The University of Wolverhampton was commissioned in 2013 by NHS Scotland to evaluate the reach of play@home, explore the attitudes and beliefs of vulnerable families on the purpose and importance of play and find out if, and in what ways, vulnerable parents/carers are supported to access and experience play@home. Twelve focus groups were undertaken with 69 vulnerable parents in eight Health Boards and the findings need to be considered in the context of the relatively small sample size.
Play@home is a universal early years’ play intervention programme, designed for children aged 0-5. It provides age and stage appropriate information and activities for parents/carers and children in three books.
The study found that play@home was not reaching all vulnerable parents and vulnerable parents who receive the books did not necessarily use them. However, not all parents were able to remember whether they had received the books or not, which is consistent with findings across the general population. There was little evidence that health visitors had actively promoted play@home to vulnerable parents and very few parents had received additional support to enable them to use play@home. Although health visitors had identified parents as vulnerable and referred them to local support services which they greatly valued, they may not have been best placed to deliver the additional support that is required to ensure that play@home reaches vulnerable parents. Further findings include that the parents of children with disabilities had specific needs in relation to supporting their children’s play which may not have been met by play@home, and that fathers should be targeted for support, particularly in communities where English is an additional language. All vulnerable parents who participated in this study understood the purpose and importance of play.
Recommendationsfrom the research included:
- There should be multiple points of access to play@home to raise awareness of the programme, especially among vulnerable families.
- Delivery systems for play@home should be more varied and flexible. This could involve extending access to and the availability of existing media such as books, leaflets and DVDs and using new approaches, such as social media, to promote the programme.
- The role of health visitors in distributing and monitoring play@home, and particularly in supporting its use with vulnerable families, should be explored further.
- Consideration should be given to promoting and supporting the delivery of play@home through pre-existing groups, which involve vulnerable families, and encouraging peer support for play.
- play@home should continue to be explicitly promoted as part of a holistic offer to parents which includes other relevant resources.
The full research report is also available, along with the following film created for the project.