New research by NCB and Research in Practice for the Children’s Commissioner for England finds more than 280 recent sources of evidence reflecting the voice of children in care and care leavers.
A new report finds it is possible to build a national overview of the voice of children and young people in care and care leavers based on existing evidence.
It identified more than 280 sources of evidence produced between April 2015 and February 2017, from activities engaging directly with children in care and care leavers in England, based on a public call for evidence and extensive desk research.
This body of information could provide important new insight into young people’s experience of the care system.
In recent years, policy makers have become increasingly aware of the need to hear directly from children in care. Government, local authorities, researchers and advocates all agree that the young person’s voice should be central to decisions about service design as well as individual care planning. But coproduction is never straightforward. How do we find out what young people think? How do we make our research representative? And crucially, how do we ensure participation is meaningful and respectful of the young people we are working with?
The “rapid review” suggests that in many cases services, commissioners and decision makers could learn from existing evidence of children’s views and experiences to inform their policy and practice development. Additional consultation should build on this evidence, and focus on new or specific issues affecting children and young people.
The existing evidence base includes a large number of diverse sources which provide real insight into young people’s views. They come from local authorities, voluntary organisations, health bodies, government departments and regulators, and universities and research organisations. Importantly, those with complex needs are represented, including those in the youth secure estate, migrant children and young people at risk of sexual exploitation – though more work is needed to ensure they are routinely included in consultations. As well as placements and care planning, there is evidence of young people’s views on family and friends, education and leisure, health and wellbeing, their local environment, money and transition.
From more than 280 sources based on direct engagement with children and young people, NCB and RiP identified 50 sources that appeared to be more comprehensive in coverage and content, and that were broadly representative of the body of evidence, to interrogate in more detail.
Although we found a huge amount of useful information, we also identified limitations in the way evidence of children’s voice was recorded. Importantly, not all organisations engaging with children in care routinely record information on methodology, ethics, demographics, results of their activities and what the findings are used for. This makes it challenging to assess the quality and appropriateness of the evidence, or for other organisations to replicate good practice.
Listening to young people is vital, but there is a role for the sector in developing quality standards and good practice in consultation, so that participation is always meaningful and engagement activities are ethically and methodologically sound.
We hope the Children’s Commissioner will initiate a fuller examination of the sources and that this work will encourage organisations in the field to work together to improve the evidence base and share best practice.
'Rapid review of sources of evidence on the views, experiences and perceptions of children in care and care leavers' is available here.