How does Parents4Parents work in partnership with other agencies?

We work in partnership with other agencies in a variety of ways, to:

  • Ensure that the parents who will benefit form the peer support we offer know about and can access it easily
  • Ensure that the support we offer works alongside with and complements the services that other agencies are providing for parents
  • Contribute to multi-agency responses to the needs of parents who are facing adversity, hardship or stressful life events
  • Enable the parents we support to overcome the apprehensions and barriers that prevent them accessing other services
  • Identify and engage parents who are potential new peer supporters
  • Offer our volunteers progression routes to voluntary and paid work with other agencies
  • Develop shared activities and projects to meet the needs of parents on our target communities
  • Develop new family outreach activities
  • Develop new parent peer support groups
  • Develop joint fundraising activities and grant applications


How do we make and take referrals?

Taking referrals

  • When we first developed our services we learned from partner agencies that many of the parents who need the type of peer support we offer find formal referral processes threatening and would rather not accept support if it means going through them. So we abandoned the referral form and instead ask staff from other agencies that know parents who would benefit from our services to put them in touch with us informally.
  • All the parent needs to do is call or send us a message, or ask the member of staff from another agency or friend who has told them about us to do that for them and we will respond as soon as we can.
  • For some parents, even the thought of making a call or writing a message feels daunting, so if they are willing to pass their telephone number to us, we will send them a message and call them. 
  • As soon as we are in touch with the parent we will arrange for one of our volunteer peer supporters to meet with them in a cafe, at their home or one of the community venues where we base our activities, wherever they will feel most comfortable. 
  • The purpose of the first informal meeting is for the parent and the volunteer to get to know each other a little, to talk about the services we offer and if and how they might be helpful to the parent. During the meeting the volunteer will offer to accompany the parent to one of our outreach activities or parent peer support groups, so that they can find out what they are like and meet other volunteer peer supporters. This type of informal contact can continue for as long as the parent wishes and until they are ready to decide which type of support they want. 


Making referrals

We promise the parents we support that:

  • We will treat what they tell us as confidential, unless it is about a threat to someone’s safety.
  • Our peer supporters will never give them advice or try to persuade them what they should think or do.
  • Our peer supporters will listen to them without ever judging or criticising them or offering their opinions.
  • Our peer supporters will help them talk and think about what is troubling them and reach their own decisions about how to deal with it.
  • Our peer supporters will wait until they are ready to think about any other services they might need, help them to find out about and try using them when the time is right for them.
  • Their peer supporter will offer to arrange an informal introduction to a worker from an agency that the parent has chosen to use or will offer to accompany them to activities run by other agencies that interest them as often as they would like.
  • We never make referrals to other agencies without the parent’s consent unless we are concerned about someone’s safety. 
  • If they want too use another service that can only be accessed through a formal referral process we will explain what that process involves and either support them in navigating it themselves or make a referral on their behalf.


Our peer supporters are trained to:

  • Use basic counselling skills, activities, techniques and tools that help parents explain and reflect on the feelings and experiences, issues, feelings and thoughts that are troubling them and acknowledge their needs. 
  • Use a wide range of simple therapeutic activities from our Parent Peer Supporters Toolkit to help parents engage in that process of explanation and reflection.
  • Recognise when the parent is ready to think about the services they need and help them find out about them by sharing information about different agencies with them.
  • Reassure parents about taking the first steps to using other services, by explaining that we know and work with the agencies that provide them, trust and recommend them.
  • Never try to persuade or pressurise parents to use other services, instead help them find the clarity and confidence to make that decision themselves.

What if the parent is in need of another service but reluctant to consider using it?

When a parent first asks for support, our Project Manager or Volunteer Coordinator will meet them to explain the kind of support we offer and find out how they hope the peer support will help them. They use a simple set of questions and sometimes a diagram activity, that provide a non-threatening way to make an initial assessment of the issues that are affecting the parent's wellbeing and engage the parent in using them. 


During that first meeting with the parent, the Project Manager or Volunteer Co-ordinator explains:

  • The peer supporter's role and their own role as the peer supporter's supervisor, which includes monitoring the progress of the peer support.
  • That the peer supporter will share with them what happens during the peer support sessions.
  • That they will review the how the peer support is working with them from time to time and visit them to discuss any issues about how it is progressing.
  • Our policies on complaints, confidentiality, privacy/information sharing and safeguarding.
  • That we cannot keep confidential any information that gives us a well-founded belief that a person is at risk.

Once the peer support begins

  • Our peer supporters share and discuss the peer support they are giving to parents during their regular supervision sessions.
  • They are trained to recognise the signs that a parent may need help from another agency and how to explore what they have noticed sensitively with the parent. 
  • If the concerns that the peer supporter has are confirmed or reinforced, their priority will be to help the parent to acknowledge them and seek appropriate help.
  • If this does not work, the Project Manager or Volunteer Coordinator, who will have met the parent when they first asked for support, will visit the parent.
  • During that visit the Supervisor will remind the parent that the peer support we offer is not passive and for it to continue we need to know that progress is being made. 
  • If necessary, the Project Manager or Volunteer Coordinator will explain to the parent that if we believe a potentially harmful situation may be developing and the parent is not allowing the peer supporter to help them find ways of preventing it from occurring, that we cannot simply stand by and watch without doing something about it. 


How long does the peer support last?

Individual peer support can last between three and twelve months depending on the needs of each parent. Each peer supporter carefully manages the support they are offering to the parent and how long it lasts, under the guidance of their supervisor. Through that management the support is modified as time goes on and parents make progress, to ensure that they do not become dependent upon the peer supporter and that they develop the confidence to cope by themselves.

Our core parent peer support groups are run continuously but the membership changes as parents benefit from the support and move on. The teams of volunteers that lead our parent peer support groups review their work with their supervisor, examining how the group is developing and functioning and the way that individual group members are participating and responding. Assessments are made during those supervision sessions about if and when a group needs to be closed and restarted with new members and whether any individuals need to be offered alternative support. 


How and when do we share information?

  • We never share the personal information that parents disclose to us with any other agencies unless parents agreed to it, except where it is about a threat to someone’s safety.
  • After we have made informal contact with a parent, we meet with them to find out about the key experiences and issues that are troubling them and the kind of peer support they will need from us.
  • We regularly review the progress of the peer support and the difference it is making to the parent while they are accepting support from us and make a final evaluation with them when they no longer need it. 
  • The records from these activities are stored securely. Any documents relating to parents have a unique code rather than their name and contain no other personal details. The parents see and approve all these records and are given copies of them.
  • The peer supporter will ask the parent if they want to share any of that information with other agencies or anyone else in their lives.
  • We have found that the unique relationship of trust that develops between the peer supporter and parent, the skilful way that the peer supporters listen to parents and help them gain insight and perspective on whatever is troubling them, empowers parents. It builds their self-esteem and gives them the confidence and courage to share information with other agencies and people in their lives of their own accord and on their own behalf. Even when the parent asks their peer supporter to help them find the best way to convey the information or to be with them when they do it, they take responsibility for doing it themselves.


How do we recruit and train volunteers?

  • It takes time to find out if a person has the personal attitudes, qualities and skills to become a parent peer supporter and to find out if they want to do it for the appropriate reasons.
  • It also takes time for a person to fully understand what it will mean if they decide to follow that path. 
  • So we use a 5 Stage Recruitment Process to ensure that nobody joins the training course without understanding what the role of Parents4Parents peer supporter involves.
  • The process helps each potential volunteer and Parents4Parents to decide together if becoming a peer supporter if the right thing for them to do and if they are ready for the opportunity. The process includes taking part in two introductory workshops, attending activities and events led by active peer supporters over a period of several weeks.
  • Each potential new trainee volunteer peer supporter must also submit a written application, provide the names of two referees and take part in an interview.
  • The 5 Stage Recruitment Process allows potential trainee peer supporters to learn about the demands and responsibilities that the role will place on them. It also gives us time to learn about each individual’s personal circumstances and experiences, to identify their qualities and assess their readiness to train for the role.
  • The training programme begins with 6 sessions that highlight the key principles and policies that underpin our charity's work, the peer supporter's role and responsibilities and the commitments we expect our volunteers to make. The sessions include learning activities that test the participants' ability and readiness to meet the responsibilities and commitments.
  • Before they are allowed to take responsibility for delivering any of our peer support activities to parents, volunteers must successfully complete our year long externally accredited training programme and achieve either the level 3 Certificate of level 4 Diploma in Peer Support For Parents. The first six months of the training is guided learning, the remainder is supervised work experience where they accompany, shadow and assist experienced volunteers with their work.


What we do if a parent who has come to us for support asks if they can become a volunteer instead

We understand that there may be different reasons why parents who need support might ask to become trainee peer supporters instead.

They may feel that all we see is the fact that they are feeling weakened and they want to show us that they do have strengths. When they learn about or meet our volunteers, they recognise a peer who is in the position they want to be in themselves - of offering rather than accepting support. Being a peer supporter may seem to be a goal they can aim at achieving, which gives them hope for the future. Sometimes it may simply be an avoidance strategy.  Whatever their reasons may be, we respond in the same way:

  • We acknowledge that the parent is a rounded human being with experience, qualities and skills that are obvious to us from meeting with her/him.
  • We stress that we are only there to help parents to make decisions about what to do and will never try to sway them, but we will talk about the possibility of becoming a peer supporter at a later stage.
  • We explain that the parent first needs to benefit from the peer support and reach a point where we all believe they are ready to embark on the recruitment process.
  • Should a parent emphasise the wish to become a volunteer and minimise the need for personal or social support, we would not argue about it, but say that before we consider recruiting parents we always make an assessment of their needs.  

After having had peer support for several months and made significant progress, some parents do go on to become trainee volunteers.


How do we supervise our volunteers?

  • All of our trainee and trained volunteers must take part in regular individual and group supervision sessions.
  • Volunteers can have additional supervision and mentoring as and when required.
  • During those sessions the volunteers review and reflect on their learning, their practice, their personal development, how they are coping with the demands of their role and any coaching they may need.
  • During the group supervision we explore and analyse case studies, issues and situations that volunteers have found challenging (without ever disclosing the identity of the parents concerned), have up skilling workshops and "Tree of Wisdom" sessions, where newer volunteers benefit from the knowledge of experienced peer supporters.
  • We have a monitoring system for tracking the progress and performance of our volunteers that helps us to spot and deal with any problems that may arise quickly and effectively.

We have strict policies and guidelines about what we expect from our volunteer peer supporters

  • Our guidelines and polices apply from the day that volunteers begin their training.
  • We recruit volunteers who know from experience what it is like to become and be a parent when life is giving you serious difficulties to deal with at the same time. Although they have withstood those difficulties and grown stronger and more resilient through doing so, those difficulties never leave their memory and some of the circumstances that caused them may not have changed. Sometimes an incident or development in their personal lives revives the impact of past experiences and they need to take a break from their training or voluntary work while they deal with that.  We have a procedures in place for supporting volunteers who find themselves in that position and for monitoring the situation with them, to assess if and when they are able to resume their training or voluntary work.
  • Some people who want to become volunteers with our organisation find the demands of the role and the commitment they need to make very tough.
  • If a volunteer wants to leave we thank them for what they have done and wish them luck for the future.
  • If a trainee volunteer that is facing difficulty coping with the demands of the role wants to carry on, we do our best to support them, but if that support does not turn things around, we must suspend or terminate their involvement.
  • We expect our trained and qualified peer supporters to cope with the demands of the role without support over and above the mandatory regular supervision. If a trained volunteer is finding it difficult to meet their commitments or uphold our policies, they are suspended from their role while we investigate and assess the problems. The Trustees will then decide whether, if appropriate provision can be made to overcome the problems, the volunteer can be reinstated for a trial period or if their voluntary work must be terminated.
  • We know that when people are finding it hard to cope they can become very emotional and do not always see what is happening clearly. We appreciate that it can be painful for them to accept any responsibility for things that go wrong. In those circumstances help the volunteer to see what is going wrong without attributing blame or allowing it to undermine their self-esteem, using constructive feedback and offering them emotional support. Nevertheless, if the working relationship breaks down we have to be honest about the problems for the sake of our organisation and the services it delivers.

We never take risks with the safety of the parents we support or the quality of the services we deliver.

  • All of our trainee and qualified peer supporters must submit DBS applications and produce a satisfactory certificate.
  • If at any time during the recruitment and training process, or after they have qualified as peer supporters, volunteers find that their circumstances change such that they are unable to make the commitment that is expected of them, or information comes to light that causes us to question their suitability to be a parent peer supporter, their status as a new trainee or qualified volunteer is suspended.
  • We will offer them individual or group peer support if that is appropriate.
  • The suspension will be lifted and they will be reinstated if and when the Trustees are sure that any barriers to them being a trainee or active peer supporter have been removed overcome and/or they no longer need support.