Selwyn, J. & Briheim-Crookall, L. (2022) 10,000 Voices: The views of children in care on their well-being, Coram Voice and the The Rees Centre produces research evidence to improve policy and practice in the areas of children’s social care and education. Their aim is to improve the education, well-being and life outcomes of those who are, or have been supported by children’s social care services.
For almost a decade the Bright Spots programme has worked with children and young people to explore what they feel makes their lives good. The 10,000 voices report highlights what children in care felt about their well-being.
The report summarises what we have learned from the 9,472 responses we received over 5 years from children in care aged 4 to 18.
The 10,000 voices report includes:
We have also produced
Full research report
Explore individual chapters below:
Although we often focus on the additional challenges care experienced children and young people face, the Bright Spots findings show that many do well.
- 83% of children in care feel that life is getting better.
- As one young person told us:
“I feel healthy, safe, and supported. From what my life was like 3 years ago it is now much, much better.” 11-18yrs
- Compared to the general population a higher proportion reported feeling safe where they live, liked school and that felt the adults they lived with took an interest in their education.
- When asking children in care about their life satisfaction, happiness and whether they feel the things they do in life are worthwhile a higher proportion report very high well-being than in the general population.
However, some children still struggle and there are areas where they do worse than children and young people in the general population
- Although a higher proportion reported very high well-being compared to their peers in the general population a larger percentage of young people also rated their life satisfaction, happiness and feeling that the things they did in life were worthwhile as ‘low’.
- By the teenage years 1 in 6 reported low overall well-being.
- Compared to the general population fewer young people in care had a good friend or talked to their adults they lived with about things that mattered to them.
- Some children in care felt afraid of going to school because of bullying. Some felt that adults had had done things to make them feel embarrassed about being in care, and 6 out of 10 worried about their feelings and behaviour
- One young person said:
- “I just keep being moved around. I have moved I think 7 times in the last 6 months. This makes me confused and scared. It has been dark and scary when I move, and I am told where, as we drive. I never meet the people beforehand and my things take time to catch up with me.” 8-10yrs
All the things that we ask about in the Your Life Your Care survey are important to children in care’s well-being, however our analysis showed that some things were more strongly associated with well-being. These will be particularly important to focus on in order to make children in care’s lives good.
- For all children and young people having good friends and trusting and supportive relationships were really important. This included trusted carers and social workers.
- Liking school influenced well-being for all age groups as was feeling safe and settled where they lived.
- The importance of seeing their parents and siblings as often as children and young people wanted was highlighted by all age groups.
- The youngest children (4-10yrs) wanted to have trusting relationship with carers who noticed their feelings and did not shout.
- For the oldest age group, having trusted adults, as well as being given opportunities to be trusted was associated with well-being.
- Whilst relationships with carers was also very important for the older young people, the support gained from friends was also key to their wellbeing, especially being able to do the same things as peers.
- Younger children were asked a different question and for them having fun at the weekend mattered.
- A larger percentage of younger children felt afraid to go to school because of bullying compared with older young people.
- Teenagers with low well-being often struggled with worries about feelings and behaviour and girls in particular were unhappy with how they looked.
- Nearly half of the youngest children (4-7yrs) did not feel that the reasons they were in care had been fully explained, whereas being involved in decision making and practising life skills was associated with well-being for older young people in care.
Recommendation: Make life good
To make life good for children in care they need:
- Carers who they trust and who are sensitive to their feelings
- Somewhere to live where they feel safe and settled
- Social workers who don’t change, are easy to contact and they trust
- Opportunities to build and keep relationships with the people who are important to them
- Involvement in and information about their care and their families
- Opportunities to be trusted and practise life skills as they get older
- Fun in their free time and chances to do similar things to their friends
Our findings clearly showed the importance of not treating all children in care as if they are the same. Whilst they had things in common, the challenges that children and young people faced also differed with age, sex, placement type and ethnicity.
- Many of the comments from young people illustrated the importance of trusting relationships, but as children became older fewer reported trusted relationships.
- As they got older a higher proportion knew who their social worker was, felt involved in decision making and that the reasons why they were in care had been fully explained and more reported having opportunities to practice life skills.
- Girls reported lower well-being than boys in a range of areas.
- A greater proportion of young people in residential care and living ‘somewhere else’ (mostly supported accommodation) reported lower well-being, e.g. more did not feel safe where they lived, did not have a trusted adult, felt the adults they live with did not notice how they were feeling and felt that they were unable to do the same things as their friends..
Recommendation: Recognise difference
Social care professionals should be mindful of the wellbeing concerns of different groups of children in care, especially girls and those in residential care or living ‘somewhere else’. They need to be aware of how identity can impact on well-being, and consider whether particular children and young people may require additional support.
To take account of how well-being changes over time, social workers should regularly review plans and use active listening to make sure that children and young people’s views and experiences are reflected in their care plans.