Written by Rachael Vaughan 

The involvement of those with lived experience has always been at the core of CASCADE’s values. Even before its inception in 2014, CASCADE worked in partnership with the care experienced young people at Voices From Care Cymru. As such they are part of the center’s foundations. However, since then, both CASCADE and the wider research landscape has grown significantly. The importance of Public Involvement is now much more widely understood, and this has led to us working in different areas and in different ways.  

Having always being committed to the involvement of lived experience, CASCADE cemented its intentions when it hired a specialist staff member to develop this work in 2018.  

I was very fortunate to get this opportunity and with Infrastructure support from Health and Care Research Wales we have been able to grow and do some exciting work. Navigating public involvement in the Children Social Care field is not straight forward. Having dedicated staff to focus on this has enabled us to aspire to the highest standards of ethical, safe and meaningful involvement.  

Over the years our work has expanded to include the development of more standing groups and an array of specific project-based work.  

The first additional group we set up was a Public Involvement Board to help us think through how we grow and develop our work at CASCADE. This group continues to influence our involvement and is taking an increasing role in the center’s strategic governance.  

With the support of the new board, we set up the CASCADE Parents research advisory group  which is now over 3 years old. It has proved to be a incredibly rewarding and insightful experience from my perspective.  These inspirational members have ensured that we hear from seldom heard voices in children’s social care, and this has enhanced our Public Involvement journey and research at CASCADE.  

These groups alone cannot capture all the lived experiences that we explore in our work. Luckily, we have a team of excellent researchers working in innovative and creative ways on a wide range of projects.  

Impact projects include:  

Louise Roberts project highlighting Parents in and Leaving Care, Hannah Bayfield’s Class Cymru work, LACE Research outputs, Nina Maxwell’s toolkit and CCE videos  

Our involvement work continues to grow, and we are fortunate to have so many dedicated partner organisations supporting our work.  

Projects and ongoing partnerships include:  

Peer Action Collective, Kinship carer group, Family Voice, BIP group, EYST group   

Most importantly, working in this job with the committed and incredible individuals that chose to get involved in our work and share their lived experience, has been, and continues to be a privilege.