Researchers look for better ways to help young people in care become independent adults

Better ways to support young people as they leave the care system and become independent adults are at the heart of a major new research project led by the Monash Warwick Alliance and supported by £2m grant from the Economic and Social Research Council.

Professor Graeme Currie from Warwick Business School will head a cross-disciplinary and international team for the 4-year project, Exploring Innovations in Transition to Adulthood (EXIT Study). Professor Helen Skouteris, Monash Warwick Professor in Healthcare Improvement and Implementation Science at the Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, will contribute health and social care expertise. The team will also include six care-experienced researchers to ensure that it reflects young people’s lived experience.

The researchers aim to pinpoint the innovations which have made a positive difference to young care leavers; and to identify the ways in which innovations are introduced, shared and adopted by the various networks and professional bodies involved in supporting young people during their transition to adulthood.

The transition from care to adulthood is often a difficult one which can leave young people experiencing feelings of instability, powerlessness, unpreparedness, abandonment & mistrust. Young people who have experienced the care system are more likely to have a conviction, become a teenage parent, experience social exclusion, have mental health problems, and experience homelessness than their non-looked after peers. They are less likely to achieve academically in school or to undertake higher education.

Successful interventions can address these challenges. By focusing on how innovations are identified, evaluated and adopted, the project will help improve the life chances of these vulnerable young people through promoting professional & organisational practice that better supports them as they transition to adulthood.

Professor Currie said: “The ESRC funding will support an interdisciplinary team of academics drawn from organisation science, public health, and social care, to work with senior practitioners from the NHS and charities to make a significant impact upon the lives of looked after young people as they transition into adulthood.

“Our study will identify interventions that make a real difference to them and support the diffusion of best practice across the UK, and beyond internationally. It’s particularly exciting that we will be employing some looked after young people as researchers in the study and I look forward to working with them.”

Professor Helen Skouteris, Monash Warwick Professor in Healthcare Improvement and Implementation Science, added: “EXIT is a program of research of international significance. My involvement as an investigator will allow for translation of learnings gained in the UK to the Australian context, with adaptations to ensure the new knowledge generated is meaningful, relevant and applicable in Australia.”

The project will run for four years and is supported by an ESRC Innovation in Social Care grant. Professor Currie will collaborate with colleagues from the University of Warwick Medical School, Monash University, Coventry University, the University of Bedfordshire, Newcastle University, and Birmingham Community Healthcare Trust.

Professor Swaran Singh, who has led international studies on youth transition, added: “Despite now understanding both the nature and magnitude of the problems young people face at the transition interface, we still haven’t managed to solve this complex problem.

“We need innovation and evidence-based reform of services, and the EXIT project will go a long way in improving services for a particularly vulnerable group of young people.”