Ground-breaking study of care system in Scotland awarded £500,000

Five different shoes in a row - from baby to young adult

A research team, including Lancaster University academics, have been awarded a £500,000 grant from the Nuffield Foundation and a philanthropic donor to continue ground-breaking work to improve the lives of ‘looked after’ children.

In the largest UK study of its kind, between 2014 and 2018 the team, including Dr Linda Cusworth from the Centre for Child and Family Justice Research at Lancaster University, followed the progress of every single child aged five and under who became looked-after in Scotland in the years 2012/2013 - a total of 1,836 children.

The highly acclaimed study, published last year (2019), analysed the children's pre-care experiences, pathways and early outcomes. It used administrative data, surveys of caregivers and social workers, and interviews with children and caregivers.

Key findings from Phase 1 of the study - Permanently Progressing? Building Secure Futures for Children in Scotland - were that a third of the children were still not in permanent placements after four years, and that adoption generally took more than two years.

In Phase 2 - Permanently Progressing? Middle Childhood - the team, led by University of Stirling social work expert Dr Helen Whincup and comprising researchers from the University of Stirling, Lancaster University, and Adoption and Fostering Alliance (AFA) Scotland, will revisit the 1,836 children. They will use administrative data, questionnaires and interviews to see where the children are now and how they are faring.

Dr Whincup said: "Phase 2 of this longitudinal study which will run until 2024, will provide important information for children, families, social work practitioners and policy-makers in Scotland and internationally, which in turn will result in more effective services and better outcomes for children and families."

Research Fellow in Lancaster University Law School, Dr Cusworth, who brings a wealth of experience in the use of administrative and survey data to this project, said: “We are very excited to have secured the opportunity to follow the continued progress of children who became looked after in Scotland at a young age. The use of linked administrative datasets, together surveys and interviews will provide vital information about children’s pathways and outcomes.”

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