The School of Social Work through the work of the Centre for Research on Children and Families (CRCF) has shaped key areas of UK social policy and social work practice in relation to children and families, in particular the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. Our aim is to use our research to improve the lives of children and families by communicating research evidence on policy and models for practice to a range of user groups and beneficiaries across the statutory, voluntary and independent sectors regionally, nationally and internationally.
Our research has been supported by a range of funders, all of whom demand a high level of impact e.g. Government departments, the Office of the Children's Commissioner, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Nuffield Foundation, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the NSPCC and a range of voluntary agencies and local authorities. The CRCF has become highly respected and has provided an important focus in maintaining our role in influencing services, ranging from investigations into child death to developing internationally valued attachment based models of caregiving in foster care and adoption.
An underpinning principle is that maximum impact will only be achieved if the research is both persuasively rigorous and genuinely meets the needs of all the stakeholders who will use it. Our research achieves impact through our relationships with policy makers in government and leaders of social work practice, for example the NSPCC, British Association for Adoption and Fostering and local authorities. We have strong connections with regional and national groups of local authorities through Making Research Count, for which UEA was a founding organisation.
Below are some examples of how our research in the fields of ‘child protection and family support' and ‘child placement' have made an impact on policy and practice.
Preventing child death and serious injury by maltreatment
Research by Brandon and colleagues for the Government on their analysis of Serious Case Reviews have provided the largest national database of analyses of child deaths and serious injury where abuse or neglect are known or suspected. Since 2008, the findings of Brandon's team have informed public understanding, practitioner thinking, multi-agency child protection practice, policy and law - in the UK, and internationally. Recently, this programme of work has included an examination of the role of neglect in serious cases, and the involvement of families in the serious case review process. Both of the key child protection policy and practice reviews commissioned by the UK Government 2008-13, the Laming report (2009) and the Munro Review of Child Protection (2011), have drawn on this research.
Understanding children and young people's perspectives on child protection
Teams led by Cossar have completed two studies on behalf of the Office of the Children's Commissioner. The first studied children's participation in the child protection process (2011) and the second explored how children recognise and tell about abuse and neglect (2013). This latter project used innovatory participative methods in employing a number of young researchers to assist the research team. Both reports have been welcomed by policy makers and practitioners, with the Minster for Children, Ed Timpson, addressing the launch of this most recent project.
Informing the management of public law child care court proceedings
Dickens and colleagues have completed two research projects that are informing court practice by providing evidence on how courts and local authorities manage cases – one with Bristol University on Pre-proceedings meetings and the other with a UEA team on reducing delay by Concluding care proceedings within 26 weeks.
Lord Justice Munby, President of the Family Division, referred to the findings of this second study at length in his circular for Family Justice professionals.
Building the evidence base for good practice in post-adoption contact
The work of Neil and her team on adoption with contact has been influential in policy and practice in informing birth family contact plans for adopted children. What contact adopted children should have with their birth relatives is a complex and controversial area of practice. Findings from her longitudinal "Contact after Adoption" and "Supporting Direct Contact" studies have provided practitioners with an evidence base about the benefits and challenges of contact, the factors associated with contact that are helpful to adopted children, and the situations where contact might not be advisable. Findings from the research fed into the government's consultation on contact, influencing future policy directions; the research has been highlighted in government guidance on post-adoption support.
Development of the ‘Secure Base' model for training foster carers
Research by Schofield and colleagues led to the development of the Secure Base model, an attachment and resilience based framework for promoting more effective caregiving for fostered and adopted children. This model was disseminated via research books and articles, a text book (also translated into French and Italian), DVD, practice guides and a website. The model was recommended in a UK Government policy initiative, Care Matters and is now established in core training for all foster carers in the UK and also in Norway.
The Social Sciences faculty at UEA has developed an Impact Enhancement Strategy aimed at supporting research activity across Schools, toward stimulating greater impact and making a practical difference beyond academia.
Please click here for more information about the Faculty Impact Strategy