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New research partnership launched to define and measure ‘success’ for care leavers

Become, a national charity for children in care and young care leavers, has announced it is partnering with The Rees Centre at the University of Oxford to define a new measurement of success for care leavers.

19/06/22

New research partnership launched to define and measure ‘success’ for care leavers

A new tool to measure outcomes for care leavers has been launched by Become and The Rees Centre at the University of Oxford.

The research partnership will be working with young people who are leaving or have left care to try and understand what success means to them and when they think success should be measured.

Organised by researchers Dr Nikki Luke and Dr Áine Kelly, this mixed-method study will investigate what ‘success’ means to a range of stakeholders. The research aims to collect professional stakeholders’ views on the indicators of success, how they might be measured and how they might be used to improve services.

The study will address how success is currently measured for care leavers, and explore whether different stakeholders view success differently, and how this affects what is measured. It also looks to discuss who should measure success, and how and when should it be measured.

Leon Feinstein, Professor of Education and Children’s Social Care and Director of the Rees Centre at the University of Oxford’s Department of Education, says that the concept of a ‘successful’ transition from childhood to adulthood is “largely defined by traditional, formal routes to ‘success’ such as education and employment.”

“Parents, carers, educators, policymakers, and other professionals all make assumptions about what a successful adult is and develop policies and practices to fit. This means that outcomes or success factors are at best assumed and imposed on young people, particularly for those in and/or leaving care.

“Even where there are defined official measures of success for care leavers, the data is far from consistent and comprehensive. The government statistics that do exist only provide a partial picture of care leavers’ lives. They focus on objective measures and professional assessments i.e., whether the local authority is in touch with care leavers, if their accommodation is suitable, and if they are in education, employment, or training.

“That’s why this research partnership is so important to help us understand how young people perceive their aspirations, personal achievements, and attainments. At the end of the 3-year project, we will have measures based on children in care and young care leavers’ own criteria for success which feels right, timely and much needed.”

The research will use focus groups in four local authorities to understand in much greater detail how care leavers think about ‘success’, how it might change during their lifespan, and how and where it might be measured.

The partners say gaining the perspective of care leavers and those just about to leave care will be ‘central’ to the work.

After the research has been conducted, the partnership plans to roll out the revised tool to 10 local authorities across England and analyse the findings and produce final reports.

The research is particularly relevant following the recent publication of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, in which five ‘missions’ were suggested to bring outcomes for care leavers in line with the rest of the population.

Katharine Sacks-Jones, CEO at Become, says the research is necessary to ensure care leavers are offered the right support and opportunities.

“Too often we make assumptions about what matters to young people without asking or listening to them. And so we focus on and measure certain outcomes without truly understanding what it means to that young person themselves to make a ‘successful’ transition into adulthood.

“This research will help us to address the gap of knowledge that exists in understanding the hopes and ambitions of young people in and leaving care.

Kudzai Zimowa, a young care leaver in the design group of the project, said the project has created a collaborative space where care-experienced people can share their perspectives and “rewrite the narrative”.

“It’s been a fantastic opportunity to work on a project that can make a material difference in the lives of many young people. Too often the narrative on what success means for care leavers is controlled by others.”

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