Researchers are to examine whether a family support programme can protect Scottish children and help their fathers, who have a drug problem, to lead fulfilling family lives.
Edinburgh Napier University has been awarded £320,000 to carry out the first study of the Australian Parents under Pressure (PuP) programme to focus on fathers and their care of young children.
Around 350,000 children in the UK live with a parent who has a serious drug problem, and they are often the victims of abuse and neglect.
The PuP programme, which involves working with drug-using parents through home visits, has been shown to reduce drug use and improve parenting and child well-being.
However, research has focused on drug-using mothers, and there is doubt over whether fathers with a history of addiction will engage with the programme and workbook-based tasks and exercises.
In this study, PrePare, a social work-led service, and Circle, a family support agency, will deliver the programme to 24 families with a drug-using father with at least one pre-school aged child.
Over a period of six months, specially-trained practitioners will take the families through a series of 12 modules such as ‘connecting with your child’, ‘managing substance use’, ‘mind-ful child management’ and ‘managing under pressure’.
Australian-based Professor Sharon Dawe and Dr Paul Harnett have been working on the development of the Parents under Pressure model for more than a decade. Tests have now taken place in several UK cities with a view to adopting the programme here.
Men on methadone treatment programmes will be referred to the programme on a voluntary basis. Agencies supporting problem families often focus on the mother and exclude the father, but researchers believe that if dads participate actively along with their partners for the duration of the programme, it will have a positive impact on their children’s lives and the well-being of the family as a whole, as well as their own ability to manage their addiction.
If the Edinburgh study – which launched in April and is due to be completed in March 2019 – yields positive results, the next step would be to carry out a large-scale evaluation of the programme with dads.