Impacts of our Research


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We were ranked 6th in REF2021 for research impact and our research has influenced policy and practice, the training of criminal justice professionals, and informed public debate.

Keeping children safe: enhancing the sustainability of family reunification after care proceedings

Children who are neglected or harmed within their families can be removed to the care of the state. However, the Family Courts must first consider the possibility of family reunification and explore alternative options. Returning children home is not without risks – some children will be subject to further neglect and re-enter care. Led by Professor Judith Harwin, researchers from the Centre for Child and Family Justice Research, have contributed to knowledge about innovative approaches to family reunification and about children returned home on supervision orders.

Impacts of research

Researchers from the Centre for Child and Family Justice Research have made important contributions to policy and practice regarding safe and durable family reunification by:

  1. Strengthening the case for significant investment to enable the expansion of Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) provision across England and Wales.
  2. Enabling the Centre for Justice Innovation (the national body leading the current FDAC expansion) to benefit from international knowledge exchange regarding common challenges to the implementation of problem-solving justice and shaping of its professional training provision.
  3. Identifying and raising awareness of children returned home or supervision orders as a marginalised vulnerable group.
  4. Bringing about a comprehensive review of supervision orders, co-chaired by Professor Judith Harwin and Mr Justice Keehan (High Court Judge), and authorised by the President of the Family Division of the High Court.

“The research, and ongoing support and advice to us has been of immense value… we have developed new training programmes for practitioners and judges working within new and existing FDACs, based on the insights… To date, we have trained over a hundred new specialist team practitioners, judges and partner practitioners incorporating the Lancaster research findings” – Director of Centre for Justice Innovation UK.

Pioneering the use of large-scale family justice data to shape policy and practice for children in out-of-home care

Every day, the family courts and local authorities make critical decisions about children, including that they are unable to live safely with their birth parents and should be removed from their care. It is vital that these decisions, which shape children’s lives into adulthood, are underpinned by the very best research evidence and data. Professor Judith Harwin, Dr Linda Cusworth, and a team of researchers in the Centre for Child and Family Justice Research (CFJ), have pioneered the use of large-scale datasets to shape policy and practice for children in out-of-home care (looked after children). They have shed light on family court decision-making and on pathways and outcomes for children requiring out-of-home care.

Impacts of research

As a result of this research new best practice guidance and tailor-made services have been created, with this change-oriented research:

  1. Shaping national policy and practice reform in England, Wales, and Scotland by linking longitudinal large-scale datasets.
  2. Influencing national judicial training on special guardians and enabling successful campaigns to support new investments into support services.
  3. Enabling government analysts to improve national datasets and maximise their use.

“The importance of [the research] in formulating the recommendations…cannot be overstated. It has brought real and significant changes in the approach of local authorities, lawyers, children’s guardians and the courts. Most importantly, it has improved the outcomes and life chances of children and young people who are made the subject of special guardianship orders” - Chair of the Public Law Working Group.

Domestic and sexual abuse: Improving criminal justice responses, victim support, and policy and practice nationally and internationally

Domestic and sexual abuse impacts both women and men, with the Crime Survey for England and Wales estimating that 5.5% (2.3 million) of adults experienced domestic abuse, and 1.8% (773,000) were victims of sexual assault in the year ending March 2020. Research conducted by Dr Siobhan Weare and Dr Charlotte Barlow in the Centre for Crime, Law, and Justice, has provided greater understanding of the nature, extent of, and responses to domestic and sexual abuse both within and outside of the criminal justice system.

Impacts of research

This innovative research has impacted upon policy and practice nationally by:

  1. Influencing government policy on domestic and sexual abuse by informing the 2019 Domestic Abuse Bill in the UK and 2019 psychological violence legislation in Denmark.
  2. Changing outdated assumptions regarding gender-based abuse via its application in training to more than 1900 police officers, social workers, healthcare professionals, lawyers, local governmental organisations, and third sector support services in England, Wales, and the Republic of Ireland.
  3. Enhancing support for male victims of sexual abuse by shaping the National Male Survivor Standards – the first national quality assurance framework in the UK for services supporting adult male victims of sexual abuse – and a review of the National Male Survivors Helpline and Online Service.

“[The research has] challenged and changed attitudes around sexual abuse; in particular, around victims and perpetrators and how female-on-male sexual abuse occurs…one healthcare professional commented that previously they had made the assumption probably like everyone, how could this happen to a man – the research has made me look at this in a different light” - Feedback from training participants from the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Changing national policy on measuring and reporting violent crimes in England and Wales

Full title of the project: Changing national policy on measuring and reporting violent crimes in England and Wales, and catalysing new campaigns to prevent football-related domestic violence

In the year up to March 2020, the Crime Survey for England and Wales estimates there were 2.3 million cases of adults aged 16 to 74 who experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales; of these, 1.6 million were women. Research conducted in the Centre for Crime, Law, and Justice has resulted in changes to the reporting of crime statistics, a less biased reporting system, and more accurate reporting of domestic violence incidents across the UK. It has also advanced the understanding of football-related domestic violence in England.

Impacts of research

Investigations into the reporting of domestic violence data in the UK has:

  1. Transformed Office for National Statistics/ UK Government policy on the reporting of series victimisations in the Crime Survey for England and Wales crime statistics, prompting a recalculation of historical estimates of series victimisation by the ONS dating back to 1991 (which showed violent crime to be between 6% and 32% more prevalent than previously estimated).
  2. Increased public awareness of the link between domestic violence and FIFA World Cup tournaments, and prompted advertising campaigns and policies among domestic violence charities and police forces throughout the UK and beyond.
  3. Increased reporting of incidents to domestic violence charities during the 2018 FIFA World Cup (e.g. 19.6% increase in reporting to the National Centre for Domestic Violence).

“The statistics enabled us to confront people with the appalling reality of this issue, create awareness and breed a culture of disgust, not acceptance, when it comes to domestic violence… we aimed to provoke much-needed conversations and force the public to rethink what the World Cup means for domestic abuse victims at exactly the moment when they are most vulnerable. We also wanted to ensure that victims and their friends/families were aware of the free legal advice they could access via the NCDV, and the support this organisation offers in terms of life-saving injunctions” - National Centre for Domestic Violence.