By Josie Keam

This blog is an introduction to the Engagement team’s new starter, Josie and her time so far in her new role. 

My name is Josie and I recently started as Child, Young Person, and Family Involvement Worker, joining Rachael, Elaine, and Phil in the Engagement Team. Although I’m not new to CASCADE – having worked here as a Research Assistant since 2022 – I am new to public involvement. Before working as a researcher at CASCADE, I was involved in advocacy and support for care-experienced students and those from under-represented socio-economic backgrounds at my university.  

In my new role, I will be supporting the Engagement team to involve people with lived experience of children’s social care services in CASCADE’s research. This will involve developing our project work and working with the individuals who make up our research advisory groups. I’ve been excited to get stuck in for a while, so it’s lovely to have finally started and to begin to learn the lay of the land. 

For me personally, this role develops my understanding of the nuances and tensions surrounding what it means to do ethical and impactful research into children’s social care. I feel very lucky to be working with individuals with a range of lived experiences to hear how this research can best be sensitively planned, undertaken, and communicated in ways which honour and respect those whose lives it most closely affects. It is one thing to know how complicated and delicate this task is from a researching perspective, but it is already proving an entirely different learning curve to appreciate it across a range of research projects – and from the broad range of experiences that CASCADE involves in our research. 

After making the long, arduous move all the way across our office in SPARK to sit with the Engagement team, my first few weeks have kept me busy – giving me an immediate insight into the organised chaos of public involvement work… 

I have already met some parents who are involved in our work in a recent advisory group session, in which the group decided how they would like to be involved in teaching on the Masters of Social Work Course. I have also been working with individual researchers to plan their involvement sessions, which has entailed figuring out how best to ethically and productively explore the material they would like to bring to discussion. It has been really valuable to see how involvement in research is connected up between these sessions and to see functionally how meaningful involvement occurs throughout all stages of the research process.  

Overall, there is a lot to learn and try out in this role, which is exciting. I’m looking forward to the coming months; everyone has been very welcoming in the team and both advisory groups as I get settled in. It is clear that CASCADE’s involvement work is made up from strong, respectful, and caring relationships – which I look forward to building myself as I continue in the role.