Written by Jonathan Scourfield, Deputy Director of the Centre

As we are a research and development centre for children’s social care, safeguarding has of course always been a key priority for CASCADE. With this being National Safeguarding Week, I’d like to highlight some of our work on this theme.

We aim to do research with important implications for safeguarding practice and policy. Recent examples would be the overviews of child and adult practice reviews in Wales carried out by Alyson Rees, Tom Slater and colleagues. We are involved in several robust evaluations of services – for example the Social Workers in Schools study, led by Dave Westlake, which is one of the largest randomised controlled trials ever conducted on social care in the UK.

We have had a particular focus on preventing harm to young people – for example, Nina Maxwell is currently developing a practice toolkit to respond to county lines and evaluating a service to get children and young people out of involvement with organised crime. Previous research by Sophie Hallett on child sexual exploitation informed the statutory guidance for Wales and her great practice resources are here. Clive Diaz is currently studying how this guidance is being implemented.

In all our research we take a critical perspective on current practice and its social context. The strong link between deprivation and safeguarding was highlighted by the UK-wide Child Welfare Inequalities Project, led by Paul Bywaters from the University of Huddersfield. The Welsh arm of this study was carried out in CASCADE and more recently Martin Elliott has followed this up with qualitative research about social inequalities and practice in Wales

The safeguarding process can be a very difficult experience for families. Acknowledging this, and the need for family members to be supported through the process and get their voices heard, Clive Diaz is leading two studies of parental advocacy and I am just starting a four-year project on family group conferences. We also involve both young peopleand parents with lived experience of children’s social care in our work as advisors and peer researchers.

Safeguarding is crucially important and there is so much potential for harm – not just in the situation where a child or adult is at risk but also from insensitive responses by professionals. We hope our research can help understand people’s experience and identify best practice in preventing harm. This will only work if we keep up a strong relationship with young people, families and professionals. If you would like to get involved with the centre in some way, please get in touch.