Study to examine wellbeing of young care leavers

Published: 7 December 2016 at 11:00

Young women talking

Anglia Ruskin University to investigate what happens to young adults leaving care

Unique research to get a better understanding of what happens to young adults when they leave care is being carried out by Anglia Ruskin University, thanks to a grant from the European Union.

Interviews with young people will reveal their experiences of leaving either institutional or family care, a critical period in their lives where the need for support may increase significantly.

A report last year by the National Audit Office found that care leavers face challenging social problems and that the current system is “not working effectively to deliver good outcomes for all care leavers”. In 2013/14, 41% of 19-year-old care leavers were not in employment, education or training compared with only 15% of their age peers. 

Instead of being questioned by academics or social workers, a group of 25 people between the ages of 18 and 25 will be interviewed by their peers on the Essex Children in Care Council, who have had similar experiences. This qualitative data will then be compared with an identical study that has already been conducted in Finland.

It is also hoped that young care leavers will benefit from speaking to people who have undergone similar experiences. The interviewees themselves will be trained, gaining new skills to help them play a greater role in their communities and contribute to society.

The study, being carried out in Essex in partnership with Essex County Council, will help policy makers and practitioners understand more about how care leavers feel about their transition and the services required.

Funding for the study has been provided by the European Union, with Professor Maritta Torronen seconded to Anglia Ruskin University under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship scheme.

Professor Torronen said: 

“This study will explore, with young adults themselves, how we can develop young person-centred social work guidelines on how best to support the wellbeing of young adults leaving the care system.

“The research results will be used to find ways to improve options for young adults leaving care to participate in their communities and obtain new skills that will be useful, for instance, in their working life.”

Cllr Dick Madden, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Children, said: 

“We work closely with the Essex Children in Care Council to help ensure all children and young people get the best possible start in life.

“They are playing a crucial role in this project, volunteering a huge amount of their time in order to complete the training and carry out this important research.

“As experts by experience, they will not only capture vital information to help us improve the support available to future care leavers but be able to offer vital peer-to-peer advice.”