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

Dawn Mannay
School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University

British Education Journal: Systematic review of educational interventions for looked-after children and young people: Recommendations for intervention development and evaluation


Authors: Rhiannon Evans, Rachel Brown, Gwyther Rees and Philip Smith

Year: 2017


Looked-after children and young people (LACYP) are educationally disadvantaged compared to the general population. A systematic review was conducted of randomised controlled trials evaluating interventions aimed at LACYP aged ≤18 years. Restrictions were not placed on delivery setting or delivery agent. Intervention outcomes were: academic skills; academic achievement and grade completion; special education status; homework completion; school attendance, suspension, and drop-out; number of school placements; teacher-student relationships; school behaviour; and academic attitudes. Fifteen studies reporting on 12 interventions met the inclusion criteria. Nine interventions demonstrated tentative impacts. However, evidence of effectiveness could not be ascertained due to variable methodological quality, as appraised by the Cochrane risk of bias tool. Theoretical and methodological recommendations are provided to enhance the development and evaluation of educational interventions.

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


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

Year: 2017


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


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.

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)


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.

Educational Interventions for Children and Young People in Care: A Review of Outcomes, Implementation and Acceptability

This chapter reviewed the best available evidence on educational interventions intended to improve educational outcomes for children and young people who have resided in care.

Children and young people in care in Wales have poorer educational outcomes than the general population. For example, only 23% of young people in care in Wales achieve five GCSEs (Grade A*–C), compared to 60% of those not in care .

Every opportunity should be taken to ensure good educational outcomes for children and young people who spend time in care. But how can this best be done? We undertook an international review of high-quality evaluations (published in English) of educational interventions that try to answer this question. The review found only 12 interventions. Two studies were conducted in the UK, while the others were from the US or Canada.

The interventions were diverse in the individuals they targeted, the people who delivered them, and the method of delivery. For example, the Letterbox Club involved sending educational materials to children aged 7 to 11 in foster care in Northern Ireland. In contrast, a Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care intervention in the US provided specialist foster care for females aged 13 to 17 years old who had been in the juvenile justice system. The interventions also targeted different outcomes, including school attendance, behaviour at school, homework completion, academic skills and academic achievement.

The findings from these interventions were mixed. For example, there was some evidence of improved academic skills in early childhood. Two of four studies that measured school attendance found evidence of benefits. However, two studies that measured academic achievement did not find improvements. These findings should be treated with caution as the quality of most studies was weak.

It is clear we still have much to learn about improving the educational outcomes of children and young people who spend time in care. In particular, none of the intervention evaluations were conducted in Wales. As care systems and populations differ across contexts and countries, it is important that we develop and evaluate interventions locally.

As part of the wider study, which this review supported, researchers asked children and young people in Wales with experience of care what types of educational interventions they want. Generally, they preferred targeted interventions to be provided by their carers, rather than introducing more professionals into their lives. They also acknowledged the risk that targeted interventions could be stigmatising. Therefore, it may be better to think of interventions that may be effective for a wider group of children who need additional support with their education, whether or not they spend time in care.

Chapter 3

Children and Young People ‘Looked After’? Education, Intervention and the Everyday Culture of Care in Wales

This is the latest blog in a series relating to the recently released book “Children and Young People ‘Looked After’? Education, Intervention and the Everyday Culture of Care in Wales”. Over the next few weeks we will be uploading blog posts from chapter authors in the lead up to the launch event for the book. Tickets to the launch are available here.


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

Project Summary

The Welsh Government commissioned the Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE) in early 2015 to conduct a study with care-experienced children and young people to explore their aspirations and experiences of education.

The project summary and outputs are available on the Cascade website, ‘Understanding the educational experiences and opinions, attainment, achievement and aspirations of looked-after* children in Wales’, and it is widely known as The LACE Project.

*The term ‘care-experienced’ children is now a widely used term in the sector and refers more broadly to anyone who has experienced being in care, regardless of their placement length, type or age. 

Creative Outputs

Alongside the report and executive summary, CASCADE also produced a number of innovative visual and audio materials to help disseminate the findings and recommendations of the research to a diverse range of audiences. These include the following videos, audio files, films, magazines and artwork.


Never look behind



Aspirations of Looked After Children in Wales
Looked after children’s opinions on what needs to change in education
Looked after children and education in Wales 
Educational experiences of looked after children in Wales 



Messages to schools

Following on from the LACE project, CASCADE received further funding from the Economic and Social Research Council for work around ‘Improving the educational experiences and attainment of looked after children and young people’. Consultations with children and young people led to the development of these key #messagestoschools: