Participation in decision-making has been found to increase self-confidence, self-efficacy, and self-worth for care-experienced children and young people, where these decisions affect their lives. There is an emerging consensus that young people need advocacy services to support their participation in such decision-making, enforced by legislation and guidance. However, there is little research into how advocacy can best lead to positive outcomes for care-experienced children and young people.
This research project is a realist-informed exploratory study of an advocacy service for children and young people, provided as part of the children’s service within a large local authority in England. These advocacy services provide support and representation for young people, independent of the primary social work team. This study will explore the scope, operation and perceived impact of this service to develop a theoretically-informed, co-produced framework to guide the delivery of advocacy services for care-experienced children and young people.
The objectives of this study are:
- To map how advocacy services at the study site operate (e.g. how referrals are made, by whom, who receives the service, and what types of activities are carried out)
- To explore the perceptions of those accessing and delivering this advocacy service in terms of the operation of the service, how they feel it might work, and what outcomes might be impacted by the service
- To understand how advocacy services as a specific mechanism – enabling young people to participate in decision-making – may work in this advocacy service, from the perspective of those using and delivering the service
- To synthesise qualitative findings into a framework to support the delivery of advocacy services in collaboration with care-experienced young people.
The research team will conduct a rapid literature review followed by two rounds of interviews and focus groups with care-experienced young people, advocates, and social care professionals. This data will be analysed and used to develop an initial programme theory, which will articulate the underlying assumption(s) of what works in the ‘programme’, how, for whom, and in what circumstances. The research team will then facilitate workshops with young people who are receiving support from the advocacy service, alongside a peer researcher, and conduct a survey to consolidate the initial programme theory into a framework for practice.
This research project commenced in May 2023, and will end in February 2024.
This project was funded as part of our Spark Grant Scheme, which aims to fund new research in children’s social care, conducted by researchers who may struggle to secure funding through other routes, particularly Early Career Researchers (ECRs) and/or researchers from underrepresented, minoritised groups.