An innovative new study has been announced aiming to explore and develop new ways of positively transforming the life chances of children and young people in care in Wales over the next 10 years. Commissioned by the Big Lottery Fund, the study could also pave the way for a new £5 million investment which could dramatically improve the outcomes of children in care in Wales.
The latest figures show that there are nearly 6,000 children in care in Wales, an increase of 20% over the last five years.
Researchers from the University’s School of Social Sciences will work in partnership with Swansea University and Children in Wales to deliver the project, working with a range of stakeholders including currently looked after and former looked after children and young people.
Dr Sally Holland, Reader at the School of Social Sciences, will lead a team of post-doctoral researchers in an evidence review which will analyse the most promising interventions to improve the life chances of looked after children.
Dr Holland said: "I welcome the opportunity to play a part in this important initiative and applaud the Big Lottery Fund’s emphasis on evidence-based interventions. We will be working closely with care-experienced young people, service providers and policy makers to evaluate the evidence about the interventions and projects that have a good potential to bring about real change."
The latest research indicates that children in care are more likely than the average child to have poor outcomes including poor educational achievement, an increased likelihood of having mental health problems and of becoming involved in crime and substance misuse and of becoming unemployed or homeless.
A high proportion of the prison population has also experienced or been through the care system. Despite these grim statistics, some looked after children do very well and this project will play a part in ensuring that all looked after children in Wales have vital support to overcome the challenges that life has presented to them.
Highlighting the importance of the study and its potential to have a lasting impact on the lives of children and young people in care in Wales, Big Lottery Fund Wales Chair, Sir Adrian Webb, said: "This is an important study and we want to make sure that we take on board existing learning whilst building on good practices and embracing innovation where it is based on sound evidence.
"Children and young people in care are an especially vulnerable group as they often experience multiple and complex transitions. For example, they may change foster carers or care home frequently, particularly if they have complex emotional and psychological needs that are not being addressed properly."
He added: "This is a golden opportunity for organisations out there on the ground to work together to tackle this issue. They have a real opportunity here to potentially make a real positive difference to the lives of children and young people in care in Wales."