The project will explore how parents’ and children’s voices can be incorporated into the planning and delivery of parenting support services. These voices are currently marginalised by the dominant evidence-based paradigm in early years’ services, which favours quantitative metrics of outcomes. Yet these voices have considerable potential to inform improvements to the commissioning, design and delivery of services, to help better meet the needs of vulnerable families.
Working in close collaboration with the family support charity Home Start Oldham, Stockport and Tameside (HOST), the student will carry out collaborative ethnographic research to:
1. examine how HOST is currently using family voices to inform its services;
2. explore how HOST’s practices in this area could be improved, both in its everyday work and in its strategic planning; and
3. consider how this work with HOST might be used to inform early years strategies more widely, for example through our regional partnerships within Greater Manchester and nationally through Home Start’s UK network.
Aims and objectives
The collaborative partner is Home Start Oldham Stockport and Tameside (HOST), a charity supporting families in Greater Manchester. It is part of Home Start UK, a nationwide network of over 200 branches, which also supports the proposal. Home Start volunteers are parents who support other parents, with the aim of improving the wellbeing of young children. Support happens through home visits to families facing issues such as poverty, isolation, and physical and mental health problems.
The supervisors and the CEO of HOST have met over the past 12 months through involvement in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) School Readiness Board. The GMCA is responsible for strategic planning for the devolved Greater Manchester city region, and school readiness is one of its priority areas. Through this board, the supervisors and HOST have identified a shared interest in incorporating the voices of families in the planning and delivery of parenting support services.
The collaboration with HOST presents exciting opportunities to explore the evidence-based paradigm could be augmented with family voices. The project will contribute to wider debates about participation, voice and co-production across fields such as early years, childhood studies, education research, and social work. It will inform HOST’s long term strategic planning, and we also hope to have impacts on regional strategy through the involvement of HOST in the GMCA School Readiness Board and its Parenting Pathway in the Early Years Delivery Model, and nationally through Home Start UK.
1. How is HOST currently producing knowledge about the lives of the families with whom it works?
2. How could HOST better understand these families, hear their voices, and use them to inform its service delivery?
3. How could family voices be used to inform strategic planning for early years services at regional and national levels?
Specific requirements of the project
- Applicants need a 2:1 honours degree or above, or equivalent, ideally in a field relevant to the project topic.
- The applicant will need to be willing to spend a portion of their time working at HOST’s offices in Audenshaw, and be able to arrange their own travel for this aspect of the project. Year 1 of the PhD will involve a 2 month full time internship at HOST, and in year 2 we expect the student to spend on average 3-4 days per month at HOST (pro-rata for part time).
- We would particularly welcome applicants who have experience relevant to the research topic, e.g. of working in emancipatory ways with communities, parents and children; of working to support the voices of families; of working in family support services and/or in voluntary sector work with families.
- Candidates will be eligible to enter directly into the +3 PhD phase of the studentship if they have completed prior training that meets the ESRC’s requirements, such as via an ESRC accredited MA Social Research, or by meeting the criteria set out here: https://wrdtp.ac.uk/studentships/
Otherwise, they will enter as an MA student and progress to PhD subject to successful completion of the MA.
- Visit our webpage for full details on this opportunity.