Young people in residential care need better support to overcome a range of challenges, Cardiff University academics say.
The survey of school students aged 11 to 16 shows young people
in residential care had the lowest mental wellbeing score, more than half (56%)
had been exposed to bullying recently and nearly three quarters (74%) were
involved in fighting in the past year. This group also had less positive
feelings about school. These factors have been shown to be associated with risk
of substance misuse.
Indeed, more than a third (36%) of young people in residential
care said they had been drunk in the past 30 days, the research shows. This
figure is compared to just 9% of young people not in care. Nearly a third (31%)
of young people in residential care said they had used cannabis in the past
month, while only 4% of those not in care had done so. A quarter (26%) of
adolescents in residential placements said they smoke weekly in contrast to 3%
of those who live at home.
“These findings demonstrate that the Welsh Government should be
examining this problem further and considering ways in which improvements for
those in care could be achieved.” Professor Simon Murphy
Professor Simon Murphy, of the Centre for the Development and
Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer),
said: “The most striking findings from this study are the disadvantages young
people in residential care face compared to those elsewhere in the care system
and in stark contrast to those living outside it.
“Although those in residential care fare the worst, we can see
young people who are classed as ‘looked after’ in any form consistently
experience worse outcomes in their lives. This in turn can affect their journey
Data for the study were gathered from 85,000 students aged 11 to
16, who completed questions as part of the School Health Research Network
(SHRN) Student Health and Wellbeing Survey, the largest survey of its kind in
the UK. Currently 210 schools in Wales are part of the network. Students who
took part were separated into four categories – those not in care, in foster
care, residential care or kinship care – where they are placed with another
Professor Murphy added: “These findings demonstrate that the
Welsh Government should be examining this problem further and considering ways
in which improvements for those in care could be achieved.”
At any given time, approximately 6,000 young people in Wales are
‘looked after’ by local authorities in Wales, with 9% placed in residential
care such as secure units, children’s homes, independent living or in
residential schools. As of 31 March 2018, the majority of young people ‘looked
after’ were accommodated in foster care (74%).
Health Research Network (SHRN) was established in 2013 and is
led by DECIPHer. It is a partnership between Cardiff University, Welsh
Government, Public Health Wales, Cancer Research UK and the Wales Institute of
Social and Economic Research Data and Methods (WISERD).
This press release originally featured on the Cardiff
University website. The SHRN national briefing paper can be found