Community of Practice

Parenting on a Low Income: Community of Practice
About Families facilitated a Community of Practice, comprising participants from a range of third sector organisations and local authorities, to consider how the Parenting on a low income evidence report could inform services supporting parents and families, including those with disabilities. The Community of Practice sought to:

  • capture, create and share knowledge;
  • share experiences, reflect on common issues and identify opportunities to develop practice; and
  • formalise and initiate projects as a result of identifying opportunities for collaborative working.

Over the summer of 2012, the Community of Practice identified four priority themes:

  • Universal versus targeted support
  • Community capacity building
  • Working with the private sector
  • Income maximisation

Four of the participating organisations (Save the Children, Scottish Book Trust, Plan B Partnership and One Parent Families Scotland) took a lead on exploring each of these themes.

Participants also reflected creatively on these priority themes with a community artist, who created images arising from discussions. These images were shared with a group of parents living on a low income, through work with the Poverty Alliance and Fife Gingerbread and informed the priority themes. While there were many similarities in reflections from the Community of Practice participants and parents, there were also some differences, which highlighted the importance of involving service users in planning and designing service developments. For example, the Community of Practice reflected that parents may try to protect their children from the impact of living on a low income. However, the parents felt this was a ‘naïve’ and ‘middle class’ view as their children were very aware of the pressures of living on a low income.

“the comments of the Fife Gingerbread participants who clearly thought that our illustration-readings and theirs were not aligned…[highlights] that parents’ views and experiences need to underpin all development work” (participant)

Participants identified five key recommendations for how practitioners and policy makers can further develop services to support parents and families living on a low income:

  • Impact of welfare reform – services supporting parents and families must have a greater focus on the increasing challenges posed by current and forthcoming welfare reforms.
  • Engaging parents – in order to develop services which support parents living on a low income, those parents must be involved in practice and policy development and in determining what does and doesn’t work.
  • Access to support – appropriate services must be delivered through a range of medium in order to reach and effectively support those most in need, including 1:1 engagement with families, community based services, and the internet.
  • Networking/sharing – effective partnership working provides opportunities to share resources. Organisations need to consider how evidence can inform services and pursue opportunities to reflect with, learn from, and work with other organisations in order to build capacity and develop support for families.
  • Applying learning – organisations must apply learning, seek opportunities for linking services and policy, and apply evidence-based practice to ensure that services are innovative and continually developing in order to meet the changing needs of parents and families.

“I honestly believe that my membership in the Community of Practice has given me new knowledge which has enhanced my thinking about low income, poverty, parenthood and children, a pervasive change in me which will influence all of the work that I undertake.” (participant)

A report from the Communtiy of Practice has been produced and can be accessed here.

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