The Supporting Parents Project: a randomised controlled trial of the Lighthouse Parenting Programme

WWCSC are conducting a randomised controlled trial (RCT) and implementation process study of The Supporting Parents Project: Lighthouse Parenting Programme, delivered by Bath and North-East Somerset and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, and evaluated by The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families.


Randomised controlled trial / In progress

Estimated completion

September 2022

Focus areas

Children & families

Delivered by

Bath and North East Somerset; Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust

Evaluated by

The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families

Key Figures

Local authorities 5
Sample size 120-144 Parents

The Supporting Parents Project (SPP) is a study aiming to evaluate the Lighthouse Parenting Programme (LPP) in Children’s Social Care (CSC) for parents with children who are known to services. The LPP is an adaptation of Mentalization-Based Treatment (MBT) and has been specifically developed for parents for whom there are serious parenting concerns. This project is a scale up of a pilot evaluation of LPP, which found it may be effective in improving parental confidence and sensitivity.

LPP aims to promote safe and sensitive caregiving by helping parents to understand their children’s needs more clearly and repair the relationship when harmed. As part of the programme, parents will attend a weekly Parent’s Group for 20 weeks, facilitated by two LPP practitioners, along with fortnightly one-to-one sessions with an individual therapist. The programme makes use of visual and metaphorical material whereby the parent is seen as a lighthouse, providing a gentle attentive light for their child’s journey and guiding them back to shore for support, help or comfort when needed.

The evaluation will consist of a two-armed multi-site RCT of LPP vs Treatment as Usual (TAU) in CSC, taking place in five local authority CSC teams with 120-144 parents. Parents will be randomly allocated to either TAU or LPP+TAU. The evaluation aims to evaluate the effectiveness of the LPP compared to TAU in the CSC context, assess the process of implementing the LPP in CSC and factors involved in successful delivery and treatment change, and finally, to assess the costs of LPP in CSC.

The primary outcomes of interest are:

  • The risk of a parent physically abusing their child, as measured by the Child Abuse Potential Inventory (CAPI)
  • The child’s CSC status, as measured by a change in a child’s social care status over the intervention period.

The secondary outcomes of interest are:

  • Stress relating to the parenting role, as measured by the Parenting Stress Index (PSI)
  • Parent reflective functioning (RF), as measured by the Parent Development Interview – Short version (PSI-S)
  • Parent representational risk, as measured by the Assessment of Representational Risk coding of the PDI-S
  • Parent epistemic trust in communication and communicated knowledge, as measured by the Epistemic Trust, Mistrust and Credulity Questionnaire (ETMCQ)
  • Parent perception of child emotional, behavioural and social well-being, as measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ)

LPP will be delivered for approximately 6 months between September 2021 and March 2022, and will likely be hosted online due to COVID-19 restrictions. The final report will be due in September 2022.

Read the original evaluation protocol (September 2021)

Read the amended evaluation protocol (March 2023)