By Josie Keam

This blog is a summary of the most recent CASCADE Voices Young People’s Advisory Group session which took place in March 2024.  

In my second week in my new role as Children, Young People, and Family Involvement Worker, Rachael and myself planned and led the March CASCADE Voices session with the young people who work with us to advise on research. Dr Emily Lowthian and Dr Laura Cowley from Swansea University brought their research to the group; this made for two big data-linkage projects to explore (making lunch a very needed break for both the young people and ourselves). 

As the studies were both quantitative projects, both researchers’ discussions with the group involved the task of building an understanding of how the researchers can best interpret and work with population-scale administrative data without losing or misunderstanding the complicated and individualised human reality of lived experience. This is as much about understanding what kinds of gaps and silences are inevitably present in their research data – which the young people in CASCADE Voices did an excellent job of identifying – as it is about finding ways to better interpret and represent care-experience in the eventual research findings and dissemination. 

Our discussion with Dr Lowthian focussed on understanding the context behind the educational outcomes of children from a range of different care backgrounds and pathways – including the ways in which standardised measures of “success” and attainment may mis-represent care-experienced young people’s experiences and achievements in education. With Dr Cowley, we discussed the factors involved in creating experiences of instability in care, using a ranking activity to spur discussion and think about the kinds of things which were most important to influencing instability in care. 

The young people had fantastic insights and challenges for the researchers – demonstrating the especial importance of involvement in these kinds of projects, which work with in-depth but often abstracted (from context and lived experience) data. It was a great insight for me to see the challenges posed by involving people in such complicated quantitative projects, and gave me a lot to think about as I consider planning for our future work and approaches. 

As well as being my induction into the varied joys of Saturday working, this group session also gave me a lovely opportunity to meet some of the young people I’ll be working with in my new role. It was great to get to see how the group works with a researcher, and to get to hear their voices contributing to the direction and process of this research.