Promoting the identity of children and young people in care

This event is being hosted by CoramBAAF.

28 January 2021 | Online – delivered via Zoom

This open course is for social workers, foster carers and others who support children and young people to understand their heritage and develop their personal, social and cultural identity. It looks at how trauma can impact the child’s view of themselves and how to encourage and support the child to develop resilience.

If you have any queries about these or any other courses please contact the Training Team at or call 020 7520 2043.

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.

January 20, 2021

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

Volunteers needed for studies on social worker decision-making

Researchers at CASCADE are currently conducting two research studies related to social worker decision-making and are seeking social workers to take part. 

Registered social workers in England are eligible to take part in Study 1 and registered social workers in Wales or anywhere else in the UK are eligible to take part in Study 2.

Study 1

This study aims to explore ways of mitigating cognitive bias in social work by testing an intervention and measuring the difference it makes to confirmation bias and forecasting abilities. 

The study is held online via Qualtrics and will take approximately one hour to complete. Participation will involve: 

  1. Reading referrals and predicting what happened next 
  2. Random allocation into a control or intervention group 
  3. For those in the intervention group, reading through a case study and using a checklist with the aim of prompting reflection about the decision-making process
  4. Reading more referrals and predicting what happened next 
  5. Completing a short online task  

If you would like to take part, please follow this link.  

Study 2

This study is being undertaken across the UK and internationally, being jointly run between Cardiff University and the University of Otago (in New Zealand). The study is exploring whether students and qualified social workers from different parts of the UK and in New Zealand have different or similar responses to the case study. 

Participation will involve completing an online survey, during which you will be asked to read an unfolding case vignette about one family, and answer questions about the level and nature of risk to the children, the family’s needs, and what you think should happen. The aim of the study is to help explore variability in decision-making, based on the idea that variability is an inevitable part of the social work system, yet also raises important questions about social justice and equal treatment.

If you would like to take part, please access the survey

For more information or questions regarding the studies, please contact Melissa:

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

Introduction to online training techniques

*This event is hosted by Children in Wales.

A half-day course

Date: 02.03.21, 9:00 am 12:30 pm
Venue: Online via Teams
Cost: £50.00 – £90.00

This course is also offered as in-house training, please contact for more information.

Has Covid restricted your contact with staff or learners to a web cam and a computer screen? Are you finding it harder to engage effectively with learners and staff online? If you are a beginner to delivering online contact and training and wonder how you can adapt your courses and deliver in the new environment of remote working, then this is the course for you.

How to keep participants engaged while delivering online training, presentations, or social events? A non-techy introduction to improving engagement when presenting or training online. This course is suitable for trainers, family support workers, youth workers or anyone who is engaging with groups of adults and young people online.

This session will look at how to include and devise online games, quizzes and other activities that promote learning and involvement. We will be looking at how learners can collaborate and jointly annotate diagrams, use the whiteboard and get learners to work in smaller groups using the breakout rooms feature. We will look at how to use mobile phones; to vote in polls, answer online questions, and promote feedback.

The course will also include tips to promote online etiquette and safe practice. Learners will explore ways to ensure that the trainer retains control of the learning environment, and keeps the training safe and secure for everyone. We will look at use of online chat its strengths and drawbacks and how to use it more effectively.

The training will also compare platforms such as Zoom, Blackboard and Teams, as well as looking at how to use plug in’s and add on’s like; Mentimeter, Socrative, Ahaslides, Slido and Padlet. We will look at the best set up for delivering training and consider single screen versus multiscreen and the benefits of cabled connections over wifi. The optimum size of groups and also include what to do when things go wrong.

Jon Trew has been delivering safeguarding training for almost a decade and has been described as a digital evangelist. Booking forms without a valid PO number will no longer be processed. Please ensure to have a purchase order number to hand when making your booking. This should be obtained from your finance department.

Taking hold of our heritage

Leicestershire Cares has secured funding to deliver a heritage project investigating care experience young people’s memory, history and narrative. The Taking Hold Our Heritage project is funded through the Y Heritage project, Leicester, which is part of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s pioneering “Kick the Dust” funding programme.

The aim of the project will empower care experienced young people to discover, create and promote positive cultural histories and artefacts about care experienced life, while developing a range of employable skills. These artefacts will then form part of a touring exhibition that will be hosted in foster homes and hostels, culminating in a larger exhibition during Care Leavers week in October 2020.

Care leavers are said to be more likely to experience limited life chances (BBC 2017), resulting in a perception of negative personal histories. This heritage project will work with young people to investigate the complex nature of the identity of care leavers, producing an archive of artefacts including oral histories, photography and photovoice. The young people will investigate the memories and experiences of Leicestershire’s leaving care community, by looking at themselves, but also visiting and interviewing and documenting care experience young people. This project may well include collecting stories from older care experienced people.

Casey, a care-experienced young person, writes:

“Leicestershire Cares worked closely with care experience young people in developing the funding bid and took one of our young people to pitch our idea to a selection panel of young people from the Y Heritage.

This project helps give hope and helps care experience young people to feel better and more confident about their experiences. This will help to promote positive thinking in other care experience people of all ages. It provokes us to think about our own positive experiences when watching. All the time, it is the negatives spoken about: ‘my social worker did this wrong’ ‘the system failed me here’. Why aren’t we taking a second to look at the good it did for us? It wasn’t all negative and this project allows all care experience people to stop and look at how it did help for once in our lives. In therapies, people are always told to look at and list the positives all the time. We don’t do that as care experience people and we are never encouraged to do so.

I do a lot of advocacy for looked after children and care experience young people, all anyone ever speaks about is the negatives! This is so unhealthy! It’s time to start turning these things around. Everything has to start somewhere. We deserve to have our own heritage when our own biological families are often lost. Our stories are important and deserve to be heard. Let us be heard, let us raise awareness and let us have our heritage.”

The project will start in January 2020, with the exhibition in October 2020.

If you are interested in finding out more about our Taking Back Our Heritage project, please contact:

T: 0116 464 5215, M: 07738 403 732

Y Heritage

The Y has been awarded £707,500 through the Heritage Lottery Fund’s pioneering “Kick the Dust” funding programme. This will fund our project “Y Heritage”, which will be a collaboration between The Y, key civic partners such as our universities and local authorities, and the city and county’s wide and brilliant variety of heritage, cultural and creative organisations. The money will be used to better engage young people with heritage across both city and county.

Y Heritage will run a series of “Dragons Den” style pitches over three years where Leicester/Leicestershire based organisations can apply for funding up to £30,000 from a panel of young people. The young people all engage in some way with The Y. The organisations must build opportunities for work or training into their project funding application. Our aim is that our young people and the heritage projects develop and thrive together – it really is a win win opportunity!

With thanks to National Lottery Players for their support, without them projects such as Y Heritage could not happen.

Understanding and responding to trauma in the context of COVID-19

This online course delivered in real time to a limited number of participants, will offer the essentials of a trauma informed response in the context of the current situation. For most people, COVID-19 will be associated with increased uncertainty, anxiety and stress. Stressful and frightening events can create threats to our sense of security, feelings of grief, and loss of power and control in our lives. As the UK gradually starts to come out of the lockdown, practitioners from all settings will be reconnecting with the children and young people that they work with. A priority at this time must be to try to help children make sense of what has happened in their lives over the past few months, and for professionals to be able to plan for easing of restrictions.

09:30 – 12:30

Family conversations during Covid-19: Differences in Chinese families

Family conversations online and abroad during Covid-19: The differences between Chinese Families with daughter and with son

International students at the uncertain stage between teenage and independent adulthood have been particularly vulnerable during lockdown. Many are living far from relatives, with limited social networks and lacking the experience to navigate this public health emergency. At the same time, forms of socialisation shifted. Social gatherings disappeared, while digital family communication in transnational families increased. Online family communication for many has become a substitute for physical contact, rather than a complementary channel for family intimacy.

During my own lockdown experience as a student, I gathered data from my peers on their experiences of family communication during the Covid-19 outbreak. The research took place during June and July of 2020, and involved one-to-one interviews with 20 Chinese international students. Most were internet-based conversations, conducting using the digital communication tool, WeChat, a Chinese multi-purpose messaging App. This is the main choice for Chinese transnational-family communication; other messaging apps have been blocked in China due to Internet censorship (Yang and Liu, 2014). Several interviews were conducted face-to-face because we live near to each other.

Study background

The interviewees consisted of 10 female students and 10 male students, aged from 19 to 28, and included undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD students. Although the interviewees occupied different education levels, most were still supported financially by their middle-class family. Due to the Covid-19 lockdown my interviewees were situated across the globe: in Europe, USA, Australia and Southeast Asia (e.g. Hong Kong and Japan), all popular destinations of oversea study.

After a short demographic survey (e.g. age, gender, topic of study and family background), we talked about their daily family connection during the Covid-19 such as communication frequency, preferred mode of chatting, levels of participation by mothers and fathers, popular topics of conversation, as well as their perception of changes in family practices as a result of digital communication (for example, sending ‘Lucky Money’ online, animated stickers and sharing content). We also talked about students’ self-disclosure during family communication, that is, their decision about self-censorship when saying something in front of parents to manage their presentation of digital-self (“Do you intend to show an expected online persona or say something that your parents prefer to listen?”).


My research broadly supports prior studies of transnational family communication which stress that information and communication technologies has transformed families’ ability to maintain intimacy despite physical distance. 

Yet my data also revealed notable differences between Chinese families with daughters and those with sons. Chinese daughters appeared more active in communication with parents, with a higher frequency and better quality interaction. Those daughters who are fond of sharing personal life “moment” on WeChat every day keep a lower family communication frequency. They speculated that it was because these moments were the evidence to prove their safety and could relieve parents’ worry.

Yet my data also revealed notable differences between Chinese families with daughters and those with sons. Chinese daughters appeared more active in communication with parents, with a higher frequency and better quality interaction. In some cases, parents sought frequent contact so that their daughters could ‘prove’ their safety. This involved keeping parents informed by posting personal life on social media every day.

At the same time, Chinese daughters and sons had different preferences on the frequency of family conversation, as well as ‘impression management’. Daughters, for example, spent more time talking about their daily life – this was the last choice of topic for sons. Detail about family members’ lives and gossip were popular topics in family communication with daughters, while news and politics were considered low interest. Food was a common theme, with several female interviewees noting that they had obtained a family recipe, which they had cooked and then sent a photo of the meal home. 

Female participants were also more likely to share the experience of illness, stress from study and loneliness with parents, demonstrating their willingness to reveal their mental dependence on family and clearly express their need for emotional support. Indeed, amongst daughters this was considered the core reason for keeping in touch with parents. Daughters were also better at taking new family practices online and maintaining relationships, through the sharing of emoji and memes. For some, sharing emoji had become a new, entertaining cross-generational practice. As one female interviewee said, “my mother has ‘stolen’ the meme I sent to her and use it as well. She likes to guess the meaning of a certain meme. Sometimes she will play a joke on me to say, ‘this cute doggy looks like you’. I am happy to hear she also likes it.” 

Male interviewees, conversely, hesitate in acknowledging the existence of emotional need, homesickness or adaptation problems. They prefer to attribute the reason for regular communication to the filial responsibility of children to their parents. For many, they simply could not find a proper word to explain their motivation for parental communication: “It is too ordinary in my daily life, and I have never thought about the reason for constant family communication. Sometimes, it is more like clocking in.” The passive behaviour and attitude of sons partly results from social expectation that men should not be concerned with intimacy – rather they should be brave, strong and focused on their career. Difficulties in self-adjustment, or presenting too keen an interest in family trivia may be considered evidence of inappropriate sensitivity and vulnerability. The choice of a son in these parental conversations is to either end any parental concerns quickly, or merely talk about his interests, such as political affairs, family decisions and personal hobbies. 

Although the interviews suggest that Chinese daughters are good at seeking help from parents in communication, surprisingly more than half of them also intended to “leave an ideal impression in front of parents,” that is, maintaining an “innocent, polite, positive and lovely” image. As the ‘good girl’ expected by Chinese society, daughters should not let parents worry or ‘let parents down’. This intention also implies they have to present their life and thoughts online selectively, leaving certain issues hidden or unspoken. Parents often show excessive concern and more control to daughters, who are considered more vulnerable than sons in the ‘dangerous’ society. This was illustrated, in some cases, through repeated verbal warnings, unsolicited advice on healthy diet and rest, how to best spend their free-time, alcohol intake and smoking behaviour. 

Sons did not demonstrate a strong desire for presenting an ‘ideal’ digital-self in family communications. Male interviewees, for example, indicated their preference to “keep it real”. Indeed, in some cases, they preferred to depict their life negatively in order to lower parents’ expectation and potential pressure. 

Although daughters and sons had different styles for building their digital image for parents, self-disclosure was based on the balance between social expectations of their gender, and their identity as an emerging adult. With awareness of their increasing autonomy, the authority of parents decreased for both daughters and sons. 


Studying digital family communication in Chinese context can help us examine the changing parent-children relationship which is shifting from the traditional intergenerational exchange model to mutual communication and interaction. It can also help to explain the social and cultural reasons for self-disclosure and digital self by gender. 


Yang, Q. and Liu, Y. (2014). What’s on the other side of the great firewall? Chinese Web users’ motivations for bypassing the Internet censorship. Computers in Human Behavior, 37

Yang Shuhan is a Postgraduate in Digital Society at the University of Edinburgh.

Blog originally posted at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships.

In the shadow of a pandemic: Harare’s street youth COVID-19 experience

Janine Hunter has worked as a Researcher on Growing up on the Streets since January 2013 at the University of Dundee. She is also in the first year (part-time) of a PhD on the love relationships of street youth in Accra, Ghana.

In the Shadow of a Pandemic: Harare’s Street Youth Experience COVID-19 is a freely available ‘story map’, launched on 30 June. Made with visual data recorded by street youth in Harare, it includes films, photos, and details of lives lived on the streets under lockdown.

The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown has had unprecedented impact on all our lives. In Zimbabwe, where two-thirds of the population live in poverty (World Food Programme, 2019), lockdown has exacerbated water and food shortages and seen curfews, roundups and forced removal of young people living on the streets. Growing up on the Streets research project has been working with Street Empowerment Trust (SET) and a network of street youth there since 2012. We knew how hard conditions were there under normal circumstances, how much harder would it be under COVID-19 lockdown?

In late May and early June 2020, street youth collected the videos, images and stories around the low-income settlements, alleyways and areas of disused land around Harare where young people eke out a living in the informal economy, for example collecting and selling plastics – earning them less than half a pence (GBP) per kilo. The story map includes the story of Mai Future, a young pregnant woman who shows us the shelter she has put together on wasteland where she and her young child live; Denford, who demonstrates how he and his friends sleep in a new socially distanced manner, no longer able to huddle together for warmth; and, Zviko, who cooks up mopane worms in discarded paint tins used as cooking pots. 

Making the story map was challenging for participants, because ongoing curfews meant that street youth weren’t supposed to be in the city centre at all. Groups were confined to the secret alleyways or ‘bases’ (effectively their homes) or in the low income settlements outside the centre. Unable to move across the city, different participants captured visual data in the areas they lived, on a borrowed mobile phone.

The story map is a Zimbabwe–UK collaboration: Shaibu Chitsiku from SET worked with street youth in Harare to capture the visual material, while at the University of Dundee (which provided ethical approval as well as the licensed web application), the visual and context data were edited and the online resource created using ESRI’s ArcGIS StoryMaps.

Harare was one of three cities (alongside Accra, Ghana and Bukavu, DRC) in the Growing up on the Streets research project, which took place between 2012-2016 and involved 229 core participants and hundreds more in networks and focus groups. Growing up on the Streets legacy funding from Backstage Trust enabled the 24 street youth (9 of whom were original participants) to visually capture what life is like on the street as young women and men try to survive under COVID-19 lockdown in Harare.

Growing up on the Streets original methodology used a capability approach, drawing on Sen (1999) and Nussbaum (2000), where participants defined their own capabilities on the street and are seen as experts in their own lives. The project aims remain: to change the discourse around street children and youth and their right to make lives of value while living on the street. This story map is a continuation of that approach, and a unique and timely resource on how the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns are experienced by homeless young people living in urban poverty.

It’s the project’s second story map: in 2017 the University of Dundee Stephen Fry Award funded an online showcase created with street youth in Accra, Growing up on the Streets: A Story Map by Accra’s Street Youth includes sections built around the ten capabilities the street children and youth had defined as key to their lives. Other outputs from which are freely available online include: Briefing Papers in English and French, and the award-winning Knowledge Exchange Training Pack.

The films from the Harare story map are available on YouTube on the Growing up on the Streets channel. After seeing the final result, Shaibu said: “I participated in the collection of the pictures and videos, so I obviously have more information about the happenings and context; however, the story moved me, even though I was there when it was created. My verdict is ‘bolato’! (It’s great!).”

The story map was created by Growing up on the Streets:

  • Participants and visual creators: Arnold, Claude, Denford, Fatso, Fungai, Henzo, Jojo, Jonso, Jude, Mada, Madnax, Mai ‘Future’, Mathew, Mavhuto, Ndirege, Nixon, Ralph, Ranga, Tarwirei, Taurai, Tobias, Tonderai, Yeukai, Zviko. Please note all names are pseudonyms, chosen by the participants.
  • Project Manager, Harare: Shaibu Chitsiku, Street Empowerment Trust, Harare, Zimbabwe. Story map editing, construction: Janine Hunter, Geography, University of Dundee, UK. Film editing, subtitles: Victor Maunzeni, Street Empowerment Trust, Harare, Zimbabwe. Directors of Growing up on the Streets: Professor Lorraine van Blerk, University of Dundee, UK; Dr Wayne Shand, EDP Associates, UK; and the late Fr Patrick Shanahan, StreetInvest.
  • NGO Partner: StreetInvest, UK. Funding: Backstage Trust, UK.
    There is also a Conversation UK article associate with this storymap and a Conversation Africa podcast with Pasha 88.


  • Nussbaum, M.C. (2000). Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach. Cambridge, USA: Harvard University Press.
  • Sen, A. (1999). Development as Freedom. Oxford, UK, Oxford University Press.
  • World Food Programme (2019). Country Brief. WFP Zimbabwe, January 2019.

Original post located at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships.