The Involvement of Young People Leaving Care in Social Work Education and Practice

DProf thesis


Allain, L. 2016. The Involvement of Young People Leaving Care in Social Work Education and Practice. DProf thesis Middlesex University Institute for Work Based Learning
TypeDProf thesis
TitleThe Involvement of Young People Leaving Care in Social Work Education and Practice
AuthorsAllain, L.
Abstract

This work-based doctorate focuses on care leavers’ experiences of transitions to independent living. An interpretative research methodology was used alongside a model of participatory action research. The research design and epistemology were informed by social work practice issues and by my interest in phenomenological, subjectivist approaches to research.
The doctoral project was undertaken across two organisations; one a local authority child and family social work service and the other a university which delivers social work education. The doctoral study details the policy and legislative context for young people who are care leavers in England and also includes data on statistical trends in England for looked after children and care leavers.
The research is underpinned by social work practice literature and by professional guiding frameworks. This includes drawing on theoretical ideas relevant to understanding the position of care leavers and their journeys to adulthood; including, psycho-social theory in relation to transitions and liminality. Links are made to social work research focused on the socioeconomic, health, well-being and identity needs of care leavers. The main underpinning theoretical framework; Bourdieu’s theory of social capital- is used as an analytic device to theorise and explore the unique experiences of care leavers. Pedagogic literature is also examined in relation to the role of service user participation in social work education and is linked to Foucauldian critical theory regarding issues of power and identity categorisations and the notion of being a “service user”. Connections are made to transformational learning and how through adult learning, new social networks can be created which enhance social capital paving the way for new opportunities.
The research project had four stages in relation to project activity and data gathering. The first stage was a questionnaire to all the young people from the local authority receiving a leaving care service. The second stage involved two focus groups with a self-selecting sample of young people who had completed a questionnaire. The third stage of the project involved some care leavers who had taken part in the focus groups attending ‘Total Respect’ training (for trainers). Following this, and in preparation for the fourth stage, I worked with the young people to plan and deliver training to social work students, social workers and managers about care leavers’ views of social work practice and services. The fourth stage involved semi-structured interviews with a sample of social workers, students and the young people.
The findings showed these young people are resilient and self-reliant but need access to the right support at the right time. They wanted to be listened to, allowed to make mistakes and have the opportunity to try again to achieve independent living. Through using the vehicle of training workshops, the young people communicated their often challenging experiences of transitions to adulthood. Findings showed that using this approach in social work education and in local authorities can influence positive changes to individual and organisational social work practice. Following the training it was identified that everyone learnt something new: social workers, students and the young people, and that the power of direct testimony from the young people created a transformative learning experience for students and social workers.

Research GroupWork and Learning Research Centre
LanguageEnglish
Department nameInstitute for Work Based Learning
Institution nameMiddlesex University
Publication dates
Print26 Oct 2016
Publication process dates
Deposited26 Oct 2016
Accepted2016
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
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