Professor Julie Selwyn, University of Bristol, gives a talk for the Education Department public seminar series.
It is increasingly recognised that understanding subjective wellbeing (SWB) – or asking people how they feel about their own lives is key to developing policy that supports our quality of life.
The Measuring What Matters programme (Office of National Statistics, 2011) concluded that people’s objective circumstances can improve but this does not necessarily translate into feeling that life is improving. For example, crime can go down, but people do not report feeling more secure. The ONS and the Children's Society have done a great deal of work on the SWB of children in the general population but little is known about the SWB of children in care. Currently only objective measures are collected by the DfE such as educational results, number of teen pregnancies and we do not know how children themselves feel about their own lives in care. Do they identify the same elements as important to their wellbeing as do children in general population and how might their wellbeing be measured? What is important to children in care?
This seminar focuses on the development of an online survey Our Lives Our Care to measure the SWB of children in care and the findings from the first 611 children to complete it. Eighteen focus groups were held involving 140 children and young people to understand their perceptions of what was important to their well being. Although there were domains of wellbeing that were held in common with children in the general population, looked after children identified other domains and their emphasis differed.
The work is the product of the Bright Spots Programme, a long standing partnership between the Children’s Rights charity Coram Voice and the University of Bristol with the generous support of the Hadley Trust.The programme aims to improve the care experiences of young people by enabling local authorities to find out directly from young people about how they are doing in the areas that are important to them and what needs to change for the better. During 2016. 611 children and young people completed the surveys with some surprising results.