Lincoln research on children in care and their communities funded by AHRC

Ian Richards of the University’s Communications Office writes:

The relationship between young people living in care and the communities which form part of their daily lives will be examined in a far-reaching new study by academics at the University of Lincoln.

Researchers from Lincoln’s School of Health and Social Care are to investigate how the experiences of children in local authority care affect their sense of identity, place and belonging.

The study will assess the importance of looked-after young people’s relationships with different types of community, from their affinity to local neighbourhoods to their contacts with children in care in different parts of the country. It will consider whether these connections might be enhanced to bolster the self-esteem of young people living in care and, ultimately, whether they might help to improve their life chances on leaving the care system.

Principal investigator Dr Leslie Hicks, Reader in the School of Health and Social Care at the University of Lincoln, said: “The disadvantages of being in care have been well-documented. A wealth of evidence points to the potentially negative impact associated with entering the care system and the effect this may have later on a young person’s life chances. Although existing policy and guidance is based on a holistic view of looked-after young people, little emphasis has been placed on maximising the positive influence of wider cultural connections and contexts in terms of daily life. We want to explore what is known already about the ways in which different communities form part of the lives of young people in care. We can then look at how these connections might help to enhance the self-esteem, identity and development of young people and improve the often difficult transition into and out of the care system.”

The scoping study, titled Communities in Care, will involve a literature review spanning 30 years of academic research, government policy documents from the English-speaking world, including the UK, Ireland, USA and Australia, and first-hand accounts from young people. It will draw on disciplines such as social policy, law, psychology and sociology.

The research team consists of Leslie Hicks, Karin Crawford, Diane Simpson, Ian Mathews and Kevin Cooper. Their findings will be useful to social care professionals, national policy-makers and academics.

Communities in Care has been funded with a grant of just over £30,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of its Connected Communities programme. The findings will be disseminated widely, including several national workshops with young people and their carers, a dedicated project website and a discussion paper. The team will identify gaps in existing knowledge which will provide new avenues for research.

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