Measuring the wellbeing of children in care
With funding from The J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust, NCB conducted research exploring the measurement of wellbeing of children in care. We gathered the views of 114 professionals working with children in care, as well as those of children and young people, through five “children in care councils”. This report sets out the findings of the research.
Professionals said that they measured children's wellbeing at all ages and stages throughout their journey through care. They did this for a variety of purposes, including for care planning, and to measure progress and outcomes. They explicitly acknowledged the value of doing this to help improve the lives of the children they worked with.
We found widespread use of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), which reflects the requirement on local authorities to report results of the SDQ to Government each year. Whilst participants were aware of a number of other tools, very few reported having used any of them regularly.
There were mixed views on how well the SDQ worked in practice. Challenges included:
- Reliance on a positive trusting relationship between the child and the person administering the questionnaire, which did not always exist;
- The questionnaire not being flexible enough to work for children with particular communication needs and experiences; and
- The questionnaire not taking account of some indicators of wellbeing, such as involvement in afterschool clubs or engagement in exercise, which were seen as important by professionals.
Consequently, many professionals relied on their own bespoke and informal measures and proxy indicators to inform their work with children in care. The SDQ was seen by some as a 'tick box exercise'.