Families, Relationships and Societies (2014)

20 January 2014

A randomised controlled trial of a relationship support training programme for frontline practitioners working with families

Authors: Coleman, Lester; Houlston, Catherine; Casey, Polly; Purdon, Susan; Bryson, Caroline


This article presents findings from a cluster randomised controlled trial of a ‘blended’ (online and face-to-face) training programme for frontline practitioners (n = 222 intervention group, n = 227 control group). The ‘Relationship Support: An Early Intervention’ programme aimed to help practitioners recognise, respond appropriately to and review the need for further support for people experiencing relationship difficulties. Within a three-month time interval between the intervention and outcome measurement, the training had a significantly large positive impact on the way practitioners handled conversations with parents about their relationship difficulties. Practitioners in the intervention group reported being more than twice as likely as those in the control group to be confident in knowing both where and how to refer parents on for further support. The training also increased the likelihood of offering equivalent support in the future. These positive outcomes were evident across the sample, irrespective of practitioners’ pre-intervention level of experience or confidence. Implications of this study are outlined in terms of training the relational capability of the wider family support workforce.

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