Getting our voices heard

Join our webinar, 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.

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

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

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
11am-12pm

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

#BlackLivesMatter series webinar 1: Anti-Racism in social work

Abstract

In this webinar, the first in our #BlackLivesMatter series, Wayne Reid reflects on the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the meaning of anti-racism: The belief that all races and ethnic groups are equal and deserving of the same opportunities.

Anti-racism requires action to tackle existing inequality. Wayne will explore how this is relevant to social work, through professional standards, codes of ethics, cultural competence and the underpinning values of social justice.

Biography

Wayne Reid is a Professional Officer & Social Worker for the British Association of Social Work (BASW) England and lives in Sheffield. Wayne has worked in: private fostering; the Probation Service; youth offending; adult mental health; child protection and with care leavers. He is a widely revered inspirational speaker and campaigner for racial equality.

Wayne’s career reflects his dedication to supporting vulnerable members of society, working with diverse professionals from across all sectors to improve service standards and meet holistic needs. His wide-ranging career has enabled him to understand the dynamic contextual factors that affect the strategic planning, implementation and review of effective Social Work services and the direct impact this has on service-users, practitioners and the public.

As a black male social worker, Wayne understands some of the challenges that service-users and practitioners from different minority groups can face. From his experience, Wayne believes academic and ‘life education’ are essential to improve an individual’s quality of life and life chances. Wayne adds: “Social Work is a vital multi-faceted international service that: coordinates support for the most vulnerable people in society; assesses and manages risk; addresses problematic behaviours and relationships; champions equality and social justice; optimises service-users’ strengths, promotes human decency and creates meaningful opportunities for social mobility”.

From identification to support: Improving services for young carers

From identification to support: Assessing and improving services for young carers

Presenters

Faaiza Bashir (Carers Trust Wales), Edward Janes (Cardiff University) and Jen Lyttleton-Smith (Cardiff University)

This webinar shares findings of research, and policy insight, on the challenges of identifying & supporting young carers in Wales

Family carers are sometimes described as an ‘invisible army’ – a large group of citizens who bear a significant proportion of the national social care strategy. Child carers, commonly known as ‘young carers’, are an under-recognised and particularly vulnerable group within this ‘army’. Current policy and practice on recognising and supporting young carers is variable across Welsh Local Authorities, and the level or nature of intervention activity nationally bears further examination.

This group has significant, diverse needs and disparate experiences of personal disruption depending on their circumstances and level of care required for their family members. Education and health could offer substantial support to these children and young people but research shows that they currently struggle to effectively identify and support them, in part due to a lack of clear guidance and strategic planning, while most young carers report difficulties in being recognised for the valuable work that they do.

This webinar focuses on sharing knowledge from recent Cardiff University research and policy insight and strategy from national charity Carers Trust Wales. We will facilitate practitioner-led discussion on common and differing experiences in trying to best support young carers, and co-develop approaches and recommendations to improve Welsh provision. No child or young person should be disadvantaged in their lives by being a young carer; this webinar offers the opportunity to add your experience and expertise to the national conversation around how we can best see, listen to and support them better.

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.

Who cares for those leaving care? Care-leaver experiences during COVID-19

Who Cares for those Leaving Care? Care leavers’ experiences during COVID-19 and lockdown

Presented by Rachael Vaughan, Dr Alyson Rees and Dr Louise Roberts.

This webinar shares findings of research undertaken with care leavers about their experiences during COVID-19 and lockdown

This event presents findings from a recent COVID-19 study that has explored the experiences of young people who were in the process of leaving care in England and Wales during lockdown. This event will include contributions by care experienced young people from Voices From Care Cymru.

The study involved qualitative interviews with 21 young people and included some creative outputs of art and poems. In addition, we undertook a survey of local authority departments about their support mechanisms.

Findings indicate varied experiences for young people; some felt isolated and uncared about during lockdown, with opportunities for support diminished and inadequate. Yet for others, the challenges of the pandemic had been eased by relationships with key individuals and a variety of local initiatives. Young people’s resilience is noteworthy within the findings and recommendations are proposed to enhance support responses in the event of a subsequent lockdown, as well as when restrictions are fully lifted.

This workshop presents the findings of this study, discusses the recommendations raised from the research and will include time for Q&A at the end.

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.