The importance of listening

Headshot of Tom Currie against a white wall
Ahead of Samaritans Awareness Day this Saturday, 24th July, Trainer and Implementation Lead Tom Currie reflects on the power of listening and why it is so important in relationships that are committed to supporting change.

Hopefully we all know how important listening is. Really listening. Listening fully to what is being said and what is not. In relationships that are committed to supporting change listening is essential, literally, the essence of the purpose of the relationship is to listen. Yes, the listener may need to speak at some point but, when they do, what they say will be a lot more valuable if it is informed by good listening first. What they say is also much more likely to be heard when spoken to someone who has first experienced being fully heard.

In the almost 200 courses that I have led in using the Outcomes Star, listening is always talked about. Usually brought up by practitioners when talking about effective work with clients. They know how important it is to their work.

The Outcomes Star is a relational tool that supports change in keywork relationships. It helps practitioners and their clients to have better conversations. It does this by helping create a better quality of listening. There are three ways that it does this: by creating permission, by providing frameworks and by opening a space for sharing.

Creating Permission

Each Outcomes Star has between 6 and 10 points. Each point describes an Outcome Area, an aspect of life that contributes to the client fulfilling their potential. This holistic model provides a framework for the conversation between keyworker and client that helps create permission to discuss a range of aspects of life that the client may otherwise not have brought into the conversation. It also helps the keyworker build a fuller, more rounded picture of the client and their life, to go beyond the presenting issue and work to support the whole person.

A practitioner working with a Probation Trust to support prisoners through the gates and help them find accommodation told me that the wide-ranging conversations she had with her clients when discussing Outcome Areas like ‘positive use of time’ and ‘mental health and well-being’ helped her build a fuller understanding of them and their interests. This not only meant that she gained an understanding of what would be right for them but helped her, when finding them a new place to live, to present a better account of them to prospective landlords.

Providing Frameworks

All Outcomes Stars are underpinned by the Journey of Change. The Journey of Change is a model that outlines the stages people go through when making sustainable change in their lives. The attitudes and behaviour at each of the points on each scale are clearly defined. There are five different types of Journey of Change. Being able to create a shared language for where someone is and where they have not yet got to on their journey through life is a useful step in helping them get there.

I was delivering training to two women who set up a charity supporting parents of children who developed a neuro-degenerative disease that is sadly commonly fatal before the child reaches adult hood. They use the Support Stars – for use with parents, children and young people facing serious illness – which we developed in partnership with CLIC Sargent.

When supporting parents through these difficult times, they said the Journey of Change was key to helping parents make sense of what they were going through. It helped them to acknowledge the overwhelming nature of the shock of the diagnosis, to take in their new reality and begin to engage with how they might navigate the challenges they faced. As human beings we need to make sense of the experiences we face and be able to own and author the narratives of our lives – listening plays a key role in enabling us to do that.

A space for Sharing

The Journey of Change is a universal model that resonates with all the people I have shared it with and provides new insights about our own part in the challenges we face. This creates the opportunity for keyworker and client to meet on a more human level and share more honestly about their own experience, moving beyond the usual paradigms of service provider and service user to a space that is more human, more healing and more hopeful.

In my own life, taking time to reflect on where I am in my own journey through the lens of the five stage Journey of Change often provides me with new insights on ways that I am stopping my own progress, whether by not asking for support or hanging on to outdated behaviours that no longer fit with who and where I am. It helps me to listen more deeply to my own truth.

So, for all these reasons, I celebrate the Samaritans Awareness Day as a chance to champion all those who support people to change by offering the generous, supportive, curious and subtle art of listening. Let’s all listen to each other (and ourselves).

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Tom is a member of Triangle’s Training Team and provides support to our clients across London and the South East, including 18 London Boroughs, a number of County Council services and a couple of national charities. He lives near Oxford and is a trustee for Spark Inside, an organisation delivering coaching programmes in prisons, where he leads on impact and evaluation.

The Support Stars were developed for use with children and young people who are facing serious illness. The Support Star (Parents) is designed to support their families.

How the ideas driving social provision are steering service delivery off course

Triangle, the social enterprise behind the widely used Outcomes Star tools, is calling for a paradigm shift in social provision.  In a new report to be published in September 2021, co-founder and Star co-author Joy MacKeith argues that at its heart service delivery is about meeting human needs and changing behaviour.  Everything we know about how change happens points to the importance of relationships, trust and connection.  Research also shows that services must be holistic and tailored to each person. But the ideas currently driving social provision steer the focus away from relationships and flexibility and onto procedures, markets, targets and standardisation.  They break service delivery down into parts rather than focusing on the whole system.

The report presents an alternative vision – an enabling approach to service delivery.  Called Enabling Help, this alternative puts the focus of the service delivery system on the service user, rather than the helper, the service or the intervention.  Enabling Help builds relationships, trust and hope, develops skills and capabilities, is holistic, responsive and tailored to each individual person.

It also paints a picture of what it means to make Enabling Help a reality in practice. At the front-line it means moving to a collaborative approach rather than telling and directing. For managers it means changing the emphasis from managing procedures to enabling front-line workers to deliver relationship oriented, collaborative, flexible, problem-solving services.  For commissioners it means shifting the focus from numbers to narratives – co-learning with service providers about what works. 

‘Enabling Help’ builds on Triangle’s twenty years’ experience of helping organisations to support and measure change for people receiving services.  Working with over one hundred collaborating organisations including local and national charities, housing associations, grant-making trusts, local authorities and NHS trusts, has provided a unique insight into what works when supporting change and building well-being and potential.  And training and supporting over one thousand organisations to use the Outcomes Star in practice has highlighted what can get in the way of delivering what works.  This report pulls all this learning together and identifies the real reasons why people being helped get stuck in services and the people delivering the help feel frustrated and de-motivated.

The report calls on all those involved in service delivery from front-line workers, to managers, commissioners, researchers and policy-makers to embrace this new set of ideas and put relationships, responsiveness and learning at the heart of everything they do. 

Women and the Homelessness Star

Headshot of Dr Anna Good

Research Analyst, Dr Anna Good reflects on her recent attendance at Homeless Link’s conference on women and homelessness and shares how Triangle’s improvements to the Homelessness Star align with many of the event’s themes.

I had the privilege of attending the ‘Delivering for Women: Women’s Homelessness Conference’ organised by Homeless Link on the 29th June 2021. The timing could not have been better as Triangle is amid creating a new edition of the Homelessness Star, with a focus on applying our learning about how to be more gender- and trauma-informed.

The Homelessness Star was developed for and with both men and women, but much has changed in the 15 years since the first edition was published, including an upward trend in the number of women experiencing homelessness and the proportion of these women with multiple disadvantages. There are now services exclusively for women which use the Homelessness Star. A number of women’s centres provided data for our recent article, published in the Journal of Social Distress and Homelessness: ‘Psychometric validation of the Homelessness Star’.  

Tailored support

The need for more tailored support was emphasised throughout the conference, with ‘gender neutral services’ described as often meaning designed for men. Concern was expressed that only two local authorities offered segregated accommodation as part of the Government’s ‘Everybody in’ scheme during the pandemic. There were powerful arguments for the harm that can be caused by the failure to address this, including the strong role of domestic abuse in causing women’s homelessness and the risk of service users encountering their abusers. Explicit references to domestic abuse and being the victim of crime are some of the key changes in the draft new edition of the Homelessness Star. The centrality of children highlighted in the conference is also reflected in the new edition.

Compassion and curiosity

Another key theme that resonated with the changes in the draft new edition (and with the overarching principles of the Outcomes Star), was the need to be compassionate and curious when women do not engage with support. Women tend to arrive at services with more complex needs, and many will have been let down repeatedly and felt unable to trust anyone throughout their lives. The Outcomes Star specifically assesses readiness to accept help and acknowledges that the situation can feel ‘stuck’ when people have additional barriers to engaging with support. The new edition of the Homelessness Star further emphasises that when people don’t accept help it is often because previous experience has made them anxious or distrustful of services, or because the help offered is not suitable for them.

A speaker with lived experience of homelessness and sex work, spoke passionately about being asked to rate her mental health as a tick-box exercise but not being offered appropriate support. Here again, the Outcomes Star is important because it not only measures outcomes but is also an integral part of keywork to improve these outcomes. As put succinctly by Becky Rogers MBE, “a good assessment of need leads to a more successful intervention”.

Triangle’s commitment

As I listened to the presentations, I became increasingly aware of the value of the investment we are making to ensure that the Homelessness Star is up to date with the advancements that have been made around the need for services to actively ensure that they are gender- and trauma-informed. I also noticed how well the existing Homelessness Star addresses so many of the factors identified as important during the conference, including being strengths-based and holistic.

We are already well underway with the new edition of the Homelessness Star. We reviewed it through many conversations and meetings, as well as a round table, drew together the feedback we received and created a draft edition 4 and are now inviting feedback and comments from those using the Star. More information on the new edition to follow.

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The Homelessness Star is one of the first Outcomes Stars and was created in collaboration with St Mungo’s through the London Housing Foundation Impact through Outcomes Programme. For more information on the Star or the new edition, its implementation and how it could support services working to support homeless folks, please contact Triangle.

New demonstration dates for all clients in August

Triangle will be hosting two Zoom-based free foundation sessions for all clients wanting an introduction or refresher into the Star Online System. 

These sessions are suitable for all clients, practitioners and managers who use the Star Online system. 

Topic: How to Use Reporting Dashboards on Star Online

When: Aug 10, 2021 10:00 AM London
Register in advance for this webinar on zoom here.

This session is suitable for all clients but especially relevant for any managers or staff responsible for creating documents or reports using Outcomes Star information and data. The reporting introduction will cover three report dashboards used in implementation, snapshot and distance travelled reporting. It will also introduce participants to using the filters and thinking about engagements, using them to create instant and engaging charts that can be downloaded to add to any report or funding bid. The session will also highlight what reports can tell you about how Stars are being used in a service and the progress made by service users.

Topic: How to use Star Online (Practitioners Guide)

When: Aug 17, 2021 11:00 AM London
Register in advance for this webinar via Zoom here.

This session will give Star Online users a foundation understanding of the essential and primary tasks that practitioners frequently complete, and will aslo cover essential basics such as how to create a service user, how to add Stars and Action Plans,  the Help center and how to navigate it. Also covered is where practitioners can find and download the key Outcomes Star resources that they need to support their work. The session will also cover general orientation, important features and how to set up engagements and manage notifications.

Please note: these sessions are not a substitute for official training and will only be relevant to those who are using the Star Online.

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If you have any questions about remote training, new Stars, or would like any information on the new Star Online, or anything else, please contact us on info@triangleconsulting.co.uk or +44 (0) 207 272 8765.

Launching the Gambling Recovery Star in Australia

Headshot of Paul Montgomery, Unique Outcomes, wearing a floral shirt leaning against a brick wall
In April, the Co-Director of Unique Outcomes, the Outcomes Star™ in Australia, pAul Montgomery was invited to participate in the official launch of the Gambling Recovery Star. The Gambling Recovery Star was officially launched in Australia in an event hosted by Relationship Australia (RAQ) in Queensland on the 28th April 2021.

The event included brief addresses by Relationships Australia Queensland, CEO Ian Law and the Hon. Shannon Fentiman (Attorney-General) and an informal morning tea where the Gambling Recovery Star resources (printed and laminated) were showcased and discussed in small groups. The launch included a small number of participants invited to the gather, due to COVID19 restrictions and other colleagues from UCC and Centacare accessed the opening addresses via videoconference.

At the launch, Dr Ian Law emphasised the “spirit of collaboration at the heart of the project” with involvement from the Queensland Government Department of Justice and Attorney General, the Outcomes Star in the UK, Unique Outcomes in Australia, Lifeline Darling Downs and South East Queensland, UnitingCare, Centacare and RAQ.

Dr Law further explained that, with 5 million Australians effected by problem gambling each year, there is a keen interest in improving clinical practice and collecting data about what works. He also acknowledged the importance of the Outcomes Star in fostering a dynamic approach to assessment and planning, centred on client’s voices and priorities. He said the Gambling Recovery Star is now routinely used with almost all clients in Queensland’s Gambling Help Services, “Empowering clients to be agents of change”.

The Executive Director of the Office of Regulatory Policy, David McKarzel, shared that contributing to the development of the Gambling Recovery Star had been a welcome opportunity for policy staff to work with these services in a different way- toward the creation of a clear and consistent methodology for service provision.

Marty O’Hare, Counsellor/Community Educator for RAQ said the real advantage of using the Gambling Recovery Star is that “you’re able to dial into conversation with clients about various aspects of their lives… and the Gambling Recovery Star helps us broaden the conversation, so they see gambling in context, see connections to issues relating to their emotional wellbeing… Many people have compartmentalised gambling and not realised it’s effects in other areas of their life and relationships.”

Although several Australian organisations have been involved and collaborated with new Star development over the years, this was pAul’s first experience of being involved from the start. pAul recently shared his thoughts and experiences on the Star in a blogpost. To find out more and read his full blogpost please visit Unique Outcomes website.

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The Gambling Recovery Star is an Outcomes Star that has been devised purposely for organisations that work with individuals to help them recover from harmful gambling and its effects. For more information on the Gambling Recovery Star or any of the other Stars for use in similar sectors (including addiction or substance misuse) please contact Triangle, or if you are based in Australia or New Zealand you can reach out to Unique Outcomes.

How Carers First use the Carers Star in their work

Logo for Carers First - the words Carers First in purple on a white background
We recently caught up with Ferne Haxby – one of our Outcomes Star licensed trainers – and learned how the staff at Carers First use the Carers Star in their work.

I’ve been the Learning & Development Adviser for Carers First since 2016. My role includes ensuring the organisation is compliant by providing statutory training – GDPR and Safeguarding.  As well as championing compliance for Carers Frist, I author courses in a range of subjects that enhance the roles of the staff, source external learning providers, and arrange bespoke workplace training.

The Carers First staff team is committed to using the Outcomes Stars as part of their work; we have a large contingency who use the Carers Star.

The Carers Star is designed for use with a wide range of carers – anyone providing unpaid care for a relative or other person. It can be used by the carer whether they live with the person they care for or not. It’s primarily designed for adult carers but can be used with young carers.

The Carers Star is fundamental to the assessment of carers and allows Carers First’s staff to develop other supporting skills such as motivational interviewing, negotiating and communication as part of their roles. Using this, we can work with carers, supporting and empowering them, making their lives as best as they can be.

I am fully committed to using the Outcomes Star and after initial training it is good to see the number of staff grow in their use of it.  Refresher and reflective training is my favourite, as I facilitate sessions whereby staff are sharing experiences, knowledge and best practice together.  Each time, there is something new to learn and share between staff and this allows us to use the Star to the optimum advantage to help our carers in their journeys as carers.

What is so good is that the Star is a life tool and even though there comes a time when carers are not carers anymore, some keep on our books and check in every now and then and are still using the action plans and development tools as they live their lives. 

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The adult care sector is extremely broad, but most services in this sector focus on helping people achieve the outcomes that matter in their lives. Explore the Stars available for the Adult Care sector.

Full materials are available for organisations with a Star Licence and training for all managers and workers using the Star.

Triangle have also developed a guide for using the Carers Star and other Stars in the context of the Care Act 2014.

Free Star Online orientation session for clients this July

In July Triangle is hosting a free orientation introduction session for all clients, practitioners and managers who use the Star Online system. 

This session will be held online, and cover all the primary tasks practitioners do: including how to create a service user, how to add Stars and Action Plans,  the Help center and how to navigate it and where practitioners can find and download the key Outcomes Star resources that they need to support their work. The session will also cover general orientation, important features and how to set up engagements and manage notifications.

Please note: this session is not a substitute for official training and will only be relevant to those who are using the Star Online.

 

The session will be held online via zoom on July 6, 2021 at 10:00am (GMT+1: London). To book your place please register today. Limited spaces are available.

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If you have any questions about remote training, new Stars, or would like any information on the new Star Online, or anything else, please contact us on info@triangleconsulting.co.uk or +44 (0) 207 272 8765.

For more information on the sessions, how to book, or what clients need to do, please take a look at our previous posts, or find the links through the Star Online. Please note: We have limited spaces available, and we expect them to fill up quickly!

If you would like to be included in a mailing list for future webinars, demo’s or sessions, please sign up for our mailing list, and if you have suggestions or would like to request specific content and sessions on the Outcomes Star and the Star Online please email webinars@triangleconsulting.co.uk

The Outcomes Star: helping make trauma informed philosophy practice

Over the past decade, there has been increasing recognition of both:

  • the high prevalence of complex trauma, adverse childhood events and the different ways in which trauma presents and
  • how important it is to ensure that services are delivered in ways that do not risk people becoming re-traumatised, in relation to how workers engage with them and the topics discussed.

Given the potential of the COVID-19 context and measures to cause, exacerbate and reactivate trauma, it has been argued that –

  “never before has trauma-informed care been so important to promote the health and well-being of all and to protect our marginalised populations at greatest risk”
(Collin-Vézina, Brend & Beeman, 2020)

Trustworthiness, transparency; collaboration and empowerment are key principles of trauma-informed care, which can guide service delivery policies and practices (SAMSHA, 2014). However, there can be barriers to putting these into practice.  Tools that offer a clear framework for translation of the principles of trauma informed care into practice can benefit many organisations and help them overcome these barriers.

The Outcomes Star tools have many features that directly support trauma informed working, including:

Relationship-based – The collaborative process of practitioners and clients completing the Outcomes Star helps to build a trusting and positive relationship, giving service users greater control and voice and within which important connections in the person’s life are discussed.

Empowering – The Journey of Change is sensitive to small but important steps and progress. Visually showing change can be empowering and motivating for both practitioners and clients.

Focuses on the present not someone’s history – completing the Star is a conversation about someone’s life, how things are for them and what they are doing now, rather than bringing up past histories or traumatic experiences.

Strengths based not deficit-based; they use positive language focusing on the process of change and the support and actions needed, not on the severity of problems.

Holistic – the whole person and all relevant life circumstances are recognised. Plotting where someone is on the Star chart provides a clear representation of where support is needed and where things are going well, highlighting the interaction between different areas of someone’s life.

As well as the tools themselves, training and guidance around the Outcomes Star emphasises flexibility in responding to a client’s window of tolerance and preferences – for example, about when and how to introduce and discuss the different outcome areas. There is also guidance about identifying appropriate action plans in a trauma-informed way that is sensitive to the client’s capacity to drive things forward themselves.

Triangle is committed to continuous learning and improvement of the Outcomes Stars and how they are used. Staff have received training and advice from experts on trauma informed care and we are currently reviewing some of our older, widely used Stars using a trauma-informed lens.

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For more information, please see our guide on ;How to use the Outcomes Stars with trauma informed approaches’ or get in touch on info@triangleconsulting.co.uk or +44(0) 207 272 8765.

The Integration Star and refugees – common questions and answers

People arriving at an airport

Frequently asked questions about using the Integration Star and how it can be used to support services and service users

Last October, Triangle launched the Integration Star, the Star to support refugees to integrate into life in the UK. The development of the Star has been a collaboration with the Refugee Council and the Star was piloted by the Refugee Council and their partners on the New Roots programme, in London and in Yorkshire & Humber.

In this blog, we bring together some of the frequently asked questions and draw on the expertise of Amilee Collins, National Project Worker at the Refugee Council, who shared her experience of using the Integration Star at our recent Webinar, Better conversations, Better outcomes. Amilee has 14 years experience resettling refugee families and her team offers a client-led holistic support service. She finds that the new Outcomes Star suits this approach.

What are the key benefits of using the Integration Star?

From Amilee’s perspective, one of the most important aspects of the Integration Star was that it is a visual tool that her clients could understand and engage unlike previous assessment frameworks used. The pictorial resources that accompany the Integration Star, support this engagement, even when communication is through an interpreter.

The visual snapshot that the Star provides, has also been extremely useful, as the visual communicates a client’s needs succinctly to other agencies, reducing the need for families to repeat everything to each agency involved in their support.

Another aspect of the Star that Amilee appreciates, is that the scales for each Outcome Area, based on a Journey of Change specific to the Integration Star, are clearly defined in the User guide. This helps the worker and client to identify where they are on the scale and helps them visualise next steps. Amilee feels this helps to promote some objectivity and parity between worker and client, as they use the Star together.

The Integration Star is structured around 8 Outcome areas and Amilee finds this helpful to break things down and she often completes the Star in more than one sitting. Amilee found that clients surprised themselves, as they worked around the Star; clients can become overwhelmed by the challenges they experience, but the Integration Star helped them see that they were progressing well in some areas, and this restored some confidence and self-belief and helped the client to get some perspective on the areas that were still difficult. Clients fed back that they found using the Integration Star useful and easy to understand.

Can you complete the Integration Star through an interpreter?

Amilee found that completing the Integration Star with a client via an interpreter was no different to doing any other work through an interpreter. Her top tip is to brief the interpreter beforehand and provide a Star chart and visual of the Journey of Change so that they can familiarise themselves with the concept of Outcomes Stars. Triangle has produced a leaflet for interpreters explaining the purpose of the Integration Star and explaining the Journey of Change. Amilee’s other piece of advice is to encourage the interpreter to speak in the first person; the Integration Star is about capturing the voice of the client, so she feels it is important to hear a client’s responses in the first person.

Is the Integration Star translated into other languages?

The Integration Star is not translated into other languages at the moment. The resources are very visual to support communication where the client might have limited English, or where an interpreter is being used.

Is the Integration Star a tool you use with individuals or families?

The Integration Star is designed to capture where an individual is on the Journey of Change scale and how they are navigating their new life in the UK, including supporting their children to settle. Amilee explained that she completes a Star for each adult in the family and gives them the opportunity to complete their Star one-to-one. This is really helpful to explore the different needs and strengths and perspectives of each individual.

Triangle has a range of other Stars that can be used with children and young people in the family to capture their voice.

What were the challenges of using the Star in lockdown?

Amilee was surprised how easy the Integration Star was to use remotely. Preparation is key, and Amilee always made sure, if she was going to do a Star remotely, that the client had access to Star resources. The visual of Journey of Change has been particularly helpful for clients to identify how they are feeling and then plot the relevant stage on their Star, so this usually meant printing and posting the Star Chart and Journey of Change to the client in advance of a phone or video call. Amilee used a range of platforms to talk to clients; Whatsapp, Zoom and Teams. The client usually used their phone screen for the call, so sending the client physical printed resources in advance, meant that the client didn’t have to look at the materials on the screens at the same time. Amilee would complete the Star during the call and sent a completed Star to the client.

Can the Integration Star be used with Asylum Seekers?

Triangle and the Refugee Council were open to the Integration Star working for Asylum seekers, but during the development process it became apparent that it would not be possible to structure clearly defined scales that could work well both for Refugees and for Asylum seekers, given the difference in eligibility for housing and benefits etc. so the scales, particularly Housing, Money and Education and Work relate options available to Refugees rather than Asylum Seekers.

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The Integration Star is one of two new Stars which are designed to support organisations and services that work with service users who are refugees, asylum-seekers and need assistance in settling in their new home and navigating a new country.  The Planning Star is the Outcomes Star for asylum-seeking children and may be more suitable for services working to support children. Both Stars have a strong foundation in supporting and empowering service users to best adjust and navigate the complexity of refugee and asylum-status. For more information please contact us.

We’re reviewing the Family Stars

Tell us what you think

The Family Star Plus is the most widely used of a growing constellation of Stars for children and families, including the original Family Star and the Family Star (Early Years). Since publishing them, Triangle has developed many more Stars, spanning diverse needs from cradle to grave. We got better at it and learned a lot. Much changed in the world, including the needs of families identified as at risk or presenting for support. It is now time to review these Stars.

What do you want us to change? What do you like and want us to keep?

Part of our role is to keep in touch with developments in the sectors served by the Stars, learning alongside the people who use them. We keep them under review, investing part of the Star licence in making tweaks or new editions. We create new resources to help people reap the benefits of using them well – engaging clients and getting reliable outcomes information. It’s a dynamic process that relies on you telling us what you think and us listening and responding.  

Now we want to hear about what is needed to be sensitive to changing client groups and needs in children and family services, or to be even more strengths-based, trauma informed, conversational and accessible, for example. We particularly want to hear from you if you have suggestions about any of the Family Stars:

  • Family Star Plus
  • Family Star
  • Family Star (Early Years)

 

The Family Star (Relationships) is more recent, so not part of this review, but check it out if you work with families where the main need is around conflict between parents. And do tell us if you use and have feedback on other Stars.

Tell us what you think about the Family Stars – what works and what to change.

Sara Burns leads on the development the Stars. Email with your feedback and suggestions or to arrange a call: sara@triangleconsulting.co.uk.