DRILL Series 1: Disability research ethics – Lessons for research and practice

Introducing the Drill webinar series

In autumn 2020, ExChange Wales is delivering a series of webinars led by project partners from the Disability Research on Independent Living & Learning (DRILL). DRILL is a Four Nation Research Project which delivers the world’s first major research programme led by disabled people. The Programme is led by Disability Action NI in partnership with Disability Rights UK, Disability Wales and Inclusion Scotland.

DRILL promotes coproduction and collaboration between disabled people and their organisations, academia, research bodies and policy makers. Disabled people are empowered to have direct influence on decisions that impact on their independent living, particularly in relation to policies, legislation and services.

The programme has funded 32 coproduced research and pilot projects across the UK. The purpose of the projects is to find solutions about how disabled people can live as full citizens and take part socially, economically and politically.

Webinar 1: Disability research ethics – Lessons for research and practice

The DRILL Ethics Committee is Chaired by Professor Alison Koslowski and operated by a body of experts led by disabled people from across Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. Its membership includes representatives from academia and leaders from civil and civic society. The purpose of the Committee is to ensure that in all areas the DRILL ethos of co-production is upheld, also to support the DRILL Programme Board, the National Advisory Groups and the Central Research Committee.

This ExChange Wales webinar, the first in our DRILL series, will involve members of the Disability Ethics Committee sharing their experience and lessons for co-production in research and practice. There will be an opportunity to ask questions after the presentation. Our thanks to Disability Wales and the DRILL Ethics Committee for making this webinar possible.

Organiser of DRILL Series 1: Disability Ethics Committee

ExChange is an all-Wales network that brings together workers, researchers and those who use services to share experiences and expertise and learn from one another. Our aim is to improve social work and social care services by creating dialogue and ongoing relationships between people with different types of expertise.

We believe that research has most impact when it is part of an ongoing dialogue between researchers, practitioners and those with direct experiences of services. As such our focus is on bringing leading researchers into direct contact with workers, managers and those who use services so that we can learn from one another. In our first year we are running a programme of more than 20 events across Wales, from large national conferences to small seminars with leading experts.

ExChange was set up by the Cascade Centre at Cardiff University, but we are working closely with Swansea, Bangor and we hope other universities across Wales. Almost every local authority in Wales is a member, as well as key charities and other organisations. We hope this will allow us to provide a range of opportunities for discussion and collaboration with an ongoing focus on ensuring that our research makes a difference. If you would like more information or to be involved, please contact us.

#BuildBackBetter: You know it makes sense, but how do you do it?

Throughout the pandemic, lockdown and now an extended lockdown in our home city. Leicestershire cares staff have been working with a range of community, council, and business colleagues to ensure nobody is left behind. Much of this activity has been delivered by small groups which have formed in response to the pandemic. The lack of red tape, rules, working directives combined with enthusiasm, motivation and human connection all powered by the internet has driven much of this. In April we suggested:

“The reality is events like the pandemic require agile organisations, that are like “speedboats” which can react and manoeuvre quickly. Local authorities and bigger voluntary groups are often like “steamships”. Once they are set on a course they cannot change quickly.”

The recent launch of the #BuildBackBetter campaign, supported by 350 business leaders, community groups and politicians provides a great opportunity to reflect and learn from this experience. As we observed in “What’s so funny about peace love and understanding “

“When our politicians reach outside their sectarian interests and start to engage with people in a meaningful way they discover the public are a huge resource of ideas, expertise, skills and lived experience that can lead to far more effective decision-making. They find that people can hold mixed – sometimes contradictory – views that do not fit neatly into a manifesto but most are willing to reach a compromise. Which is why organisations such as Compass, the RSA and others talk of progressive alliances, building bridges between people and encouraging the growth of bottom up democracy.”

In many ways the lockdown has amplified issues we were already aware off. Inequality, child poverty, food poverty, in work poverty, insecure and in some cases illegal working conditions. Work life balance, environment, run down public services, lack of affordable housing, concerns about physical health and mental wellbeing have all come under the spotlight. Whilst emphasis might vary all the major political parties are talking about “green new deals”, government action to stimulate the economy, protect the poor and why we must create a kinder and more caring society.

The murder of George Floyd in late May and the resulting protest and debates triggered by #BlackLivesMatter fed into the feeling that we are at a critical juncture. Historic injustices had to be righted, the system we currently have is grossly unfair. It systemically discriminates against people of colour whilst evading or hiding how it has benefitted from slavery, colonialism, and racism.

Whilst many public figures got behind this and took a knee, others were more worried. Talk of white privilege and defunding the police was portrayed by some commentators as left wing extremism hiding behind BLM. As statues were torn down and demands grew for more to tumble, some saw this as an attack on the identity and history of the UK. As people marched to protect Winston Churchill statues and share Nazi salutes the one big inclusive community able to achieve consensus seemed like a distant dream.

Yet, polling found only 6% of the British public want to go back to the same economy from before the Covid-19 crisis. Instead people want to build back stronger, greener and fairer. There is significant support for BLM, if not for some of their methods. So, there are reasons to be cheerful and optimistic. I would suggest central to any change should be the “lived experience and voices” of local people shaping the agenda for how their communities develop. As we start to move forward it would be good to see a greater emphasis on:

Devolved decision making and giving more power to councils to decide how best their communities and local economies develop.

Creative forms of deliberative democracy that empower and enable local people to get involved, discuss, debate and reach consensus.

Local government, community, and business developing agile, creative teams and structures that can listen, learn, and adapt.

A nationally agreed index of happiness and wellbeing that is used alongside GDP to let us know how well we are doing.

Hard targets and KPI’s for eradicating poverty in its many forms.

There are of course many issues that need to be tackled but my strong belief is. If you can root decision making in a local context that people feel connection to and control over, you are far more likely to achieve change. Politicians, business, and community leaders need to see their shared purpose as building better communities. This is far more likely to happen if they work in open, transparent, and respectful partnerships. Where they accept, they all have much to learn from each other and the best way of knowing what the people want is by actively involving them in their decision making processes.

The pandemic has clearly shown the strengths and shortcomings of our economy and politics. We have much to be proud of but also much we can and must improve. So, lets empower communities, and use their creativity, kindness, and rooted local knowledge to #BuildBackBetter and ensure nobody is left behind.

Kieran Breen
CEO Leicestershire Cares
This blog was originally published at Vulnerability 360.

Useful links

Keeping our children safe: Training for the designated child protection lead

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Keeping our children safe: Training for the
designated child protection lead

Three sessions over three days:
04/11/2020 – 06/11/2020
09:30 – 12:30

All children have the right to live lives free from abuse and neglect but recent events highlight, yet again, how difficult it can be for so many adults to recognise, and act on concerns about the safety or welfare of a child. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that all organisations concerned with children should work towards what’s best for each child.

Join us online
We are offering a selection of courses online via the Zoom or MS Teams app.

Use of secure accommodation for welfare purposes in Wales

Secure accommodations are residential homes with approval to restrict the liberty of young people who are believed to be a serious risk to themselves or to others. Many young people are placed in secure accommodation for welfare reasons and there is little sign of this practice diminishing. This troubling situation is further complicated by a scarcity of secure placements in Wales which sees many young people being placed outside of Wales or having no bed in secure care due to a lack of availability.

At present there is little research evidence of what has led to this or what can be done to improve matters. To give better insight, a recent project commissioned by Social Care Wales and conducted by CASCADE at Cardiff University explored the experiences of young people from Wales prior to, during and following a referral to secure accommodation.

A recent webinar, presented by Dr Annie Williams (research lead) gave practitioners and managers an opportunity to hear about the study. The resources from the webinar are as follows:

Families First and Flying Start advice and guidance for COVID-19

We advise regularly checking this page for updates
Last updated: September 15, 2020

Recording and reporting virtual support sessions for Families First (FF)

We have received queries recently from Local Authorities about the recording and reporting of services provided virtually throughout the Covid outbreak. We recognise you will require some guidance in relation to this matter. Following discussions with policy and data colleagues, we have agreed the following approach in the first instance:

  • You should record any targeted activity conducted via alternative means during the Covid outbreak in the same way as you would have done previously. For example, any one-to-one or group service that was delivered virtually using Skype, WhatsApp, and similar platforms, etc. should be counted in the same way as you would have previously with face-to-face engagement.
  • You should also count any direct and targeted contacts you have had with families over the telephone and via social media (providing they were meaningful).
  • However, non-targeted support – such as generic messages or videos on social media or YouTube, should not be included, as open access support of this nature is not really within the scope of Families First provision and it will be difficult to know to what extent viewers have actively engaged with it.

If you have any further queries or have any additional information you feel we should be made aware of, please contact your account manager in the usual manner or direct your emails to familiesfirst@gov.wales.

Guidance for Flying Start and Families First Services – COVID 19
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) presents unprecedented challenges to all of our families and services. This document provides guidance on the provision of Flying Start and Families First services during this period.

Please share this with your teams and provide assurance that we are working hard to ensure we provide guidance to support you in provision of services for children and families now and going forward as the situation develops.

Parenting tips
10 Top Tips to support parents and carers of babies and young children (suitable from birth – 4) at home.

Impact questionnaire (COVID-19)

In light of the outbreak of Covid-19, we are eager to explore the extent of the likely disruption to services provided by Flying Start, Families First and the proposed piloting work due to be undertaken by Pathfinder PSBs during 2019/20 and 2020/21.

To help us gather the information we need, we have prepared a short table and some additional questions in the below document. We appreciate that planning for the short term is difficult given the changing nature of the response to the outbreak but we’d be grateful if you would provide the most up to date information you have and return it to the Flying Start mailbox.

Guidance for the Children and Communities Grant (CCG) (COVID-19)

Should you have any further questions please email the Flexible Funding mailbox – FlexibleFunding@gov.wales

Flying Start childcare payments (COVID-19)

The Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services has announced that both Childcare Offer and Flying Start childcare providers will continue to be paid should the service be disrupted as a result of Covid -19. More information can be found at the following website: https://gov.wales/childcare-offer-wales-payments-will-continue-even-if-children-do-not-attend-due-coronavirus

Urgent Minister of Education childcare update (COVID-19)

Please follow the link to a written statement issued by the Minister for Education and the Deputy Minister for Health & Social Services: https://gov.wales/written-statement-eligibility-ongoing-provision-children-who-are-vulnerable-or-whose-parents-are

Please find a set of FAQs below that we have developed in response to the position set out in the published statement in the following link which will be updated on a regular basis.

COVID-19 childcare FAQ

Building a positive future for young people’s mental health

Date: 17 September 2020
Time: 17:30 – 18:00

This virtual event, hosted by Cardiff University, will explore research into anxiety and depression in young people. Professor Simon Murphy, Director of DECIPHer, will be speaking on the role of schools in supporting young people’s mental health.

The Brilliant Club: Working with parents & carers to make access to university fair for young people

In the UK today, there is an entrenched link between a pupil’s background and their access to higher education. The UCAS Equality measure shows that 1 in 4 of the most advantaged quintile of English 18-year olds enter highly selective universities, compared to only 1 in 50 pupils from the most disadvantaged quintile.

The Brilliant Club is a UK-wide charity that aims to make access to university fair for all young people. We work with schools and universities across the UK. The charity exists to increase the number of pupils from underrepresented backgrounds progressing to highly selective universities.

On the 14th and 17th of September we will be hosting a free virtual event to talk with parents and carers about their thoughts, concerns, and experiences with supporting young people who are considering their post-school options. The events will involve a brief introduction to the charity and the work we currently do, before splitting up into smaller groups to have an informal discussion about support for parents and carers of school-aged students regarding making decisions about attending university. There are no requirements to discuss anything you are uncomfortable with, and no one will be put on the spot to answer specific questions.


If you are interested in attending, please register at Eventbrite.

Laura Johnstone
National Manager for The Scholars Programme

Find out more about The Brilliant Club:
Twitter: @BrilliantClub
Website: Brilliant Club

Identifying and responding to child neglect in schools: Messages for best practice

With the majority of children returning to schools, referrals to Children’s Services are expected to substantially rise. As recently reported in the Guardian, schools will play ‘a pivotal role in spotting neglect and abuse’.

After nearly six months away from the classroom, children who would have previously been identified as needing help and support have been invisible to staff in schools. According to the Department for Education, the number of referrals received by Children’s Services since schools closed due to the Covid19 outbreak has seen a dramatic reduction of 18% (compared to the last three years).

Schools are the second largest referrer to statutory services, and vital partners in the safeguarding and protection of our children. Staff in schools have the opportunity to observe children in a range of settings, inside and outside of the classroom. Teachers and other school staff can monitor children’s behaviour daily, over an extended period of schooling, whilst observing their interactions with peers and members of their families. They are uniquely positioned to detect concerns at an early point and share information which ensures children receive the support they need at the right time.

It is therefore essential that school staff are fully supported to recognise children who are in need of additional support, and be ready to respond to those who have been living with abuse or neglect, and are in need of protection.

A new policy report by Dr Vicky Sharley (University of Bristol) highlights findings from a recent study funded by Welsh Government through Health and Care Research Wales. The report looks at how school staff identify and respond to children they suspect are living with neglect (the most common reason for a child to be on a child protection plan in England). The report sets out key recommendations for best practice across schools and child protection services, and calls for policymakers to support schools and social workers in their unique but closely related roles within the safeguarding system.

The report also outlines a new approach for the development of effective inter-agency relationships to improve safeguarding outcomes. It is essential for children’s welfare that any concerns are raised at the earliest point possible. This requires more support for school staff and social workers to develop close working relationships and excellent communication channels. Recommendations are particularly pertinent at a time when children are returning to the classroom, having been ‘hidden’ from services for more than five months, and referrals are expected to soar.

You can read the full report on Policy Bristol. The key recommendations include the following:

  • Head Teachers should be supported to establish effective learning communities within their schools so staff develop context-specific knowledge and expertise on how to respond to child neglect effectively within a school setting.
  • Schools should recruit strategic staff who demonstrate commitment to developing expertise in child neglect to promote children’s wellbeing within the school setting.
  • School staff who know the local community well should have opportunities to provide insights into the lives of children who are suspected of living with neglect.
  • Social workers should routinely provide feedback to schools on the outcome of referrals made to child protection services and the rationale for their decision not to intervene.
  • Social workers should ensure that Child Protection Conferences are not planned during school holidays, and that information is shared with new schools where children are transitioning to secondary education.
  • Informal and formal opportunities should be made available to all staff to spend time in partner agencies to support development of knowledge and expertise about service provision.
  • The local authority’s threshold guidance document should be used as a tool for reflective discussion across services, to inform professional decision-making and foster a ‘shared language’, so that school staff can more effectively articulate concerns in their referrals.
  • The role of the School Social Worker responds to many interprofessional barriers between schools and child protection services and should be established in all local authorities.

This study forms the basis of Dr Sharley’s ongoing research investigating interprofessional safeguarding practices across the United Kingdom. She would be happy to answer any questions about this study or discuss her ongoing and future work in this area.

Dr Sharley, University of Bristol

This blog was first published by PolicyBristol.

How to adapt participatory arts activities in lockdown

The Covid-19 pandemic has posed serious questions to arts and cultural organisations across the country. One of the biggest has been: how do you continue to use the creative arts to empower the most vulnerable in society during lockdown? Nicky Goulder, Founding Chief Executive of Create, tells us how Create Live! enabled them to do this and what they’ve learnt.

Create Live! participants

On 24 March, all our projects, which rely on face-to-face interactions, ground to a halt.

At Create, we use the creative arts to empower lives and enhance wellbeing. We bring together primary school children in areas of deprivation with disabled adults. We offer young and adult carers vital time away from their responsibilities. We take workshops into prisons and adolescent mental-health units. We work with older people experiencing loneliness. Reducing isolation for these people is central to our mission. But how do you achieve that when everyone has to isolate?

We knew we had to find a way and researched, piloted and launched Create Live!, a new method of digital delivery, in just 14 days. We have now rolled out photography, music, art, drama and dance projects with vulnerable participants across the UK. An emergency response grant from Arts Council England is enabling us to extend this work further.

We had to adapt – fast – to move from in-person to digital workshops. So what have we learnt?

Navigating technology

Getting creative virtually can be a challenge. The key is taking what might seem a limitation and using it to open up new possibilities. We decided to celebrate the home.

Photographer and Create artist Alejandra Carles-Tolra responded by asking young carers to photograph the personal things around them, to look at their homes with new eyes and find inspiration in everyday objects. Exploring their homes and then returning to the screen to collaborate with others provided a creative outlet for self-expression and an opportunity to connect with other young carers.

“Collaboration is always at the centre of my work,” Alejandra says, “and during this period of increased isolation it felt essential that the young carers could collaborate and share their creative work and ideas with each other. It doesn’t matter what tools you have, it’s a way of looking at the world.”

“It doesn’t matter what tools you have, it’s a way of looking at the world.”
Alejandra Carles-Tolra

Safety and comfort

Ensuring participants are safe and comfortable is crucial. We updated our Safeguarding Policy after detailed research; and focus on the smallest details to help them feel calm and relaxed. We ensure, for example that participants names – but only first names – are correctly displayed.

Theatre maker/writer and Create artist James Baldwin explains, “Making a group connection is tricky when you’re disconnected physically, so it’s important to prioritise things that might seem small but make the participants feel comfortable. It’s about being able to embrace the technology to achieve your aim: to have fun and make the participants feel valued.”

A group of young people. All but one of them have their hands raised above their heads.

Innovating when there’s no IT access

Lack of access to computers or the Internet can pose a real barrier to running our projects. So we adapted Create Live! and ran music workshops with our older participants over the phone.

“[The workshop] made a hell of a difference to me,” said one participant. “I was on the phone for three hours! It has woken me up. I was beginning to get tired with nothing to do, no one to talk to. I really enjoyed it today. I will sleep tonight.”

Feedback across our Create Live! projects from participants, parents, community partners and artists has highlighted how important creativity is for wellbeing in these strange times. We are continuing to adapt and increase the number of workshops being delivered through Create Live! in order to reach as many isolated, vulnerable people as possible during this lockdown period and beyond.

“[The workshop] made a hell of a difference to me…I was beginning to get tired with nothing to do, no one to talk to. I really enjoyed it today.”

This blog was originally published by Arts Council England on July 10th 2020.

Ready to attend your event? View our Events Checklist

There are a few ways you can prepare for an ExChange Wales event. Research the venue and consider travel times to arrive early. Study the schedule or details of the visiting lecturer or workshop leader to familiarise yourself with their expertise or to help you to prepare questions. While at an event, connect with other researchers, staff or practitioners to broaden your own areas of interest. Organise your materials – bring a pen and paper or check your technology for note-taking. Don’t forget to follow-up after the workshop: presentations, Twitter feeds, or further materials may be available. And finally: check for our next event!

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