The research in question is based on a “purely qualitative” method as participants were interviewed, and the scripts of the interviews were analyzed (Lopata 2011, p. 5). Notably, the methodology used had quite significant peculiarities, which enabled researchers to acquire more detailed and relevant data. It is also noteworthy that though there were some drawbacks in the methodology used, the methods are very effective and can be utilized in similar research.
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Lopata (2011) reports that fourteen young care leavers from three local authority areas took part in the research. They had interviews with peer researchers from Young People’s Panel who were recruited by the NCAS (National Care Advisory Service). The participants had interviews in locations assigned by the local authorities. The interview questions were confirmed by the local authorities. Peer researchers interviewed participants and took part in the analysis of responses. As has been mentioned above, the research was qualitative.
Choice of Methods
The researcher pays special attention to the choice of peer research method. Lopata (2011) notes that care leavers are a specific group of people who lack confidence and trust in other people. Therefore, there is a need to make participants feel comfortable, and the researcher made a choice to ask peers to interview care leavers. Lopata (2011) mentions certain additional work associated with the necessity to train peer researchers, but the researcher also states that this method has proved to be effective. Nonetheless, it is worth the effort as care leavers’ trust and openness increases. Verweijen-Slamnescu and Bowley (2013) note that peer research enables researchers to obtain more detailed and comprehensive information during interviews.
It is also important to note that the major objective of the research is to identify whether care leavers have enough information on public services available, their evaluation of these services’ effectiveness, and the way young people leaving care can access them. Therefore, qualitative research methods are chosen to obtain detailed information on the matter. Remarkably, qualitative research is often used to explore issues related to caring leavers (Brady, Shaw & Blades 2012; Bluff, King & McMahon 2010; Dima & Skehill 2008). It is important to elicit care leavers’ evaluations and ideas on the matter to develop strategies that can facilitate care leavers’ transition into adulthood.
Drawbacks and Solutions
Lopata (2011) mentions that peer research is effective but is also associated with a lack of experience in peer researchers. Therefore, peer researchers had preliminary training, which enabled them to hold interviews properly. Lopata (2011) still notes that more experienced researchers could have extracted more specific information and change the questions (or add some) during interviews. However, these downsides are irrelevant compared to confidence and trust in care leavers while talking with peer researchers. Lopata (2011) also states that peer researchers took part in analysis, and this assistance was helpful as additional data were obtained.
It is necessary to note that the solutions made and methods used are quite effective as they address research objectives. Thus, to evaluate care leavers’ knowledge and their attitude towards public services, it is essential that participants have trust to and feel comfortable with interviewers “to ensure that their input would be relevant to the research population” (Brady, Shaw & Blades 2012, p. 239). The researcher managed to achieve this through the use of peer researchers. It is also noteworthy that the researcher foresaw a lack of experience and implemented effective training to peer researchers. Clearly, it led to an increase in the research cost as it required additional time, but it also increased the validity of data obtained, which is essential.
It is noteworthy that the research addresses ethical requirements as the researcher obtained consent from the participants (including consent to record interviews) and local authorities. Participants were knowledgeable of research objectives. Questions asked were evaluated by members of the YPP. Hence, the research was implemented in terms of ethical norms. As for the use of qualitative research, it is clear that the objectives required this approach. Again, it is more time-consuming than the quantitative method, but it gives more information on participants’ ideas and views, which is central to the given research.
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It is possible to state that the methods used are effective and address the research objectives. More so, the research can be regarded as another illustration of the effectiveness of peer research and the way it can be used with care leavers (or other vulnerable groups). Lopata (2011) shows that some drawbacks of peer research can be diminished through training and collaboration between peer researchers and experienced researchers. All in all, it is necessary to note that the methods applied enabled the researcher to obtain comprehensive data on the matter.
Lopata (2011, p. 10) reports that participants are “reasonably knowledgeable about public services.” In many cases, participants knew the names and locations of public services providers and revealed familiarity with some terms (for example, ‘pathways’ or ‘key workers’). It is also found that such public services as Jobcentre Plus and Connexions are familiar to almost all participants. Nevertheless, services associated with counseling are poorly known, and participants tend to be unaware of numerous options. Importantly, the police are seen as an “enforcement body” by the majority of participants as they have had numerous negative experiences and, hence, they try not to address police even when they need (Lopata 2011, p. 11). It is also reported that participants are unsure what to do when they need a loan, or they are in debt, or when they need to obtain advice concerning drugs.
Lopata (2011) also notes that participants reveal confidence that they are able to access (or learn about) public services if necessary. At the same time, it is apparent that they would have difficulties in finding information or accessing some public services (Lopata 2011). Interestingly, participants have low expectations for the effectiveness of public services. Care leavers tend to disbelief they will be able to solve their problems with the help of public services.
Finally, it is found that experiences vary from “extremely positive to extremely poor” (Lopata 2011, p. 16). Thus, some care leavers developed a personal relationship with a social worker, some value reliability and quick responses; other participants focus on consistent and effective support as well as personalized attention and care. As for negative experiences, participants are often disappointed about outcomes (especially ones concerning employment), poor responsiveness and long waiting, rudeness and unreliability, mistakes, and inconsistent support. The research also identifies some barriers that can prevent are leavers as well as local authorities from cooperating effectively. These barriers include care leavers’ reluctance to admit that they need assistance or their confidence in their own abilities.
The researcher implements an in-depth analysis of the participants’ responses and provides quite consistent recommendations. Thus, it is recommended that local authorities have to ensure that care leavers are knowledgeable about (and have a deep understanding of) public services available to them. They should also be aware of ways to extract information on available public services. It is stressed that people in care should start getting this information at the age of 15 as young people should be ready to leave when the time comes. Lopata (2011) also emphasizes the necessity to develop proper communication patterns and develop a trustful relationship with care leavers. The researcher also notes that older care leavers can also be involved in mentoring younger people who leave care.
In conclusion, it is possible to note that the research is comprehensive and detailed. The researcher has managed to obtain relevant and detailed information on care leavers’ knowledge about and attitude towards public services. The peer research method has proved to be effective as participants were open and cooperative. The data obtained shed light on the effectiveness of existing public services and ways to increase them. Thus, it is clear that public services provided are often inconsistent, and care leavers are often unprepared to enter adulthood. The researcher also reveals ways on how to improve public services aimed at helping young people in care enter adulthood easily. Since recommendations are based on in-depth analysis, they can be effective and should be taken into account by local authorities. It is possible to note that the research implemented is relevant and important as it reveals the gaps existing and provides certain solutions that should be used for further research and the development of specific policies. The research also shows the effectiveness of some methods which can be applied in similar research.
Bluff, B, King, N, McMahon, G 2010, A phenomenological approach to care leavers’ transition to higher education, Web.
Brady, LM, Shaw, C, & Blades, R 2012, ‘Involving children and young people in research: principles into practice’, in S Carr & P Beresford (eds), Social care, service users and user involvement, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London, pp. 226-243.
Dima, G, & Skehill, C 2008, ‘Reflective analysis of a mixed-method approach to study the experiences of young people leaving care in Romania’, Cognition, Brain, Behaviour. An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. XII, no. 4, pp. 369-388.
Lopata, R 2011, Care leavers and public services peer research, Web.
Verweijen-Slamnescu, R, 7 Bowley, S 2013, ‘Empowering young care leavers through peer research’, in T Stern, A Townsend, F Rauch & A Schuster (eds), Action research, innovation and change across disciplines: international perspectives across disciplines, Routledge, Devon, pp. 89-101.