Life Story Evidence, impact and evaluation

Life Story Work is a programme for children aged 10-17 who are in care and have low levels of emotional wellbeing. By talking with an NSPCC practitioner or foster carer about their personal history, they can begin to understand and accept what's happened to them. We're testing the service to find out how well it can be used by practitioners and foster carers to help children in care to improve their mental health.

How being in care affects children

There are over 93,000 children in care in the UK. The majority of children and young people enter care as a result of abuse or neglect.

For these children, care is a vital part of our child protection system. It can help children by providing protection and the chance to rebuild their lives. But further support is needed to help these children and young people overcome the effects of the abuse and neglect they have suffered.

Read more about children in care.

How Life Story Work is helping protect children

Children who are in care or adopted may have little understanding of why they do not live with their birth parents, the reason for them entering care, and events that took place in thier early lives. This can have a very negative impact on their emotional wellbeing and self-esteem.

We know that Life Story Work can help children to make sense of the things that have happened in their lives and start to get back on track. But there is little evidence of the value of this form of support and, as a result, it is not always prioritised by children's services. We're piloting and evaluating the life story model to build the evidence base for its contribution to the outcomes of children in care.

How we're evaluating this service

We're delivering Life Story Work in partnership with Nottingham City Council and Liverpool City Council. We're evaluating the programme to find out if the life story approach is viable for use by NSPCC practitioners and foster carers, and whether it can be embedded consistently within local authority foster care practice.

Interviews

We'll carry out interviews with NSPCC practitioners, foster carers and their team managers, to get feedback on the service and how it operates. To evaluate the strategic challenges which are involved with embedding Life Story Work in local authority practice, we'll also interview senior managers or directors from the NSPCC, Nottingham City Council and Liverpool City Council.

Questionnaires

Practitioners will use standardised measures to evaluate how children's emotional wellbeing has changed as a result of the programme. To start with, we won't be asking foster carers to collect data about the changes their foster children experience as a result of the programme. This is because foster carers will be new to the life story approach, and we don't want to overwhelm them by asking them to collect evaluation data.

Outcome rating scale

Resiliency scales

As part of our feasibility study we will be testing these measures to see how well they help us to see the effects of the programme, and how easy they are to administer. As we are at a very early stage of testing, the tools have not yet been approved as evaluation measures so we are currently using them as practice tools.

What we've learnt so far

Life Story Work was developed in response to the findings from our Achieving emotional well-being for looked after children project. This found that, although Life Story Work was viewed positively by professionals, carers and children, there were too few people with the skills needed to carry out the work. It also identified a number of system changes that were needed to improve the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children in care.

Ther service was originally piloted in Nottingham, and we used what we learnt from this to make improvements and launch the service in Liverpool.

What we're doing next

Using the findings of this study, we will consider whether we need to make any changes to the way the service is delivered, and if it is feasible to develop Life Story Work into a nationwide service.

Impact and evidence hub

Find out how we evaluate and research the impact we’re making in protecting children, get tips and tools for researchers and access resources.

Our impact and evidence

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