SCOTLAND’S biggest health board has spent £4m on a controversial “common sense” parenting scheme – despite experts admitting it has “zero benefits”.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) started using the “Triple P” positive parenting programme five years ago.
The scheme is designed to allow families to develop their own parenting styles and help them improve communication with their children through a series of hour-long workshops.
But in November 2014 independent researchers recommended that it be cancelled because of its “lack of efficacy” – with some even claiming that it was doing more harm than good.
In spite of their recommendations the scheme has continued at huge expense to the public wallet.
Now experts say bosses may have misled the board into investing in the programme by telling them the body selling it is a non-profit research institution – when in reality it is a private company.
The new information surrounding the board’s use of the programme has come to light through documents released under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation.
Triple P was developed by Australian academic Matt Sanders at the University of Queensland – and has sold around 7m copies worldwide since it was released in 1996.
The course is intended to help parents develop their own approaches to childcare, rather dictating to them how to raise their children.
A glossy presentation document for the scheme in Glasgow five years ago reads: “It gives parents their ‘parenting wings to fly’ rather than ‘flap on instruction.’
“It’s about engagement, encouragement and empowerment of families to address common social, emotional and behavioural problems.”
A typical course in the programme consists of 10 hour long guidance sessions.
But critics say that the Triple P scheme offers nothing more than “common sense.”
Last November University of Glasgow researchers found that it had made minimal impact on families from deprived backgrounds and may even have increased social inequality because of the high drop-out rate.
Fewer than half of the families completed the programme, and those with severe problems were the most likely to drop out.
A trial of the same course in Birmingham found “zero benefits overall” and the city council withdrew funding.
But Glasgow and Clyde’s health board has persisted with the same programme five years – since the summer of 2010 – spending over £4m on it.
And critics are even claiming that healthcare bosses have misled others about the fact that the programme is provided on a “for-profit” basis.
Internal emails from senior officials introducing the programme in 2010 read: “Triple P is provided on a non-profit making basis with all surpluses going back to [the] University of Queensland to fund further research.”
It is understood that the “not-for-profit” argument was a factor in the board investing millions in the project.
Phil Wilson, of the Centre for Rural Health at the University of Aberdeen, said: “The NHS should not be spending money on stuff that simply doesn’t work.
“This whole episode with Triple P has been a massive waste of money. The health board appears to have disguised that fact.
“This crucial advice about Triple P was incorrect. Triple P International Pty Ltd is a for-profit company.”
Professor Sanders – the inventor of the programme – said he had no knowledge of the decision-making process of the board in purchasing the programme.
A spokesman for NHSGCC said: “The Triple P programme was selected by NHSGCC as being the most appropriate model at that time which provided a range of interventions covering from children with minimal needs to those requiring more intensive support.
“Published evidence at the time of selection suggested it may have reduced the number of child protection concerns.”
The board declined to comment on the claims surrounding the “not-for-profit” status of the programme.