Respect has been involved in responding to Child and Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse (CAPVA) for over a decade now. We piloted the Respect Young People’s Programme (RYPP) at the end of 2012 with 7 services in the North of England, and I wanted to celebrate this with a series of blogs reflecting on our learnings, celebrating our partner services, and speaking to one of the first families to complete the RYPP. In this first instalment, I’ll be reflecting on what we’ve learned over a decade of delivering the RYPP.
The most important learning for me has been the amazing capacity of young people to turn their lives around. I have been in awe of how young people, even when faced with difficulties that many adults would find overwhelming, are able to draw on their own sense of what is right and build the resilience to address what is happening in their lives. Having seen homes that were marred by constant conflict become happy and stable environments is a lasting joy for myself and something that is shared by many of the professionals working with families. It emphasises how vital it is that we do not waste the opportunities we have to identify and respond to CAPVA.
During the pilots (2012-2016) of the RYPP we were subject to an evaluation funded by the Big Lottery and undertaken by Dartington Social Research Unit. The tool they used to measure change in the young people accessing the RYPP was the ubiquitous Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQs). The result was strong, statistically significant evidence of the effect of the RYPP on young people’s behaviour and well-being. There is more about this on the website LINK but what stood out for me was the magnitude of the difficulties faced by so many of the young people.
Seventy percent of the children accessing the RYPP were in the high or very high difficulties band of the SDQ. This means that they are in the 10% of the population of young people with the highest difficulties. Although the conduct problems typified by CAPVA are the reason for young people accessing the RYPP it is essential to remember that this is a group of young people who are struggling in many of aspects of their lives. Our response needs to be mindful of this, and we must demonstrate tenacity and compassion if we’re going to successfully connect with these young people.
While support for families experiencing CAPVA has improved over this decade it remains far from adequate. Too many parents and their children do not have access to a service, too many are offered parenting programmes when this is not what they need, and many have to find the money to pay for support. There is hope, however, thanks to an increasing number of (often voluntary sector) services opening, and we have seen growing support from the Home Office in terms of funding for responses to CAPVA. There is a growing recognition that CAPVA is something that needs a specific response and one that removes the stigma experienced by parents and young people. Black and minoritised young people and their families experience additional barriers to accessing services and there is more to be done to ensure responses are culturally competent.
We have learnt a lot about neurodiversity since we started this work. We now know that around 30% of the young people accessing the RYPP are neurodivergent, and we’ve worked hard to respond better to these young people and their families. We’re particularly grateful to Dr Vicky Baker and the City of York Educational Psychology team who did a great job in helping us think through what that response might look like. Since then, we’ve used their recommendations to ensure neurodivergent young people are best supported to engage with the programme.
I’m about to retire from my role with Respect, which has no doubt prompted this look back, but I’d also like to look forward to the next ten years. I hope that:
- professionals working on CAPVA come together to lobby and campaign for a shared goal of improving both the extent and quality of CAPVA services.
- the spectrum of knowledge and skill needed to work with families experiencing CAPVA is recognised and valued. Improving workforce development and the support for practitioners is essential.
- we know more about the cost (economic and social) of CAPVA to both young people, their families, the community and its agencies.
- the inspectorates who look at services for education, health, family services and justice understand CAPVA and its impact, and that this understanding is reflected in their reports.