Important new research uncovered at York

Research conducted by the University of York has made regional and national news this week.

‘Safeguarding Young People’, a project started three and a half years ago in conjunction with the NSPCC and The Children’s Society, has investigated the “under-researched issue of the maltreatment – the neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse – of young people aged 11 to 17 in England.”

The research, funded by the Big Lottery Research Grants Programme, has found that 11 to 17-year-old teens are sometimes neglected by child protection guidelines which often focus on the protection of younger children.

Through interviewing professionals, young people, and examining current safeguarding policy, the research concluded that “there is a lack of services to meet the needs of young people (especially those aged 14–17) who have been maltreated.”

It also discovered that professionals deemed 11 to 17-year-olds more ‘resilient’, despite being “sometimes perceived as ‘putting themselves at risk’” as a cause of their own behaviour.

Bob Reitemeier, the chief executive of the Children’s Society, has emphasised that 11 to 17-year-olds are equally as vulnerable as younger children, and the ways in which they are supported need to be reviewed. Over 9,000 young people within this age range are part of a child protection plan in England.

From the participating local authorities it was found that “across all the areas sampled, as young people get older, a referral is less likely to receive child protection and related responses.”

The study called for an increase in welfare provisions to include more information to be made available to young people on how and when to make a disclosure of maltreatment, particularly through schooling and educational networks.

The research report outlined the consideration of a system of young people’s advocates as a ‘key message’ of its findings. This was furthered by Phillip Noyes, the NSPCC’s Director of Strategy and Development, desire to provide “safe confidential spaces” to allow young people to “speak about abuse and get help.”

Professor Mike Stein, from the University’s Social Policy Research Unit, has stated that: “Society is very quick in condemning the behaviour of teenagers. This research shows that we are far less responsive in understanding and meeting the needs of those young people who are maltreated.”

‘Safeguarding Young People’ cited the death of Baby Peter as the “latest in a series of disturbing cases over the last few decades which have caused considerable public concern about the most effective way of safeguarding children at risk of harm.”

In March this year, the Government published a document entitled Working Together to Safeguard Children which included revisions recommended by Lord Laming, a governmental advisor on social care policy and practice.

The findings of ‘Safeguarding Young People’ has coincided with other discoveries made by the University of York’s Social Policy and Social Work and Health Sciences Departments. Research carried out as part of the Audit Commission’s project ‘Against All Odds’ has found that if cuts to youth support projects are made, it will be at a large financial cost due to a consequent rise in youth unemployment and crime in the NEET category.

NEET includes unemployed young people between 16 and 18 years of age who often “live in particular circumstances which create barriers to participation”. Being in care or under child protection was cited as one of these ‘barriers’.

For more information visit: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/resources/documents/Research/21485_full.pdf for the full summary of the ‘Safeguarding Young People’ research.

Findings of the University of York’s research in the ‘Against All Odds’ project can be found at: http://www.york.ac.uk/depts/spsw/research/neet/

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