% in 2015 to 19.2% in 2018 (p < 0.01); Addiction or Substance Abuse Services, increased from 13.9% in 2015 to 17.9% in 2018 (p < 0.05); Community or Voluntary Organisation or Service Provider, decreased from 1.9% in 2015 to 0.8% in 2018 (p < 0.05).

Although there was no overall shift in the percentage of respondents who reported that they knew what Family Support services existed in their locality, there was significant change at population subgroup level. The percentage of women who reported that they knew about local Family Support services increased from 28% in 2015 to 32.9% in 2018 (p < 0.05), with a similar increase among those of high social status, from 23.5% in 2015 to 28.8% in 2018, and among non-parents, from 15.0% in 2015 to 21.2% in 2018.

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