Safer Young Lives is part of the Institute of Applied Social Research

The Children’s Social Care Innovation programme

The Children’s Social Care Innovation programme seeks to support the development, testing and sharing of effective ways of supporting children who need help from children’s social care services.

There is approximately £100m committed to the programme over 2014-16 funding 60+ innovation projects.

The International Centre, University of Bedfordshire, in partnership with researchers from DMSS Research and NatCen Social Research, is evaluating four innovation projects with a particular focus on supporting young people with experience/at risk of sexual exploitation.

The evaluation team is led by Dr Sara Scott (for further information contact Sara at Final reports to DfE will be submitted at the end of March 2016.

  • Durham House, Aycliffe Secure Centre in partnership with Barnardo’s – developing a specialist unit implementing a therapeutic model of working with sexually exploited young people; managing and supporting effective transitions into the community, and influencing a more therapeutic culture across the centre.
  • St Christopher’s ‘Safe Steps’ project – establishing two homes for vulnerable young women at risk of serious harm in the community – particularly through sexual exploitation. The project takes a “common sense” approach to risk and empowering ways of working with young women informed by social pedagogy and knowledge of trauma.
  • Project Phoenix, Wigan and Rochdale – identifying and piloting responses to young people who are victims, or at risk of sexual exploitation which will improve outcomes and provide effective alternatives to high cost and secure accommodation. The project aims to test an action-learning approach to service development based on undertaking research and involving those who are ‘experts by experience’ (young people, families and professionals) in the co-production of solutions to inform service planning and delivery across Greater Manchester. Evaluation will continue until October 2016.
  • Empower and Protect, South Yorkshire – developing a sub-regional delivery model in partnership with Catch 22 in order to keep sexually exploited young people close to their own communities and living in stable foster placements or with their own families. The approach brings the expertise of a team of clinical psychologists out of the clinic to provide training, therapeutic insight, support and supervision for staff and parents/carers. Evaluation will continue until March 2017.

An evaluation framework designed to reflect each project’s theory of change includes early and medium term milestones which indicate progress towards the intended outcomes for young people (including effective and evidence-based project design, development and implementation of new ways of working).

Evidence is being collected via:

  • Interviews with staff, managers, LA informants, young people and their families, and other stakeholders
  • Staff surveys
  • Tracking and observation of project activities
  • Psycho-social questionnaires with young people
  • Monitoring other indicators of change – e.g. incidents, staff absence/turnover.


Safer Young Lives Research Centre
Institute of Applied Social Research
University of Bedfordshire
University Square