Bridging the gap between research and practice
Most people say that the most important challenge is how we improve practice. How can we examine the support we provide to children and young people and identify how it can be improved? There's a great wealth of research evidence about what works. But people still find it hard to access - they still find it hard to understand what it means for their day to day work.
That's why we decided to publish Promoting the Wellbeing of Children in Care – to help bridge the gap between research and practice. We've brought together leading academics and practitioners from across the UK to set out recommendations for changes to practice and policy based on the latest research.
We need to transform the way we think about care
Pulling together contributions for the book made it clear that we need to transform the way in which we think about care. The research presented by the authors clearly demonstrates how our understanding about the care system influences its effectiveness. We need to change this by using the latest research to understand what aspects of practice and policy must change. Achieving significant change requires us to examine the role that care plays in both our family support and child protection systems. We all need to identify how to improve family support, but also understand when care is in the best interests of children and young people.
Editing the book identified a number of cross-cutting themes which are critical to this improvement. Our care system needs a greater focus on mental health and emotional wellbeing, providing support based on individual needs; our work at the NSPCC shows that too often the need to improve mental health is forgotten.
The research shows that it's vital that children and young people are supported to develop strong, stable relationships. They are critical to safeguarding and promoting their wellbeing. Again, this is often overlooked and systems and services unnecessarily disrupt and break up this stability. The messages from research show us a way in which we can achieve this. We need to view care as part of an integrated family support and child protection system, developing the workforce and addressing variation between, and within, authorities. This whole-system thinking should shape the way in which we seek to improve the lives of children in care.
Let's prioritise children in care
Taking a child into care will always be one of the hardest decisions that we have to take. We must make sure that our decision-making, practice, and the services we provide to children, young people and their families is of the highest quality possible. Tackling this challenge requires us to bridge the gap between research and practice and learn from what works.
Promoting the Wellbeing of Children in Care brings together messages from the latest research about children in care in one place and sets out a range of practical ways to improve the effectiveness of our care system. Whether it's central to the general election or not, it's the responsibility of all of us to make sure that we give this the priority it deserves.