Clive Diaz

Valuing the voices of care-experienced children and young people

Researcher, Dr Clive Diaz, explains how the Compass project aims to ensure that the voices of children and young people are still being heard despite the impact of Covid.

What’s happened in the Compass project so far?          

As soon as we received ethical approval to begin the study, we met with staff in a number of North East local authorities to find out more about how COVID has impacted their Children in Care Councils. The voices of children and young people will be central to our research so our next step was to talk to members of these CiCCs to get their views.

How are the young people giving their input?

It’s important that the young people are able to contribute and shape the research, and also that they enjoy the sessions and feel comfortable. In that first session, which took place online, we introduced some of the research team and we used drawings to illustrate the discussion.

In creative workshops, we have worked with a professional artist, Hannah Campion, who is helping us to have a more in-depth discussion about the impact of COVID-19 on young people. Hannah and the Blue Cabin team prepared art packs which were sent out to the young people in advance of the sessions.

Did any themes emerge from the initial discussions?

The young people we spoke to told us how they have been involved in processes such as recruitment for social care roles before COVID, how they communicated with staff at their local authority, and what they valued most about their roles in the Children in Care Council.

“Before COVID we did a speed network thing. All the managers/directors came so they could introduce themselves, so we know who to talk to.”

They also talked about how things changed when the pandemic hit and the fact that many of them had struggled with their mental health. This was something that the young people thought should be a focus of the research, so we will be building it into the project.

What other initial research has taken place?

I’ve carried out a literature review to look at what research already exists in the area of children and young people’s participation. There’s very little research into Children in Care Councils specifically, and the research which does exist dates from 2012, so it’s important we build on this and look at how Children in Care Councils are working now.

What’s the most important thing you want to achieve through Compass?

There’s a massive gap in terms of what we know about Children in Care Councils and the extent to which they’re involved in decision-making, both in relation to their own lives and in relation to their own corporate parents at a strategic level.

One of the government’s aims when Children in Care Councils were introduced was to give young people an ability to express their views and have a role in strategic decision making which affects them. It’s important that we know to what extent this is happening and whether any changes are needed.

In reality, are children and young people’s voices being heard and making a difference? And how can we work together with young people and local authorities to improve the role that Children in Care Councils play?

Read the Compass literature review here.