Corporate parenting in a pandemic: Delivery and receipt of support to care leavers in Wales

Corporate parenting in a pandemic: Considering the delivery and receipt of support to care leavers in Wales during Covid-19

Louise Roberts, Alyson Rees, Dawn Mannay, Hannah Bayfield, Cindy Corliss, Clive Diaz and Rachel Vaughan.

During COVID-19, care leavers in Wales looked to their corporate parents for support. Accordingly, this mixed method study examined the experiences of care leavers during the pandemic. It included a survey of Welsh Local Authority professionals (n=22) and interviews with Welsh care-experienced young people aged 17-24 (n=17). In their interviews, some young people reported being both practically and emotionally supported.

She made sure like, I had enough food and stuff, she helped me financially, emotionally, and obviously like when I was moving out and stuff, I was pretty suicidal she helped me there as well. You know, she was just making sure that I was okay on a day-to-day basis. She came out to see me nearly every day. (Bethan)

My social worker, she phones me regularly … she actually Facetimed me the other week actually. She’s amazing, … She keeps it quite regular cos she knows I can get down quite easily… So yeah she keeps in touch quite regular. (Jess)

However, for other young people corporate parenting support was perceived as unavailable:

I could have died, and they would not know. I have only had two check-ups; I could’ve killed myself. (Mary)

I’ve had one or two texts but only [that], I haven’t spoken to her, just a text and email … It would be nice that they checked that I was alive to be honest, you know? (Bev)

I’ve tried ringing everyone in the office, but I still can’t get hold of my social worker to this day. I haven’t spoken to him in 5, 6 months my social worker, something like that. (Paul)

The Covid-19 pandemic provided a unique lens through which to consider the role of the state as parent. Whilst evidence of good practice in Wales is encouraging, with some young people feeling both practically and emotionally supported, it is deeply concerning that other young people remained in precarious situations, feeling forgotten and neglected by their corporate parents. The findings of this study illustrate the propensity of corporate parenting to provide protection against the adversities of the pandemic, but also to compound young people’s difficulties by being inactive, unresponsive and/or uncaring.

For more information about this study, read the study:
Roberts, L., Rees, A., Mannay, D., Bayfield, H., Corliss, C., Diaz, C. and Vaughan, R. 2021. Corporate parenting in a pandemic: Considering the delivery and receipt of support to care leavers in Wales during Covid-19. Children and Youth Services Review.

You might also be interested in the following related blogs hosted on Family and Community:

In the shadow of a pandemic: Harare’s street youth COVID-19 experience
The Coronavirus pandemic: Experiences and lessons for the future

Walking Tall: Empowering children to share their views and be heard

Walking Tall is a three-year project from the Fostering Network in Wales that began in 2020. It works with primary school children in foster care and was commissioned by the Welsh Government as part of the Fostering Communities programme.

Using interactive activities, the project encourages staff and facilitators to think through how they can adopt a more participative approach when working with children and highlights the importance of co-production – working side by side with children, to empower them to share their views and be heard.

Walking Tall recognises that everyone involved in fostering has a vital contribution to make, in order to improve the quality of life for children and young people in care and their foster families. In this way, the project will help towards ensuring that children are involved in designing and delivering projects that will meet their own needs.

The purpose of Stage One was to develop creative play-based sessions, to find out how children like to engage digitally, and to invite them to advise on materials and activities for working with children in later stages of the Walking Tall Project.

In Stage One, children engaged in a number of creative activities including ‘Rock Star’ where they painted stones to represent things in their lives that make them feel happy. Children then discussed the strengths and weaknesses of these different approaches. They were also asked to generate ideas about what other activities they would like to see and what they felt is the best way for children to share their perspectives, experiences, and ideas.

Although the views of children were centralised, foster carers also contributed their views and perspectives on the project. One foster carer commented that completing creative activities with children ‘Kind of brings everyone together. It was really lovely and enjoyable’.

You can find out more in the project report.

The Fostering Network in Wales

@tfn_Wales wales@fostering.net

Boffey, M., Mannay, D, Vaughan, R. and Wooders, C. 2021. The Fostering Communities Programme – Walking Tall: Stage One Evaluation. Cardiff: The Fostering Network in Wales.

The Coronavirus pandemic: Experiences and lessons for the future

The Coronavirus (COVID 19) Pandemic: Young People leaving care and practitioners share their experiences and lessons for the future

The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown has had a major impact across the world, with a disproportional impact on the poorest and most vulnerable people in society. This research study was designed to contribute to the emerging evidence base exploring both the receipt and delivery of social care support during this period.

The research study was funded by Voices from Care Cymru and CASCADE: Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre. It offered a platform for the views of 21 care experienced young who provided vivid and detailed accounts of their experiences of lockdown. The inclusion of a professional survey with 23 participants enabled consideration of local initiatives providing a valuable backdrop for analysis of young people’s accounts. The study therefore provides important learning for policy makers, social care managers and front-line practitioners who work with care experienced young people and other vulnerable groups.

Encouragingly, the study revealed positive attempts to adapt to the unprecedented working conditions. It was noteworthy that the professionals who responded to our survey were positive about the support that they had provided to care leavers. Efforts to maintain communication with young people, combat loneliness, isolation and boredom, as well as ensure access to resources demonstrated good practice. However, it was noted that efforts to respond to the needs of young people were constrained by the absence of additional funding.

The perspectives of young people sometimes stood in sharp contrast to those of professionals and concerns remain about parity of support within and across areas, and the alignment between support needs and available provision. Our findings did not suggest consultation and inclusion of young people in decision making about new ways of working, and the focus appeared to be on immediate and short-term crisis needs, as opposed to transition planning or taking a rights-based approach. Of particular concern were reports of young people anxious about basic provisions, living in inappropriate accommodation and struggling with absence of mental health support.

However, despite these issues young people valued contact from social workers and social care professionals and positioned this as essential in the COVID-19 pandemic, as illustrated in this poem from one of the care-experienced young people who participated in the study:

Times have changed, time is passing,
But our need for you to care is not lapsing,
We may whinge and shout and say we don’t want,
But we do, we really want you to.
We are isolated, changed and really not sure,
We need that face, the one we say we dislike
we need those texts that we never reply to,
We need the language that you share, they hey,
`how are you doing, I am still here’,
This is the real language that cares, the language we need,
The language which shows us not everything has changed,
The language that comforts us, like a weird aunt would send
Which would make us cringe, and smile,
A smile which means something hasn’t changed
-the language you use to show us you care.

You can also watch the Care Leavers and Coronavirus film about the key findings:

We would be pleased to hear from you with any feedback, comments, or suggestions:

Louise Roberts, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University RobertsL18@cardiff.ac.uk @DrLouiseRoberts

References

Roberts, L., Rees, A., Bayfield, H., Corliss, C., Diaz, C., Mannay, D. and Vaughan, R. 2020. Young people leaving care, practitioners, and the coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic: experiences, support, and lessons for the future. Cardiff: Cardiff University.

Online services, mental health & wellbeing of the care-experienced

Online services and the mental health and wellbeing of care-experienced children and young people

Good mental health and wellbeing is important particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the new restrictions around social distancing, there has been a move to deliver mental health services online. However, as yet, we do not know the best ways to develop online services, or how to successfully adapt programmes that have been delivered in person to now be delivered online. Research is required to understand how interventions can transition to online or blended (a mixture of face-to-face and online) delivery, what models are perceived to work most effectively, and which approaches warrant additional development, adaptation, and evaluation.

This new study funded by the TRIUMPH network aims to explore how to best develop online programmes for care-experienced young people. A team from Cardiff University and Voices from Care Cymru are working with The Fostering Network in Wales to improve online services to better support mental health and wellbeing.

We will interview and run consultations groups with care-experienced young people, foster carers, and social care professionals to explore their experiences of online programmes and understand what they want from online services. This will help us to consider the best way to develop or adapt services and discover what types of programmes participants would like to see in the future.

The research findings will enable us to develop a set of guidance and principles to support policymakers, practitioners, and researchers in developing and or adapting programmes for delivery online. If you are a care-experienced young person, foster carer or practitioner and you would like to contribute to developing online services to support mental health and wellbeing please contact us to register your interest.

Rhiannon Evans
DECIPHer (Centre for Development, Evaluation, Complexity and Implementation in Public Health Improvement), Cardiff University
evansre8@cardiff.ac.uk
@1RhiannonEvans

Dawn Mannay
School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
mannaydi@cardiff.ac.uk
@dawnmannay

#MessagestoSocialWorkers: a film created by care-experienced young people

We worked with a group of young people in care who attend a project run by the Roots Foundation Wales and the South West Wales Reaching Wider Partnership – Swansea University to create this film. The film represents the key messages that young people wanted to share with social workers.

The group meets regularly and offers care experienced young people the opportunity to meet together for social events, educational opportunities and a range of activities. In January and February 2019 we worked with the group make our first collaborative film #FromYoungPeopleForYoungPeople – Find Your Tribe

In the summer of 2019, we met up again to think about what other messages were important and who should hear these messages. We started by brainstorming ideas and deciding on the main messages then got to work on scripting and creating visual elements for the film. We used story boards to try and put together the group’s ideas then experimented with drawing, stickers and fuzzy felts.

The original images made by the group were used as the basis for the film animation, bringing to life the messages the young people wanted to share with the help of Like an Egg productions. These messages were created by young people based on their experiences. The film represents their ideas about how they would like to work with social workers in the future. These are their #messagestosocialworkers. We hope you enjoy the film.

Dawn Mannay – School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University @dawnmannay
Rachael Vaughan – CASCADE: Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre, Cardiff University @VaughanRach
Helen Davies – South West Wales Reaching Wider Partnership – Swansea University @ReachingWiderSU
Emma Jones – Roots Foundation Wales @RootsWales

The Value of Cultural and Creative Engagement: Understanding the Experiences and Opinions of Care-experienced Young People and Foster Carers in Wales

RESEARCH REPORT

Authors: Dawn Mannay, Phil Smith, Stephen Jennings, Catt Turney and Peter Davies

Report Commissioned by the Wales Millennium Centre

Year: 2018

Summary:

The research aimed to assess the current knowledge base regarding care-experienced children’s and young people’s engagement with the arts, and to explore the views of facilitators, young people, and their carers involved in the arts-based programme at the Wales Millennium Centre.

Objective 1: Collate and report relevant data and literature.
Objective 2: Conduct an in-depth qualitative research study with programme facilitators, care-experienced young people, and their foster families to provide insight into their experience of being involved with the arts-based programme, and their opinions on what could be done to improve the model and encourage engagement with the arts more widely.

Enabling talk and reframing messages: working creatively with care experienced children and young people to recount and re-represent their everyday experiences

JOURNAL ARTICLE

Authors: Dawn Mannay, Eleanor Staples, Sophie Hallett, Louise Roberts , Alyson Rees, Rhiannon Evans and Darren Andrews

Year: 2018

Summary:

The educational experiences and outcomes of care experienced children and young people is of longstanding concern. The pervasive inequalities they face suggest that current policies have been unable to respond fully to the complex causes of the problem. This paper reflects on a qualitative study into the educational experiences and aspirations of children and young people who are looked after in Wales. The project worked with care experienced peer researchers and drew on visual, creative and participatory techniques to explore 67 children’s and young people’s experiences of education and, importantly, their opinions on what could be done to improve it. This multimodal approach allowed space for participants to think through their subjective, mundane, but important, experiences that operate alongside, and interact with, more structural challenges. A range of films, magazines, artwork, and music outputs were developed to ensure that the project recommendations could reach wide and diverse audiences. This paper argues the voices of children and young people need to be given a platform to inform policy and practice. For this to happen researchers need to be creative in their approaches to both fieldwork and dissemination; harnessing the power of the arts to make positive changes in the everyday lives of children and young people.

To link to this article click here

British Educational Research Journal – The consequences of being labelled ‘looked-after’: Exploring the educational experiences of looked-after children and young people in Wales

JOURNAL ARTICLE

Authors: Dawn Mannay, Rhiannon Evans, Eleanor Staples, Sophie Hallet, Louise Roberts, Alyson Rees, Darren Andrews

Year: 2017

Summary:

The educational experiences and attainment of looked-after children and young people (LACYP) remains an issue of widespread international concern. Within the UK, children and young people in care achieve poorer educational outcomes compared to individuals not in care. Despite proliferation of research documenting the reasons for educational disadvantage amongst this population, there remains limited empirical consideration of the lived experiences of the educational system, as perceived by LACYP themselves. This paper draws upon qualitative research with 67 care-experienced children and young people in Wales. The sample was aged 6–27 years, and comprised 27 females and 40 males. Participants had experienced a range of care placements. Findings focus on how educational policies and practices alienate LACYP from dominant discourses of educational achievement through assignment of the ‘supported’ subject position, where children and young people are permitted and even encouraged not to succeed academically due to their complex and disrupted home circumstances. However, such diminished expectations are rejected by LACYP, who want to be pushed and challenged in the realisation of their potential. The paper argues that more differentiated understandings of LACYP’s aspirations and capabilities need to be embedded into everyday practices, to ensure that effective educational support systems are developed.

Understanding the educational experiences and opinions, attainment, achievement and aspirations of looked after children in Wales

RESEARCH REPORT

Authors: Dawn Mannay, Eleanor Staples, Sophie Hallett, Louise Roberts, Alyson Rees, Rhiannon Evans, Darren Andrews

Year: 2015

Report summary:

In December 2014 the Welsh Government, on behalf of Welsh Ministers, invited tenders for a study to explore the educational experiences and opinions, attainment, achievement and aspirations of looked after children in Wales. Following a competitive tender process, a multidisciplinary team of researchers at the Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE) Cardiff University, led by Dr Dawn Mannay from the School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, were appointed to undertake the research project in January 2015. The project was undertaken in partnership with Voices from Care Cymru, The Fostering Network and Spice Innovations. This study was undertaken in response to two key objectives set out by the Welsh Government.

  • Objective 1: Conduct an in-depth qualitative research study with looked after children, to provide insight into their experience of education and their opinions on what could be done to improve it.
  • Objective 2: Collate and report relevant data and literature.

#MessagestoSocialWorkers – A film created by care-experienced young people

In the #MessagestoSocialWorkers project, we worked with a group of young people in care who attend a project run by the Roots Foundation Wales and the South West Wales Reaching Wider Partnership – Swansea University to create this film. It represents the key messages that young people want to share with social workers.

The group meets regularly and offers care-experienced young people the opportunity to meet for social events, educational opportunities, and a range of activities. In January and February 2019 we worked with the group to make our first collaborative film: #FromYoungPeopleForYoungPeople – Find Your Tribe.

In the summer of 2019, we met up again to think about what other messages were important as well as who should hear them. We brainstormed ideas and decided on the main messages and got to work on scripting and creating visual elements for the film. We used storyboards to try and put together the group’s ideas then experimented with drawing, stickers, and fuzzy felts.

The original images – created by young people based on their experiences and made by the group, were used as the basis for the film animation, bringing to life the messages the young people wanted to share, along with help of Like an Egg Productions. The film represents their ideas about how they would like to work with social workers in the future. These are their #messagestosocialworkers.

Dawn Mannay – School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University @dawnmannay
Rachael Vaughan – CASCADE: Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre, Cardiff University @VaughanRach
Helen Davies – South West Wales Reaching Wider Partnership – Swansea University @ReachingWiderSU
Emma Jones – Roots Foundation Wales @RootsWales