What matters for What Works?

30 April 2020

At  WWCSC we are acutely aware that real-world impact  – for the children, young people and families we set out to help – can only be achieved if the research we produce is useful. There are of course, different sides to this; one is making sure that the research we present is accessible and quickly digestible (expect lots more animations like this one!) and another, is to ensure that the research topics we decide to focus on are the most relevant to the sector.

Now this is challenging.

Our remit is intentionally broad – the children’s social care system aims to serve a wide range of people with different needs – children, parents, carers and care leavers, to name just a few. We don’t just care about the CSC system – but everything it interacts with: education, criminal justice, health and others. We also have a range of stakeholders with very different, and often conflicting views. This leaves us with seemingly endless options for our research- and for those of you who took part in our recent prioritisation exercise, you’ll have experienced this first hand.

Over the past few months, we’ve been going through a process to try to get a sense of what our various stakeholder groups think our research priorities should be, and to begin to build a consensus around this. Over 250 people took part in total across the three surveys, in addition to input from members of our Stakeholder Advisory Group, our Young Advisors and others. and I’m delighted to say that we’re now ready to share these results! 

The primary output of this is a list of the most highly rated priorities overall, which include:

  • Mental health of children and young people
  • Workforce wellbeing
  • Impact of trauma on children
  • Children and young people’s lived experiences
  • Actively involving children and families in identifying their needs and planning their support
  • Transitions
  • Emotional abuse
  • Stable workforce
  • Domestic abuse
  • Social care professionals’ training and skills

You’ll find that we’ve also published the top priorities broken down by each stakeholder group.  This aims to preserve the ‘voice’ of each group – and acknowledges that while we’re aiming for some consensus, we expect there to be differences.

Alongside this, we’ve also launched a full report which outlines the process, and the findings in more detail. Why? We wanted to be completely transparent about how we arrived at these priorities. The process is by no means perfect – and there’s definitely room for us to improve should we run it again in future years – but I’m excited to have had so many people feed into shaping our research priorities and to have uncovered so many research topics we hadn’t previously considered. 

What next?

We’ve already begun a more in-depth assessment of each of the priorities. It’s encouraging to see that many of our projects already underway align with the priorities identified. Next, we will look to determine the research we are able to conduct in-house or support through grant funding – so keep an eye out for upcoming opportunities!

It is also important to acknowledge  that it may not be feasible, or possible  to address all the topics highlighted through this exercise. We will need to be agile enough to respond to changing circumstances, new opportunities and emerging issues.

With that said, these priorities will form the focus of our research in the coming months.  and we are incredibly grateful to all the care experienced people, social care professionals, multi-agency partners, senior leaders, academics, parents, carers, private providers and third sector organisations who contributed to the process. I have no doubt that the resulting research will be more useful, and has greater potential to be truly impactful with your help.

Keep a look out for our upcoming research projects – and in the meantime, please get in touch if you have any questions or comments, or want to know more about the priorities.