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Improving parenting, improving practice

NSPCC service

NSPCC neglect services

November 2013

Improving parenting, improving practice, is an NSPCC service to tackle child neglect.

It involves using one of two different approaches to improve the way in which parents bond with their children and understand their needs. The two approaches are Video Interaction Guidance (VIG) and Pathways Triple P (PTP).

NSPCC service referral criteria
Working with families at risk of neglect
References and further reading
Related resources


Improving parenting, improving practice aims to improve parenting behaviour where there are concerns regarding neglect and emotional maltreatment, but the threshold has not been met to make the child subject to a child protection plan.

One of two approaches will be used by practitioners to improve parenting practices: the Video Interaction Guidance (VIG) programme or the Pathways Triple P (PTP).


Video Interaction Guidance (VIG)

Video Interaction Guidance (VIG) involves filming interactions between children and their parents in their home. The practitioner edits the film to highlight successful interactions and then the practitioner and parents watch the film together and discuss and reflect upon the responses and reactions of the parents and children.

Successful interactions are selected using the contact principles (developed from research by Colwyn Trevarthen on early mother-infant dialogue). Examples include:

  • being attentive
  • letting the other person lead
  • taking turns
  • using an interesting facial expression and tone of voice.

The emphasis is on highlighting the strengths of the parents.

The parent is asked to reflect on their feelings, thoughts, wishes and intentions and then the practitioner and parent set goals for the parent to become more sensitive and attuned to the child and more aware of how they can respond in a positive way. In future sessions the parent will reflect on how their behaviour is contributing towards the achievement of their goals, celebrate success and then make further goals for change.

VIG was developed in the Netherlands in the 1980s by Harrie Biemans and colleagues.  It was adapted and introduced to the UK by Hilary Kennedy at Dundee University and is widely used in Scotland. It is based on the principle of self-modelling (Dorwick, 1999) by allowing parents to watch themselves displaying positive behaviours.

Research has shown VIG to be effective in changing parenting behaviour and attitudes (Fukkink, 2008) and in reaching unmotivated parents (Chaffin et al, 2009).

Pathways Triple P (Positive Parenting Programme)

The Pathways Triple P (Positive Parenting Programme) is an individually tailored cognitive behavioural (CBT) family intervention programme. It aims to teach parents behavioural approaches to improve parent-child relationships and parental availability to the child. It works by helping parents build on effective management strategies.

The NSPCC service delivers Pathways Triple P through face-to-face sessions, which include:

  • mood management strategies
  • stress coping skills
  • anger management
  • strategies for managing children’s behaviour
  • helping parents not to blame the child (attribution retraining).

Triple P was developed in the 1980s by the University of Queensland, Australia to prevent and treat behavioural and emotional problems in children and teenagers. Pathways Triple P is a new branch focusing on parents at risk of maltreating their children.

There are five levels of intervention, and the Pathways Triple P combines Level three (training for parents of children with mild-to-moderate behaviours) and Level five (help for families in conflict or those dealing with significant stress or depression).

Research has shown Pathways Triple P to be effective in improving parent-child relationships and in reducing child behaviour problems (Wiggins et al, 2009).

NSPCC service referral criteria

Improving parenting, improving practice is currently available in: Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow, Grimsby, Hull, Peterborough, Sheffield and Southampton.

Improving parenting, improving practice is open to children aged between 2 and 12 years and their families. A Common Assessment Framework (CAF) or equivalent assessment should have already been undertaken indicating active concerns about neglectful parenting.

Care proceedings should not be underway, and the referred child should not be, nor have been, the subject of a child protection plan. Other children in the family should not have not been subject of a child protection plan within two years of the referral date.

Call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 for the details of your nearest NSPCC service centre.

Working with families at risk of neglect

The NSPCC are using the Video Interaction Guidance (VIG) and the Pathways Triple P (Positive Parenting Programme) as interventions to improve parenting practices.

Practitioners work in the home with families of children aged 2 to 12 years, for a period of two to three months using either the Video Interaction Guidance (VIG) programme or the Pathways Triple P (PTP) programme.

Over a period of two and a half years, the service will work with 1,640 families in eight areas across the UK.


We will be undertaking rigorous monitoring and evaluation of the two programmes to see whether, and in what way, these interventions improve outcomes for neglected children.

We are particularly interested in learning about: reducing parental neglect; improving parental sensitivity to children’s needs; and improving parent-child interaction and communication.

References and further reading

Chaffin, M. et al (2009) A motivational intervention can improve retention in PCIT for low-motivation child welfare clients. Child Maltreatment 14(4): 356-368.

Dowrick, P. W. (1999) A review of self modeling and related interventions. Applied and Preventive Psychology 8(1): 23-39.

Fukkink, R. G.  (2008) Video feedback in widescreen: a meta-analysis of family programs. Clinical Psychological Review 28(6): 904-916.

Fulford, D. (2000) Show of strength: video interaction guidance.  Nursery World 3 August.

Kennedy, H., Landor, M. and Todd, L. (eds) (August 2011) Video Interaction Guidance: attunement, empathy and wellbeing.  London: Jessica Kingsley.

Kennedy, H., Landor, M. and Todd, L. (2010) Video Interaction Guidance as a method to promote secure attachment. Educational and Child Psychology 27(3): 59-72.

Sanders, M. R. et al (2004) Does parental attributional retraining and anger management enhance the effects of the Triple P-Positive Parenting Program with parents at risk of child maltreatment? Behavior Therapy 35(3): 513-535.

Triple P website

Trevarthen, C. Video: Professor Colwyn Trevarthen: communication. [Glasgow]: Education Scotland. (Accessed: 22/03/2013).  

Wiggins T. L., Sofronoff, K. and Sanders, M. R. (2009) Pathways Triple P-Positive Parenting Program: effects on parent-child relationships and child behavior problems. Family Process 48(4): 517-530.

Related resources

Factsheet series on neglect
A series of factsheets to help professionals understand, identify and respond effectively to cases of child neglect.

News on child neglect
Keep up to date with the most recent developments on working with neglected children and young people and their families with CASPAR, the current awareness service for child protection policy, practice and research.

Practice resources and research on child neglect
Publications to help professionals working with neglected children or adolescents and their families.

Neglect homepage
See all of our resources for professionals on working to prevent child neglect.

Contact the NSPCC's information service for information on NSPCC services, child neglect or any child protection topic

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