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Research Associate gets going!

Research Associate gets going!

Posted by: Dale Meller | 20 August 2018| Categories: Team News , Reports

Martin recently joined the National Confidential Forum as our Research Associate. He’s an experienced researcher and fieldwork manager who’s worked in both public and third sectors for nearly 10 years. In this blog he tells us why he joined us at the Forum and what he’ll be working on over the next few months.

I’d been following the work of the Forum for a while and when I heard about the chance to work with them, I jumped at the chance. I joined the team in July.

I’ll be leading a project that will analyse all the testimonies we’ve ever heard here at the Forum (that’s just our fancy word for having a chat). Some of these testimonies have been written and sent to us but the vast majority have been told to us confidentially, in person in a quiet room at our offices, but also in other settings such as prison, safe community spaces, or elsewhere. Almost 140 people have now spoken to our expert staff who provide support and guidance throughout the process.

The Forum is a place where people can come and tell their story, describe their experiences and the effects of those experiences, in their own words and at their own pace. That’s important! Personal stories and testimonies are powerful and relevant in a way that other information isn’t. Statistics can be interesting or shocking but they don’t highlight people’s journeys, they don’t show the human side of something. The Forum is particularly significant in providing a space for those voices. It is the Forum’s job to use people’s stories to make a difference, identifying key issues around the lifelong impact of childhood experiences.

I’m a proud geek when it comes to all things research, methods and analysis but I’m not going to bore you with all the details (the only people who’ll care about that are other methods geeks). Very simply, I’m going to analyse all the testimonies we’ve received and look for themes, patterns and trends, and I’m going to do that in a systematic way. It’s never good enough to look at people’s stories and cherry pick the best or worst bits to back up what you already think or suspect. That’s not how it should be done (although I’ve seen that happen a few times over the years). We need to look at all the stories and all experiences, to build up a full and proper picture.

I’ve worked for a long time evaluating lots of different interventions, schemes and services, looking at their impact and what they do for people - what they do really well and what they could improve. If you want to know how to fix or improve something, you have to talk to the people most affected by it. They’re the true experts. Ask the people directly affected by something what they really think; what they want or need. Like many others, I was shocked and saddened to hear some of the findings of the recently released 'Falling through the cracks' report. We should be doing better.

People come to the Forum for a range of reasons but they usually expect that what they tell us will be used to change things, to improve things. Through understanding people’s experiences and the lifelong impact of institutional care and giving clear recommendations to Government, suggested improvements will be based on real experiences.

  • It’s not a coincidence that anyone who is care experienced is more likely to be unemployed than most other people.
  • It’s not a coincidence that anyone who is care experienced is less likely to go from school to university.
  • It’s not a coincidence that anyone who is care experienced is more likely to be in prison than go to university.
  • It’s not a coincidence that care experienced people are over represented in the homeless population.
  • It’s not a coincidence that anyone who is care experienced disproportionately experiences mental health issues.
  • It’s not a coincidence that anyone who is care experienced is far more likely to die before the age of 25 than someone who hasn’t been in care.
  • It’s not a coincidence that anyone who is care experienced is more likely to experience stigma and less likely to feel equal, respected, loved, listened to, or like they belong.

It’s also not a coincidence that there are a lot of people and a lot of organisations in Scotland trying to change that. Many funded by the Scottish Government but lots of others funded by other grant making organisations, charities, local authorities and so on. Whether it’s us at the Forum, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, Independent Care Review, Who Cares? Scotland, the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS), Future Pathways, or the many community and voluntary organisations supported by the Life Changes Trust, the landscape for care experienced people in Scotland is changing. We’ve all heard the old adage, too many cooks spoil the broth, but in this case, it should be many hands make light work.

I’ll do my best to ensure that whatever comes out of this work accurately represents the views and experiences of those people who have spoken with us. I’ve already read many of the testimonies provided at the Forum and at such an early stage I’m unsure what themes, patterns, or trends will emerge from people’s experiences.

The only trend I've noticed so far is that every single person had something important to say.

If you want to find out more, contact us on 0800 121 4773 or text SHINE to 62277 (both are free).

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