Sharing key messages from the evaluation of the ‘Gwella’ intervention

‘Gwella’ was a successful intervention developed and run by Barnardo’s Cymru across North and South Wales between 2017 and 2020.

The intervention was designed to support children aged between 5 and 11 years old who were involved with social services and had experienced trauma and abuse, providing a trauma-informed system of supportive professionals around them, and improving their relationships with their primary carers.

In total, 31 children and their parents and carers were supported through the project. This session shares key messages from the evaluation of the project, which had a strong focus on documenting the experiences of all those involved – which included the Gwella team, parents and carers, children, consultant specialists, and external professionals from social care and education. Key messages centre around what the Gwella intervention was and how it can be delivered effectively, as well as sharing what the outcomes were for children and families and how and why these were understood to have occurred.  

Presented by: Dr Sophie Hallett, Cardiff University
For further information, visit the project page.

Out-of-home care-experienced children’s educational careers: what can be learnt…

Out-of-home care-experienced children’s educational careers: what can be learnt from studies of their educational pathways?

It is well known that children with out-of-home care (OHC) experience perform poorly within school and in the educational system. However, we know less about their educational careers over time, and how their educational pathways compare to their same-aged peers.

Based on a 50-year follow up of around 12 000 children born in Stockholm, out of which nearly 8% had been placed in OHC care at some point before their 13th birthday, this presentation describes a series of studies of OHC experienced children’s educational careers over the life course.

In particular, it focuses on what implications the results from these studies may have for the educational and child welfare system responsible for the educational needs of OHC children of today.

Presented by:

Dr Hilma Forsman,

Department of Social Work

Stockholm University

Getting our voices heard

This webinar is the fifth in our Disability Research on Independent Living & Learning (DRILL) series.

It shares a recent study led by Queen’s University, Belfast and partner organisations. ‘Getting Our Voices Heard’ looked at different approaches taken by people with learning disabilities and their organisations, to influence the specific policy and procedural area of adult safeguarding.

It was recognised that disabled people themselves having a direct influence on these policies was imperative. The project investigated what works in different contexts across all four Nations in the UK, including identification of successful examples of how people with learning disabilities and relevant Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) have influenced adult safeguarding policy.

Findings show that some improvements have been made on the inclusion of people with learning disabilities in policy conversations, but that there remains considerable work to be done to achieve meaningful inclusion. Particularly, that policy consultations are often not adequately carried out to allow people with learning disabilities to have real input. Suggested improvements include allowing more time for responses, the need for better quality easy read documents that outline what is contained in the proposed law or policy, whilst engaging in person with people with learning disabilities. The importance of sharing personal stories and lived experience, engaging with the media, taking part in research projects and being members of policy technical groups were all recommended.

The study led to co-produced recommendations and action plans on the best approaches to influencing adult safeguarding policy and its implementation at national and organisational levels.

Presented by:

Dr Lorna Montgomery
Senior Lecturer in Social Work
School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work
Queen’s University Belfast

Mutual Benefits – The Potential of Disabled People as Foster Carers

There is a huge shortage of foster carers in England, and the University of Worcester has undertaken a research project to find out why Disabled people are excluded from fostering. 

This webinar presents findings which include a short video illuminating the key ethical and pragmatic issues in this neglected area of equal opportunities. 

The university worked alongside Shaping Our Lives Disabled people’s and service user network and the Foster Care Co-operative, and initially covered four fostering services across statutory, private and charitable sectors. The project was co-produced and followed an ’Action Research’ model, changes in policy and practice being made as issues came to light. 

One agency dropped out of the project after a takeover, the new management not supporting the project. The project was funded by DRILL (Disabled Research into Independent Living and Learning) and the Big Lottery and was undertaken between 2018 and 2020. 

Many barriers were found to exist regarding Disabled people becoming foster carers, even though many Disabled people have their own children and have a wide range of life skills. The barriers included discriminatory attitudes held by professionals, a lack of clarity about medical fitness, a lack of role models and uncertainty around benefits eligibility. 

It was very challenging to get many fostering agencies and Disabled people’s organisations interested in this project, which we saw as a ‘win-win’ opportunity – Disabled people will be able to step into employment, children needing care will have a greater choice of placement and the recruitment gap will be greatly reduced. 

The research team made progress across the four pilot sites and via wider media exposure, managing to interview twelve Disabled foster carers who are living proof that Disabled people can successfully foster. Alison said: 

… as a Disabled foster carer, I would have never expected to be matched with a child with complex needs. I expected to maybe have to wait a while for a placement and to only take easy placements maybe, but my agency haven’t been like that at all, which is again a credit to them ‘ 

Jon said: 

‘I have had two children living with me since they were very young and they just see disabled people as people. This is what inclusion brings-natural equality.’ 

It is hoped that webinars such as this ExChange initiative will help disseminate the project’s findings across the UK . Highlighting success stories such as Alison’s and Jon’s should encourage both fostering agencies and Disabled people to embrace the great potential in Disabled people as foster carers. The University of Worcester is seeking new funding to continue the project, has been commissioned by national fostering body, CoramBAAF, to write a practice guide on Disabled foster carers and plans to offer training for foster agencies in this neglected area. 

Presenters: Dr Peter Unwin, University of Worcester and Becki Meakin, Shaping Our Lives

Social workers in hospitals

Local authorities in Wales often locate teams of social workers in hospitals to carry out discharge planning for older people who will require ongoing care and support in order to leave hospital.

This webinar presents findings from an ethnographic study of one such team. It will set out how the bureaucratic nature of the routine tasks the hospital social workers perform, the pressure from hospital management and local authority senior managers to expedite patient discharges with speed, and the demands of maintaining a working space alongside the hierarchy of hospital professionals create a uniquely challenging environment for social work practice.

Despite these challenges, during the fieldwork it was possible to see the key social work values of human rights, social justice and empowerment enacted through the social workers’ practices, though with some limitations. The webinar will conclude with an argument that the skills and commitment of hospital social workers could be harnessed in an expanded role to help reduce readmissions and support people with long-term health conditions to adjust to their circumstances and develop health-protective ways of living.

Presentation by: Dr Dan Burrows, Cardiff University

Ethnic, socioeconomic, and intersectional inequalities in child welfare intervention rates

There has been a growing awareness of ethnic and socioeconomic inequalities in child protection, specifically in the UK but also internationally.

However, there is often an assumption that the two inequalities are either equivalent, requiring only one practice and policy response, or totally disparate, requiring unconnected policy and practice responses. This webinar will present the findings from a recent intersectional analysis of neighbourhood intervention rates in England, which shows that different ethnic populations have very different deprivation-related gradients in intervention. 

Presented by:

Dr Calum Webb
Research Associate
Department of Sociological Studies
University of Sheffield

Read Dr Calum Webb’s presentation

My Life My Choice – The right to a relationship

My Life My Choice – The right to a relationship: Addressing the barriers that people with learning disabilities face in developing and sustaining sexual relationships In our fourth webinar of the DRILL (Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning) series, we share this research project led by the National Development Team for Inclusion (NTDi) in coproduction with My Life My Choice (MLMC). MLMC is a self-advocacy organisation for adults with learning difficulties, based in Oxfordshire.

People with learning difficulties have a right to develop sexual relationships. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) states that people with disabilities have a right not to be discriminated against in all matters relating to marriage, family, parenthood and relationships. The reality is that adults with learning disabilities face institutional and attitudinal barriers that prevent them from exercising and enjoying this fundamental right.

In 2018-19 NTDi and MLMC coproduced research looking at the multiple barriers people with learning difficulties face in developing and sustaining sexual relationships. The research considered the impact of policies and practices of support services, to identify barriers as well as examples of good practice. This webinar, presented by NTDi and MLMC, gives excellent insight into the coproduced research, the findings and recommendations.

2021 Annual Adoption Lecture

Respecting children’s identities and relationships in adoption

Annual Adoption Lecture 2021: Respecting children’s relationships and identities in adoption, with Professor Beth Neil.

January 12, 2021

For the large majority of children, adoption confers lifelong relationships and a sense of belonging in the adoptive family. But adoption also involves the legal severance of the child from the birth family and often the loss of key relationships with birth family members and others, including foster carers, who have had important roles in the child’s life. With this comes the loss of the child’s identity as a member of their birth family community. Each of these losses can have lifelong impact. This presentation explores these losses and ways in which they might be eased, including the role of adoptive parents in providing a secure base from which children can explore their identities and relationships. 

The lecture will be based on a chapter in a book that Prof Neil has recently written:

Beek, Mary and Neil, Elsbeth (2020) Respecting children’s relationships and identities in adoption. In: The Routledge Handbook of Adoption. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, Abingdon and New York, pp. 76-89. ISBN 978-1-138-36250-5

Presented by

Professor Beth Neil
School of Social Work
University of East Anglia

Developing Evidence-Enriched Practice (DEEP)

Whilst there is often a lot of interest in evidence-based practice in social care and health, making it a reality remains challenging for a variety of reasons.

This ExChange event will outline a participatory, caring and democratic approach to using evidence in learning and development that involves social workers, social care practitioners, managers, service users and carers working collectively to explore and make the world a better place.

The DEEP approach has five key elements: 

  • the creation of supportive and relationship-centred research and practice environments; 
  • the valuing of diverse types of evidence; 
  • the use of engaging narratives to capture and share evidence; 
  • the use of dialogue-based approaches to learning and development;
  • and the recognition and resolution of systemic barriers to development. 

Drawing on existing knowledge and understanding from diverse disciplines, the DEEP approach aims to address all five elements together, with a particular focus on the use of multiple forms of story, which engage heart and mind.

The event will cover the theoretical and practical aspects of the DEEP approach illustrated by examples of associated learning and development work in Wales. It will also introduce the DEEP 2020-23 programme including proposed training opportunities in applying the DEEP approach.

For further reading about the subject our guest speaker wrote a blog about the topic.

What can social work learn from asset-based community development?

Social work and community development have always been uneasy bedfellows not least in terms of where power and ‘experts’ are located (Walker 2016). Two decades of neo-liberal influences on social work have increasingly pushed the profession toward managerialist, detached ‘professionalism’, rather than kinship, solidarity and activism.  

The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 has set the stage for a reuniting of social work and community development with a focus on relational rather than procedural ways of working and re-engagement with communities. However, there is a danger that this could become an opportunist and exploitative venture, that focuses on the transfer of responsibility rather than resources and power to local communities.  

This seminar outlined a particular approach to community development in a particular area of Cardiff, that is asset-based and people-led. It provided a narrative of community development that illustrates its complex, relational, creative and emergent nature. Such an approach does not sit well with traditional approaches to planning and evaluation in social care, which often try to control and predict rather than go with the flow.  

The fruits of asset-based community development were illustrated by the example of a heritage project involving archaeologists from Cardiff University. The seminar concluded with an outline of a storytelling approach to evaluating such work that is focused on learning, rather than performance.

Presented by: Prof Fiona Verity, Dr Nick Andrews, Swansea University, Dr Oliver Davis, Cardiff University, Ian Rees, Neath Port Talbot Council, and David Horton, ACE Caerau Ely.