The research approach

A survey of current practice

A Practice Survey undertaken in May-July 2020 provided a picture of whether, where and how local authorities and other social care organisations across the UK were innovating to address extra-familial risks faced by young people. We learned what approaches were being drawn on to inform innovation and how, and how well known and influential the three approaches focused on by this project (Trauma-informed Practice, Contextual Safeguarding and Transitional Safeguarding) were. We also learned whether/how  Covid-19 had caused local authorities and other organisations to transform service responses to young people and their families.

Building theory about innovation in social care

We conducted a literature review in 2020 of the ways in which innovation is understood and practised within social care settings, both in the UK and in countries with a similar approach to social care. Alongside the review, we gathered the experiences and views of a range of expert informants with significant experience of innovation in the sector, including politicians, policymakers, senior leaders, operational managers, academics, researchers and representatives from social enterprises and charities that are leading on and promoting public service innovation. Combined, our analysis has shaped our thinking on innovation, enabling us to build new theory about the nature of innovation in social care. Through this we have produced the following resources:

Towards a synthesised directional map of the stages of innovation in children’s social care

Towards a framework for ethical innovation in children’s social care

A video on ‘trustworthy innovation'

Infographics: the PEISC framework and the DEISC tool are designed to support policymakers, leaders and designers ensure their practice and service innovations are ethically appropriate as well as practically feasible

An evidence review of effective approaches

We conducted a rapid evidence review in 2020 of how social care practice approaches and organisational systems were seeking to address ‘extra-familial risks and harm experienced by young people’. In particular we looked at:

What practice methods, structures and systems are helpful in addressing extra-familial risks and harm experienced by young people, and how?

What are the identified challenges in implementing practice approaches and systems to address these risks, and how might they be best overcome?

This review has resulted in the following book, which is published Open Access: Safeguarding Young People Beyond the Family Home: Responding to Extra-Familial Risks and Harms, By Carlene Firmin, Michelle Lefevre, Nathalie Huegler and Delphine Peace.

An analysis of UK policy and guidance

In 2020 we conducted a documentary analysis of UK policy and practice guidance related to assessing and addressing extra-familial risks and harm. As part of this, we will also examined whether and how our three approaches of Trauma-informed Practice, Contextual Safeguarding and Transitional Safeguarding appeared in existing national level documentation. Our findings are reported in Discussion Paper 2: Mapping the policy and practice landscape of safeguarding young people from extra-familial risks and harms (EFRH), by Dr Nathalie Huegler (2022)

This analysis will be updated in 2023, as the field flexes with the advent of new knowledge and changes in policy directions.

The case study research

Through the Practice Survey and our other mappingwe identified six sites around the country which are building on our three promising approaches - Trauma-informed Practice, Contextual Safeguarding or Transitional Safeguarding - as a basis for innovating new practice models or service structures to address extra-familial risks and harmDevon Children’s Services and Partners and the charity, Safer London, are drawing on Contextual Safeguarding, an approach which seeks to intervene directly with groups of young people, and in community spaces where risks have been identified, not just with individuals who have been classed as at high risk. Brighter Futures for Children in Reading and North Lanarkshire Education and Families Service are implementing a Trauma-informed ethos within their service delivery. This framework emphasises resilience and recovery, and prioritises safety, trust, collaboration, choice, and empowerment in professionals’ interactions with traumatised young people. Finally, the Safeguarding Adults Board for Hackney and Sheffield Children and Families Services are each leading the pilot of Transitional Safeguarding on behalf of their wider children’s and adults’ safeguarding systems and community safety partnerships. This emergent concept requires whole system change within and across interagency networks to support young people experiencing extra-familial risks, as they cross the threshold into adulthood. 

While social distancing guidelines adhered during the Covid-19 pandemic, all of our methods were virtual/online. We are now undertaking embodied in-person ethnography and starting to engage with young people and parents in person.

Engagement with key stakeholders

We will work with an advisory group of stakeholders throughout the project, to ensure the practice relevance of our approach to data collection, analysis, and dissemination. This includes policy makers, academics, practice leaders, young people, and parents. We will build UK-focused and international Learning and Development Networks who will be the early adopters of our findings and who will provide feedback on their relevance and usefulness, including any facilitators, barriers, or inhibitors to innovation.

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