Understanding higher education experiences of care-experienced young people

Understanding the higher education experiences of care-experienced young people in Wales

It is widely known that care experienced young people in Wales and the UK more widely experience poorer outcomes in a wide range of factors than their peers who do not have experience of social care. These factors include health, poverty and early pregnancy, as well as education. As a result of educational research such as the Diamond Review, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are providing more support to care leavers in order to improve their access to university. However, despite a greater understanding of the barriers that this group face in continuing their education to university level, there has been little evidence of whether this support is effective.

This research project aims to understand university support and interventions in Wales that target care experienced young people – and assess the effectiveness of these support systems and interventions. These findings, along with data regarding numbers of care leavers attending Welsh universities, will be used to develop a model of best practice and practical guidance for care experienced young people and the people and organisations who support them in their education. Importantly, the research aims to understand and give voice to the experiences of care experienced young people who have been through the process of making decisions about their continued education, and we are looking for care experienced participants aged 14+ to take part and share their experiences with us.

If any young people you care for or work with might be interested in taking part, please get in touch. Participation can take the form of an interview or focus group, something more creative, or filling out an online questionnaire. All young people who take part in an interview or focus group, or make something creative, will receive an Amazon or Love2Shop voucher to say thank you for their time and input. For more details see the project information summary for young people and contact:

Hannah Bayfield
CASCADE, Cardiff University
BayfieldH@Cardiff.ac.uk
@HBayfield

The Coronavirus (COVID 19) 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.

The experiences and outcomes of children and young people from Wales receiving Secure Accommodation Orders

Research report (summary)

Authors: Annie Williams, Hannah Bayfield, Martin Elliott, Jennifer Lyttleton-Smith, Rhiannon Evans, Honor Young, Sara Long (2019)

Summary:

Social Care Wales commissioned a project to explore the experiences of children and young people from Wales who received Secure Accommodation Orders between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2018. This project aimed to get a better understanding of the experiences of children and young people from Wales before, during and after their time in secure or alternative accommodation.