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New Parents as Partners Programme

Published in Press Releases on March 3rd 2014

The Cowans’ Supporting Father Involvement - A Couple Approach Programme, which aims to help couples resolve ineffective relationship dynamics which can have a negative impact on their children, is being brought from California to UK this month.

The Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships (TCCR) and Family Action are launching an innovative new 'Parents as Partners' programme, based on the Cowans' approach, to support couples as they resolve relationship issues that can affect their ability to parent their children effectively.

The Supporting Father Involvement

A Couple Approach programme was developed and tested in the U.S by husband and wife psychologists, Professors Philip and Carolyn Cowan from the University of California, Berkeley, Marsha Pruett from Smith College, and Kyle Pruett from Yale University, based on an earlier programme developed by the Cowans.

Thanks to a £2.9 million funding grant by the Department for Education, TCCR and Family Action are pioneering its launch in the UK starting in the London Boroughs of Camden, Westminster, Islington, Southwark Greenwich, Lewisham and Wandsworth. The programme will be rolled out to other areas of the country after the development phase.

On 27 February, TCCR and Family Action will host a conference - entitled 'More than mothering' - to showcase the programme and help potential referrers to understand better the importance of father involvement. It will highlight how the couple relationship is the vehicle for change making family relationships more effective. The Professors Cowan will be attending personally. The conference is aimed at professionals working with children and families.

The 'Parents as Partners' Programme is an evaluated group work programme for parental couples. The programme runs for 16 weekly sessions and is delivered by co-workers – one male and one female. There is further support for families before, during and after the sessions. The programme will complement the increasing policy focus on stable couple relationships and effective parenting as vital for secure and stable households for children and parenting.

This transformative programme is designed to offer change to hard-to-reach families, in some cases where there are active child protection concerns. It focuses on using the parents’ relationship as couples and co8parents to help both parents work together to improve collaboration and positive parenting. The programme aims to enhance and strengthen services to children and families through supporting the positive involvement of fathers in their lives.

TCCR and Family Action will deliver the 'Parents as Partners' Programme in order to:

  • provide chaotic, vulnerable families with a chance to strengthen their co-parenting relationship
  • increase fathers’ direct involvement with their children
  • reduce harsh parenting
  • foster the children’s cognitive, emotional and social development.

Although the programme has already been fully evaluated for low-income, high risk families in the U.S. and Canada, the UK launch will fine tune aspects to ensure that there is a good cultural fit with UK families.

TCCR’s Chief Executive Susanna Abse said: “Over decades, Professors Phil and Carolyn Cowan have systematically evaluated their couples-based approach to supporting parenting and have been able to demonstrate startling and significant improvements in relationship functioning and children’s outcomes. We are thrilled that, at long last, we have been given this opportunity by the Department for Education to bring this approach to the UK”.

Family Action Chief Executive Helen Dent added: “This pioneering project heralds a new chapter in family support services in the UK. Focusing on the couple relationship and father involvement this successfully evaluated project will make a difference to families and children. We’re looking forward to welcoming the Cowans to the UK and working with TCCR on this innovative, exciting project.”

Professors Philip and Carolyn Cowan added: “We are so pleased that the UK will be trialling our programme across London and are looking forward to meeting and helping to train the group8workers and facilitators who will deliver the programme on the ground. For the past 35 years, we have found that when parents are helped to deal with differences and collaborate with each other, they are more satisfied with their relationships and their children benefit in terms of their school achievement and their relationships with peers. TCCR has been tireless in its efforts over a number of years to secure funding to bring the programme over the pond, and it is immensely gratifying that this work has now resulted in the chance to translate the programme into a UK context”.


Notes to Editors

  • TCCR are the lead contractor for the bid which is worth £2.968,173 and runs December 2012 and March 2015.
  • The development phase from December 12 – March 13 will be used to bring the Cowans to the UK to train TCCR and Family Action staff in the group work model.
  • Both agencies will be trained to deliver the programme which will be offered to a number of London Local Authorities in the first full year of work. In Year 1 the opportunity is being offered to the London boroughs of Westminster, Camden, Islington, Wandsworth, Greenwich and Southwark.
  • The Professors Cowan will be available for interview.
  • For more information please contact Ben Wicks, Senior Media and Campaigns Officer for Family Action on 0207 241 7632 / 0781 309 2040 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

About Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships

Established in 1948, TCCR is recognised in its field as a centre of advanced practice and study, both nationally and internationally. TCCR runs a variety of practitioner trainings, ranging from introductory courses to doctoral programmes in couple counselling and psychotherapy. TCCR also supports the work of frontline practitioners, and aims to foster an approach to family support and mental health service provision which takes the impact of couple relationships on child and family functioning into account. TCCR also provides services to couple and parents throughout London. We operate a range of affordable counselling and psychotherapy services supporting clients experiencing challenges in their relationships, their sexual lives and their parenting.

About Family Action

Family Action has been a leading provider of services to disadvantaged and socially isolated families since 1869. We work with over 45,000 children and families a year by providing practical, emotional and financial support through over 100 services based in communities across England. A further 150,000 people benefit from our educational grants and information service.

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