Mechanisms for Support: A Realist Evaluation of Peer Parental Advocacy in England

Fitz-Symonds, Samantha, Evans, Lilly, Tobis, David, Westlake, David and Diaz, Clive (2023) Mechanisms for Support: A Realist Evaluation of Peer Parental Advocacy in England. The British Journal of Social Work . ISSN 0045-3102

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International research shows that although parents perceive the child protection system to be stigmatising and authoritarian, peer parental advocacy (PPA) programmes have a positive impact on improving complex relationships between parents and professionals. PPA programmes enable parents with lived experience of child protection processes to support other parents to navigate the system. As an emerging area of policy interest, research investigating the role of PPA in empowering parents to participate meaningfully in decision-making is crucial to developing collaborative approaches within child protection social work. This realist-informed study considered how a newly implemented PPA programme supported parents in two English Local Authorities. Our findings highlight the unique role peer advocates can play as a resource to influence decision-making, power relations and working relationships between professionals and parents. This article presents our final programme theory, which identifies four key mechanisms that support perceived effectiveness in PPA implementation: active engagement, effective communication, facilitating trust and adequate support for advocates. These findings highlight how PPA programmes in these Local Authorities were valued and begin to build a picture of how further advocacy programmes can be explored throughout the UK.

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