Neglect of Adolescents Research Showcase Banner

Adolescents who experience neglect with families: Using research to improve practice and policy

A study by School of Health and Social Care Reader Dr Leslie Hicks, has informed a Government programme to improve the protection of children in England by developing a stronger evidence base of practice and policy relating to child abuse and neglect.

The research, which followed the publication of the Victoria Climbié Inquiry Report, was funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) - now the Department for Education - and the Department of Health.

The Neglected Adolescents project addressed the lack of insight from research, policy and practice in relation to adolescents who are neglected within families.

The project was a collaborative study involving the University of York, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and The Children’s Society. There were three dimensions to the research, which entailed a literature review and qualitative research with young people and multi-agency practitioners, where the driving topics from the review were addressed by means of a series of discrete focus groups.

One of the co-investigators, Dr Leslie Hicks, joined the University of Lincoln from the University of York in September 2008 during the course of the study, and her work to implement the research findings has been supported locally by the University since 2011.

The original research highlighted the diverse range of systems by which neglected young people initially come to the attention of professionals, for example through education, health, youth justice and social care. 

The literature review emphasised the need for insight to be drawn together as part of a ‘joined up’ approach to understanding neglect, and that successful multi-agency working is a pre-requisite for effectively meeting the needs of these young people. Establishing frameworks and processes that aid communication and collaboration between professionals from different disciplines was found to be vitally important.

Findings from the project have been shared widely within the arenas of health and social care practice and policy through practice guides, conferences, presentations and training events.

"The main impact has been to raise the profile of [adolescent neglect] as a legitimate source of interest and inquiry, in terms of both policy and practice, and also in relation to a focus of research."

Two guides to adolescent neglect were developed; one for use by practitioners and policy-makers and the other for young people. Both were peer-reviewed by the Project Advisory Group, which consisted of academics, practitioners, policy-makers and civil servants. The guide for young people won the Plain English Campaign 2010 award. 

The guide for professionals was referenced as part of The Munro Review of Child Protection in 2010 to signify the importance of young people’s participation and inclusion in child protection work.

A multi-agency guide, Neglect Matters, was published by DCSF and hard copies were distributed to all local authorities, with downloadable links set up through the Every Child Matters website.  Links to this guide are embedded in many Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) websites nationally.

The implementation project consists of two University-based staff working in partnership with eight multi-agency senior managers in a local authority setting, with the goal of implementing changes in awareness, practice and policy as these relate to the neglect of adolescents.

The implementation work began with five workshops, held with senior managers from the range of children’s services within one local authority, using an established research utilisation model. From these, the participating managers worked with their staff teams to plan and implement a series of changes to local practice and policy, for example producing short practice guides to adolescent neglect geared towards particular services. The most prominent change resulting from these sessions was the inclusion of adolescent neglect in revised safeguarding screening tools approved by the LSCB. 

Follow-up interviews with the individual managers involved in this utilisation programme have established the nature of changes in practice and policies, and further review of progress to address sustainability took place in June 2013.