News: Collaborative Working with Off the Record

In January 2018, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) committed funding to improve the evidence based on what works in helping children get back on track after abuse. Specifically, the funding is being used to build evidence about:

  • what sort of help is effective in improving outcomes for children with experience of abuse or neglect, and/or,
  • how the work of an organisation(s) delivering services to children who have experienced abuse or neglect has an impact on the wider child protection system.

In response to this call for research, CORC have excitingly partnered with Off the Record, a free counselling service, established in 1992, working with children and young people in Tameside and Oldham. Off the Record run an intervention aimed specifically at children and young people who have, or are at the risk of, experience of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and sexual abuse; this is called “Time 2 Talk”.

CORC will be working with Off the Record to evaluate the following:

1. Whether outcomes are improved for those who participate in Time-2-Talk, using validated outcome measurement questionnaires.

2. The role of specific aspects of the intervention in helping children and young people get back on track, including:

  • the impact of a partnership approach, working with the Police, Probation and the wider voluntary sector, in improving outcomes for the victims of sexual and domestic abuse and Child sexual exploitation (CSE)
  • the impact of getting young people back in touch with their families and other care settings – by working with families and other care settings, including care homes
  • the impact of combining group work with one to one counselling.

3. The mechanisms by which the intervention supports change, by exploring the ‘lived experiences’ of young people and their families, with consideration to:

  • how they experience services both in the statutory and voluntary sector
  • what barriers they faced and what, if anything, helped overcome them.

As background to the issues and driver for the funding: the relationship between maltreatment and adult outcomes is well established because the child protection social science field has made this one of its main research subjects in recent years (Taylor et al 2015). Experiencing maltreatment as a child has been linked to being more likely to experience a very broad range of mental health disorders from depression and anxiety to borderline personality disorder to schizophrenia (McCrory & Vissing 2015).  Many children who have been abused need the right kind of support, at the right time, in order to ensure their development is not derailed by poor mental health and other adverse outcomes. However, this area of research is still in its infancy and research has not yet given enough attention to questions of what support is needed, by whom, and when.

In addition, NSPCC has identified that there are a number of smaller organisations that offer interventions aimed at helping children and young people get the right support at the right time but are unable to robustly demonstrate the impact of their work. It is recognised that this may be because the organisation has focused their funding, time and efforts on delivering their service. In order to build the evidence base around what works for whom and when, understanding the impact of these services on children’s outcomes and on the wider system of support for children, is critical.

This research project is running until March 2019, after which point, CORC and Off the Record hope to share findings with CORC members and wider audiences.