This report was produced by peer researchers, following a collaboration between Foundations – What Works Centre for Children & Families and the McPin Foundation on our Care Leavers’ Emotional Wellbeing (CLEW) project. The report specifically highlights the research conducted by four McPin peer researchers, individuals with personal experience of leaving care who were recruited, trained and supported by the McPin Foundation to carry out qualitative research for this project.
The CLEW project focused on five local authorities in England and involved evidence reviews, qualitative research with professionals and care leavers, and a deliberative workshop. As a part of this work, peer researchers conducted semi-structured online interviews with seven care leavers, all under 26 years old, from four English local authorities. The peer researchers divided and coded the transcripts, using analysis workshops to allocate theme leadership and support one another in analysis and writing. Individual report sections were led by researchers with McPin research manager guidance, and a collaborative workshop ensured consensus among the researchers.
Through their interviews, the peer researchers aimed to improve understanding of:
- Care leavers’ emotional wellbeing needs
- Barriers and facilitators to accessing emotional wellbeing support
- Transitions to adulthood and associated emotional wellbeing challenges
- The role of different relationships in protecting, or diminishing, care leavers’ emotional wellbeing
- How intersecting inequalities might impact emotional wellbeing
- Care leavers’ perspectives on how emotional wellbeing support could be improved.
The report identifies a number of key findings:
- Contributors to low emotional wellbeing: Participants described how unresolved childhood trauma and isolation caused by independent living and a disconnect from their peers can have a lasting negative impact on emotional wellbeing
- Managing mental health and pathways to support: Participants recognised that managing mental health conditions affected their overall wellbeing, identifying therapy and financial support as key pathways to addressing these challenges
- Transitions: Relationships, especially with Personal Advisors (PAs), play a central support role during the period of transitioning out of care. However, issues within these relationships, such as a lack of fit or inconsistency, can affect care leavers’ experiences of PA support.
- Key facilitators and barriers: PAs provide tailored and flexible support which positively affects emotional wellbeing. However, inflexible services, bureaucratic processes, long waiting lists and a wider lack of understanding of care leavers experiences within services can hinder support.
- Equality, diversity and inclusion: Participants felt misunderstood or stereotyped based on race or gender, affecting their experiences of care and support.
- Aspirations and achievements: Participants shared a collective aspiration for a better future. the care system through volunteering, employment and other opportunities. Despite challenges, they have achieved many professional and personal growth goals.
The report makes a number of recommendations based on reflections shared by young people during interviews. These include recommendations aimed at local authorities and PAs, including:
- Training in empathy and communication skills
- Greater support with administrative tasks, and improved preparation for the transition out of care, with assistance from PAs coming earlier
- Efforts to tackle discrimination towards, and stigmatisation, of care leavers
The report also makes a number of wider recommendations, including:
- Prioritisation for care leavers on waiting lists for mental health and health care services
- Flagging care experience within healthcare and mental healthcare records, alongside training on what care experience might mean for individuals
- Giving care leavers the option to work with practitioners from minoritised ethnic groups
- Improving the process for claiming Personal Independence Payment (PIP)