Seven new research projects funded in children’s social care

01 October 2021

WWCSC is pleased to announce we have selected seven new research projects looking to improve outcomes for children and families and build an evidence base in children’s social care as part of our Spark Grant scheme. 

The purpose of our Spark Grant Scheme was to fund additional research in children’s social care, conducted by researchers who might otherwise be under-represented in the research community, and/or who might struggle to get funding through other routes, with the aim of providing project leadership opportunities for researchers who may have not had the experience to date.

We hope that these grants provide opportunities for the next generation of social care researchers to lead projects that otherwise might not have been funded, to catalyse diversity in research, and to act as a springboard for larger grants in the future. 

The scheme was targeted specifically to

  1. Early Career Researchers (ECRs) and/or
  2. Researchers from underrepresented backgrounds including, but not limited to researchers: with lived experience of the children’s social care system, from a minortised ethnic group, with a disability, who identify as LGBTQ+, who may have taken a career break, returned from prolonged sick leave, or reentering the workforce following caring responsibilities.

After a competitive two-stage process that includes a mix of pilot evaluations and secondary data analysis, we have awarded 7 projects from throughout England and Wales based on the 15 applications we received.

The funded projects: 

  1. Looked after children: Impact of the Adoption support Fund and mental well-being in British adoptive families, Liming Li, King’s College London – Assessing the impact of the Adoption Support Fund through a Difference-in-difference study, using samples from 3 national longitudinal surveys.
  1. Evaluation of a systemic informed Edge of Care service, Temitope Ademosu, London Borough of Hackney Children and Families Services  – An evaluation of a new approach to Edge of Care services in London Borough of Hackney which involves assessment and evaluation, followed by bespoke clinical sessions with specialists to support children on edge of care.
  1. The way we step into families lives: Mixed methods evaluation of a dialogical approach to initial assessments in social care, Temitope Ademosu, London Borough of Hackney Children and Families Services An evaluation of a dialogical approach to assessments which  involves ‘listening together’ sessions; bringing families, their wider support network and professionals together, to actively engage and listen to each other in a more open and transparent space.
  1. Towards early identification of mental health problems in children’s social care, Anna Moore, University of Cambridge The development of a linked data system for measuring mental health (MH) need and associated risk factors across a multi-agency pathway, with particular emphasis on social care and also a digital MH early identification tool for use in social care settings, using SAIL database (Welsh health data) to support risk prediction and early identification of MH need. 
  1. Exploring characteristics, needs, and service us of mothers diagnosed with severe perinatal mental health difficulties and their infants in contact with the children’s social care system, Billie Lever Taylor, King’s College London Secondary quantitative data analysis aiming to develop understanding of the support needs of families where the mother has a serious perinatal mental health diagnosis and the infant is in contact with children’s social care, and factors associated with intervention by children’s social care.
  1. What works in early help? An evaluation of families’ experiences of receiving support under an innovative new approach to the delivery of early help in Leeds, Emma Geddes, Leeds Beckett University  – A mixed methods pilot evaluation of a new approach to early help in Leeds, which is based on restorative early support hubs made up of a multi-agency team.
  1. How does peer parental advocacy impact on child protection practice? A realist evaluation, Clive Diaz, Cardiff University  – A mixed methods pilot evaluation of a Peer Parental Advocacy (PPA) project in the London Borough of Camden, where parents with experience of navigating the children services system help other families as they navigate through the system. 

All projects will last up to 12 months, beginning in September 2021, and will each receive close to £25,000 in funding. WWCSC will be working with grant holders to develop their project throughout the cycle, and providing support and guidance.

Michal Sanders, Chief Executive, What Works for Children’s Social Care, said:

“We’re really excited to announce this round of projects that have been funded through the Spark Grant scheme. It’s a real positive to see such a brilliant and varied cohort of researchers leading these important small scale projects, and we’re really looking forward to working alongside them over the coming year.”

For further information about the Spark Grant Scheme or its projects, please contact the Programmes team: