Exploring service barriers and enablers to family support

As a result of regular family support provision in a Children’s Neighbourhood area, a local partner shared anonymised local intelligence with members of the Children’s Neighbourhood Scotland (CNS) team.

This data outlined  the journeys of families in distress through services in order to highlight the issues they faced and the support they sought from statutory providers. In partnership with colleagues from the local Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) and a local third sector organisation, CNS team members analysed the data to explore and identify the barriers and enablers to family wellbeing and access to services.


Improving family circumstances at times of distress was influenced by a number of factors, many of which were out with the control of the individual family.

With their permission, an HSCP employed health improvement practitioner collected intelligence and data relating to the experiences of the families . The health improvement practitioner provided intensive one to one individual support to parents (primarily the mother), advocacy and counselling. This data enabled a brief analysis of the experiences of these families.

This included:

  • issues faced
  • services accessed
  • responses from services
  • identification of the enablers and support required
  • barriers, blockages and gaps in the system.

An exploration of these factors is vital to understand how services are provided when families experience distress.

Multi-step interventions

In each of the cases reviewed, the family support worker, on behalf of the parent, made several multi-step interventions to organisations at different times (ranging from a few days to three weeks). Interventions included accompanying a parent to meetings with professional services, accessing funds or other resources, and ensuring parents and children were safe.

Across the cases examined, a total of 15 separate interventions were made. All interventions focussed on overcoming and mitigating the impact of the circumstances the families found themselves in. This would not have been possible without support from the family support worker and the crucial advocacy role they played.

Each point of intervention was recognised as a barrier or enabler to improving the circumstances the families found themselves in. These barriers and enablers were influenced by a number of factors, many of which were out with the control of the individual family.

tabe of barriers

On completion, CNS presented these findings to HSCP colleagues.

Addressing the gaps

This data was shared by the HSCP with the intention that it would inform the operational and strategic work of CNS. Understanding and addressing the gaps between and barriers within systems, the inverse care law principle[1] and system failure are critical to ensuring that families can access appropriate support when required.

These case studies were prepared out with the development of the Glasgow City HSCP Family Support Strategy.

CNS has further explored themes emerging from this analysis with local professional staff to gather more insights into service delivery models and their role in supporting families. Findings from this work will be shared in future CNS publications.

[1] The inverse care law is the principle that the availability of good medical or social care tends to vary inversely with the need of the population served (Tudor Hart, 1971; Lancet 297 (7696): 405-412).