The Compass research project looked at the impact of lockdown on a group of Children in Care Councils (CiCCs) and how local authorities can ensure young people’s voices are being heard.
The project centred the voices of care-experienced children and young people, and was co-produced by a team of artists and independent researchers. The direction of the research was also informed by the care-experienced children and young people, who were all members of CiCCs in the North East.
Dr Clive Diaz, Lead Researcher for Compass, said: “Until now, relatively little research had been carried out into Children in Care Councils, how they shape policy and practice and how children and young people feel about participating in them. This is surprising given their statutory and pivotal role in shaping how corporate parenting should be done. By exploring and foregrounding the views of Children in Care Council members, Compass seeks to rectify this.”
12 local authorities from the North East of England contributed to the study in total, with three local authorities taking part in more detailed consultation, involving participation by 22 care-experienced young people.
Key findings from Compass, incorporating recommendations from CiCC members, include:
- More consistency is needed in how local authorities support CiCCs.
- There are many positive but unintended outcomes of CiCC activities, including emotional and peer support during the pandemic.
- Most young people still felt ‘heard’ during the pandemic, with one young person saying, “We also get to know all the staff, so whenever they’ve got a question or they want our feedback, we talk to them and they really value our opinions and feedback and everything, which is really nice.”
- Mental health is a major concern for CiCC members and they recommended including mental health check-ins as part of the CiCC remit.
Examples of good practice are also identified, and recommendations from CiCC members are included in the study’s report: “If we were in lockdown again, I would say we had to have a survival pack ready. Like a plan of action…things to send out that are already prepared,”
The Compass report includes a selection of creative outputs – including animations, voice recordings, music and artwork – created by care-experienced children and young people as a way of sharing their experiences and recommendations.
Shona Gallagher, Director of Children’s Services at South Tyneside Council, said: “Children and young people are changing their choices and experience by making their voices and ideas heard. Children in Care Councils are full of expertise and imagination, and this research project has shown their value to our borough and region. We hope that the insight from this report helps shape the impact of Children in Care Councils everywhere.”
Both research projects have been funded by the Department for Education and led by South Tyneside Council in collaboration with Gateshead-based organisation Blue Cabin.
The full Compass Project findings are available at www.wearebluecabin.com/resource/the-compass-project-report/.