Fieldwork begins on £1.9 million Innovate Project looking at safeguarding risks outside home

University of Sussex

Researchers have begun analysing the innovative approaches taken by six organisations and partnerships across the country in addressing extra-familial risks faced by young people.

The £1.9 million Innovate Project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, is exploring new ways of combating safeguarding risks beyond the family home, such as sexual and criminal exploitation, peer-on-peer abuse, and gang affiliation.

The research, led by Professor Michelle Lefevre at the University of Sussex, launched last year with innovation mapping projects which included three reviews and a practice survey.

Now the study is moving into its fieldwork stage where experts from the universities of Sussex, Oxford and Bedfordshire, and counterparts from Research in Practice and Innovation Unit, will closely study three promising frameworks supporting service development in the six case study sites.

These include:

Contextual Safeguarding as adopted by Devon Children’s Services and Partners and the charity Safer London

Trauma-informed practice at Brighter Futures for Children in Reading and North Lanarkshire Education and Families Service

Transitional Safeguarding with the Safeguarding Adults Board for Hackney and Sheffield Children and Families Services.

Through the two years of fieldwork in 2021-22, the Innovate Project team will observe meetings and practices (virtually, during the pandemic), interview young people, parents and professionals, and examine organizational processes, systems, costs and outcomes.

The focus will not just be on whether and how the three approaches lead to beneficial and effective services in the six case studies but on what factors stimulate innovation in social care and enable it to flourish.

The project will also work with a wider Learning and Development Network of organisations in the UK and overseas so that emergent findings can help stimulate and guide further innovation.

The final year of the Innovate Project in 2023 will focus on working with key stakeholders to develop findings into policy recommendations, practice guidance and resources to inform innovation practice, improve the design and delivery of social care, and enhance service experiences and outcomes for vulnerable young people and their families.

Prof Lefevre, Professor of Social Work in the School of Education and Social Work at the University of Sussex, said: “We are delighted to have the involvement of these six sites, who are at the vanguard of developing new ways of supporting young people, families and communities.

“We are confident that the learning from this project will inform innovation practice, improve the design and delivery of services, and enhance intervention experiences and outcomes for vulnerable young people and their families.”

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