A deeper challenge
The reviewer was critical of how we interpreted the findings, however and this was more challenging for us.
They felt we put too much emphasis on the negative aspects of having a parent with mental health issues, and that we didn’t spend enough time portraying the very positive relationships children can have with their parents.
More broadly, they didn’t think we had paid sufficient attention to the external and systemic factors that can affect a parent’s mental health, such as poor housing and poverty. As a result they felt there was a risk that parental mental health problems could be misrepresented.
The reviewer’s contribution really made us think about how we talk about our mixed findings. Should our report focus solely on the service being evaluated or should it put the findings from the evaluation into context by including a broader discussion of the relevant issues?
The reviewer argued that, without addressing the broader systemic factors, a programme like Family SMILES would be unlikely to generate significant and long lasting change on its own.
This led us to realise that, while the programme could have some really positive outcomes for children and families, we needed to think differently about how it connected with wider support systems.
This fits with other work that’s going on in the NSPCC at the moment, looking at how we need to work with other organisations in a more joined-up way to support families with adversities.