Understanding the Subjective Well-Being of Younger Children Looked After in Wales: A Qualitative Study Designed with Children in Care using Creative Methodologies

Funded by Health and Care Research Wales, this 18-month research project (October 2022 – March 2024) explores the subjective understanding of younger children looked after in Wales on what is important to their well-being. The project aims to produce a range of outputs to various audiences. As well as reporting overall findings and methodological reflections on creative methodologies with younger children looked after, the project will co-create a free online Well-Being Toolkit to assist adults interacting with younger children looked after to have confident well-being conversations in their practice.


Well-being is a core element of the Welsh Government’s policy for children’s social care. It involves understanding and placing the views of those receiving a service about what is important to them at the heart of our policies and practices. What’s more, children’s right to have a voice in things which matter to them is enshrined in article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Surprisingly however, there is little international research on the views of younger children looked after on their well-being; very little that uses in-depth qualitative research; and no qualitative studies in Wales. This is a major gap for developing services: how can we know what children looked after need if we do not find out from them? Recent research also suggests that social workers and others do not always feel confident and skilled in exploring well-being with younger children and therefore tend not to do so.

This study responds to these needs, focussing a subjective and creative methodological approach which seeks the inclusion of children’s voices on what matters to their well-being. It will adapt methods used in other research, including ground-breaking studies carried out by a group of international experts, as well as build upon wider previous research findings on children in Wales.

Activities and Methods

The research is working with 30-50 younger children looked after in Years 5 and 6 in primary schools, across a number of  local authorities in the south of Wales. Fieldwork will take place in the February, April, and late May/early June school holidays, involving 3 sessions using creative and participatory methodologies.

Key elements of how the study is carried out (including areas to focus on; where and when sessions should happen; and how we should share findings) will be agreed with the children, although core elements of the study will remain consistent with international work using similar methods to permit some level of international comparison.


The project will generate a free online Well-Being Practice Toolkit with guidance – along with more conventional outputs of journal articles, webinars, and summaries. It will produce academic articles on what the children say is most important to their well-being and how it compares to children not in care as well as children in out-of-home care in other countries.  It will provide methodological insights into creative, participatory research with young children, and specifically young children looked after.

For further information, please contact Professor Colette McAuley McauleyC@ cardiff.ac.uk

Lead Person

Principal InvestigatorProfessor Colette McAuley

Academics and Researchers

Research AssistantMs Josie Keam
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FundersHealth and Care Research Wales
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