• Co-determining the outcomes that matter with young people leaving care: a realist approach

      Harris, Julie Philippa (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2014-08)
      In the current policy, commissioning and delivery environments for services aimed at improving the lives of children and their families, increasing priority is placed on the ability to measure and demonstrate the effectiveness of social welfare intervention. This is particularly acute for voluntary sector services that increasingly provide services on behalf of local authorities and operate in a highly competitive environment in which the ability to demonstrate effectiveness and value for money can ultimately determine survival. However, social welfare intervention is delivered in the context of complex social systems in which a multiplicity of factors interplay between those individuals who are managing, providing and using social services. This complexity presents significant methodological challenges in terms of understanding the effect of intervention on individuals’ lives. Often the pressures to produce highly aggregated data about outcomes mean that the experience and the voice of those using services is overlooked and the connection between data and lived experience is lost. This thesis describes the evaluation of an approach to measuring outcomes known as Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS). This places the service user at the heart of measuring outcomes whilst collecting data that can be used to evaluate effectiveness within a service, or comparatively between services, or between service user groups. The approach was implemented with practitioners and young people within the context of a leaving care support service provided by a voluntary sector service. The GAS implementation was evaluated using a realist research strategy in order to understand the ways in which a complex policy and operating environment interplayed with the challenging contexts of transition for young people and their heterogeneous pathways in leaving care. For a variety of reasons, explained within this thesis, participation levels in the trial were low and therefore quantitative data regarding outcomes was too limited to be conclusive. Nevertheless the study represents a useful pilot of this approach and highlights the importance of context in determining results when introducing new approaches to outcomes measurement into practice environments. The findings that emerge from the evaluation betray a concerning picture of the pressures and constraints on practice experienced by a large leaving care service in the current climate of cuts to local authority funding and statutory services. As opposed to being an independent or somewhat removed undertaking, this study was concerned to frame ‘evaluation’ and ‘outcomes measurement’ as participatory and reflexive activities that should be embedded within service delivery. By so doing, it aimed to facilitate reciprocal or ‘bi-directional’ learning between providers and the users of services to underpin interventions, particularly with vulnerable populations of service users. Given that the support provided by leaving care services may represent the last intervention before young people disappear from the system’s view, this is particularly significant in supporting them to develop agency and self-determination to take them through the often compressed and accelerated journeys that characterise adolescence for this group.
    • Essays and studies in youth justice, crime and social control

      Hil, Richard (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2002)
      The following report examines the contribution my publications have made over the course of a twenty-year career in government departments (in Britain) and academic institutions (in Australia) to advancing scholarly inquiry in the areas of Youth Justice, Young People and Social Welfare, and Criminology. In the section dealing with Youth Justice publications I have given patiicular attention to a dominant and coherent area of study under the heading Families, Crime and Juvenile Justice. The conmmon thematic content of my publications focuses on the ways in which celiain individuals and social groups perceive and experience systems of social control. Additionally, the report highlights a range of allied pUblications that have dealt with the consequences of largely state-sponsored policies and practices in relation to a range of 'subject populations'. It is argued that my contribution to advancing knowledge in the above areas has been achieved in two primary ways: (a) through a range of original pubEcations based on theoretical and empirical studies, and substantial polemical and critical work; (b) through significant engagement in scholarly debate and discussion (including citation of my work in the publications of other academics) and facilitation of reflexive discussion an10ng social welfare practitioners and policy makers. Finally, the report attempts to contextualise my publications through a detailed discussion of the personal and intellectual origins of my work over the past two decades. The latter involves a general review of the sociological, criminological and social welfare literature relating to a prevailing concern with what I have broadly tenned the 'phenomenology of social control' .
    • ‘Helping me find my own way’: sexually exploited young people’s involvement in decision-making about their care

      Warrington, Camille (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2013-03-22)
      This thesis explores the role and relevance of the concepts of participation and service user involvement for work with sexually exploited children and young people. The central research questions are: how do young people at risk of, or affected by sexual exploitation, experience their rights to involvement in decision-making processes about their care? What is the meaning and value of the concept of participation from service users’ own perspectives? And what are the gains of involving these young people in decision-making processes about their care? The research involved in-depth qualitative interviews with twenty young service users and ten practitioners. Three theoretical frameworks underpin the study; a constructivist approach to childhood; sociological approaches to agency, and discourses of children’s participation rights. The analysis of data was informed by both narrative and grounded theory approaches. The thesis argues that young people’s perspectives on professional welfare, though rarely recorded or allowed to inform policy and best practice, shed new insight onto the efficacy and limitations of existing child protection practice with adolescents at risk of sexual exploitation. Consideration is given to how young people experience and respond to services, including their decisions about disengaging from or circumventing professional support. The thesis concludes that these demonstrations of agency and power, though often interpreted as deviant, are essentially rational and often protective. Through this lens young people’s agency is recognised as a resource rather than a problem. The thesis concludes by arguing that the ability of support services to protect young people affected by sexual exploitation is contingent on the degree to which they involve young people in decision-making about their care. Rather than standing in opposition to paternalistic approaches to protection, the narratives suggest that participation and empowerment are necessary conditions of a protective service, especially for those considered most marginalized or vulnerable.
    • Living in the shadows: street culture and its role in the development and maintenance of survival strategies of socially marginal young people

      Melrose, Margaret; University of Bedfordshire (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2005-11)
      This text demonstrates that my work on young people who are exploited through prostitution and young people involved in problematic drug use in Britain at the end ofthe twentieth and beginning ofthe twenty-first century constitutes a significant contribution to advancing our knowledge ofthese inter-related issues. The text demonstrates that, in Britain, at the end of the twentieth and beginning ofthe twenty-first century, young people exploited through prostitution and young people involved in problematic drug use share in common lived experiences in poverty at the margins of society. The common theme demonstrated here is that, as a result ofthe poverty generated by social and economic policies adopted in Britain in response to gIobalisation, 'street cultures' play an important role in the development and maintenance of survival strategies adopted by socially marginalised and economically disadvantaged young people. The discussion argues that these cultures perform important functions in time and space for socially and economically marginal young people. They do so in different ways for different young people. At the same time, however, they serve to further entrench their social and economic exclusion and disadvantage.
    • Young people and the informal economy: understanding their pathways and decisionmaking within the economy

      Adamu, Nenadi (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2016-03)
      This is a study of a group of young people that explores their journeys into, and experiences within, the informal economy. Evidence has shown that young people have always been more disadvantaged in a context of high levels of unemployment, limited job opportunities and entitlement to welfare benefits. As an alternative to low paying jobs with poor working conditions, and in addition to strict conditions for claiming benefits, some young people are making the decision to engage in criminal ways of generating income. This study examines the experiences of twenty-six young people from Luton and Cambridge who had engaged in begging, drug dealing and sex work as alternative forms of ‘work’ in their transitions to adulthood. It explores the structural, cultural and biographical factors that influence their informal career decision-making processes, by drawing on Bourdieu’s social field theory. By examining the lived experiences of these young people, the study throws more light on the role of structure and personal agency in the decisions the young people made in engaging in the informal economy. These young people wanted to be seen as ‘normal’ young people. Most were hardworking, and ambitious, and their engagement in informal economic activities was often a ‘means to an end’. This study also identifies strategies that were employed by the young people for their successful navigating of the economy, and highlights the importance of elements like trust, respect and knowledge in their negotiations. It assesses how the issue of risk was managed with the help of what was seen to be an unwritten code of conduct in the field. The study also identified a hierarchy within the field, which was determined by the individual participants, depending on their personal perceptions and perspectives. The data was collected using semi-structured interviews, over a period of a year. The process of collecting data was long and difficult, highlighting the ethical and methodological challenges of conducting research with a ‘hidden’ population. The findings throw new light on the unique challenges young people face both in the formal job market, and in accessing welfare support, in light of the significant changes to social policy in the UK.