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Family Engagement

Some parents and carers regularly miss or cancel appointments, promising/ intending to reschedule but not attending. Practitioners can sometimes be over optimistic about parents’ and carers’ progress and ability to care for the child or their promises/intentions to engage with services. Practitioners may rationalise a parent’s behaviour, for example, seeing non-engagement with services as a matter of ‘parental choice’ rather than not be able to, for whatever reason.
Learning from case reviews shows that practitioners tended to accept information from parents and carers as fact without displaying appropriate professional curiosity and investigating further. Being professionally curious will help you to establish any potential barriers to engagement and promote positive engagement.

Impact of non engagement

Non engagement with services can have a significant impact on a child and their family. It can mean that the child is not being effectively safeguarded and getting the support they need to achieve the best possible outcome.

Barriers to engagement

By being aware of the different barriers people and communities face in accessing services, we can start to identify ways to make them more accessible.

Potential barriers include:

  • Stigma within a community or among friends and family around asking for or seeking help
  • Historic lack of trust in a service, e.g. if a service is thought to discriminate against specific groups
  • Lack of familiarity with or awareness of a service
  • Fear of consequences of asking for help, especially if living in an unstable or dangerous situation such as experiencing domestic abuse
  • Geographical or environmental barriers, such as an unsuitable location or no disabled access
  • Issues around availability of services, such as long waiting lists or inconvenient opening hours
  • Communication differences, such as language barriers

Supporting engagement tips

Below are some examples of how you can support engagement with families:

  • Consulting the people that could benefit from a service but who are not using it may widen the possibilities for engagement, identify challenges, and create opportunities for change.
  • Making people aware of the service and its resources can be the first step in starting a conversation. Services can increase their visibility by:
    • marketing, advertising and signposting to services
    • being clear about what the service is and how it can help users
    • listening to feedback and providing users with the kinds of services they want.
  • Stress associated with remembering and getting to a service can be reduced with:
    • flexible opening and appointment times
    • written and verbal reminders of appointments or events
    • where appropriate, meeting the child, young person or family where they are comfortable, such as a neutral venue.
  • A positive relationship between practitioners and service users is an important aspect of engagement, and can be encouraged by:
    • building knowledge about the community and creating an inclusive space, such as having multilingual staff
    • growing trust and respect by having a rapport and being non-judgemental
    • asking directly and listening to users about any difficulties they have around accessing the service
    • “warm handovers” within and across services by a practitioner already working with the family. This is where a professional already known to the family “introduces” them to another practitioner.

Useful links

Spotlight-On-Disguised-Compliance.pdf (

Spotlight-On-Child-and-Family-Engagement-Guidance-Partnership-Updated.pdf (

Rethinking ‘Did Not Attend’ (


You can access the HSCP learning from reviews training sessions here.

You can access the IOWSCP training here.