Mental Health and Care Experienced Children and Young People: A partnership for change

Why is it so difficult to get the help we need?  Why don’t residential care workers and others know more about our mental health needs?  These questions were at the heart of why care experienced young people at Who Cares? wanted to create a training for workers about mental health.

Our project, ‘Mental Health and Care Experienced Children and Young People: A partnership for change’  has brought together CEYP from West Lothian and Glasgow, Who Cares? Scotland, academics and the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (IRISS) in order to improve understanding of the mental health challenges facing CEYP and to develop an online interactive workshop on the approaches that are found to be effective.   This week, as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science, we are piloting our online training course with social workers and young people.  We have also developed a Podcast with the support of the Triumph Network , please give it a listen.

Research evidence indicates that care experienced children and young people (CEYP) face significantly higher levels of mental health issues than the general population (Dale et al., 2016).  It doesn’t have to be this way.  If we engage with  the views and experiences of CEYP and work in partnership, we can find solutions that will work (Children and Young People’s Mental Health Task Force, 2019).   For more information about our project get in touch with

Dr Autumn Roesch-Marsh at: a.roeschmarsh@ed.ac.uk or Dr Pearse McCusker at:  pearse.mccusker@ed.ac.uk

4 Ways of Conducting Participatory Research With Children

children drawing

In a report by the World Bank Group (2018), 10 countries had a significant number of migrant children who had been living without their parents. This movement of the children within national boundaries has been enormous in India. Among the many organisations that work towards combating this phenomenon is Salam Balak Trust (SBT) and this is where this research had taken place. SBT pioneers in aspects of inclusion and providing basic education, medical health facilities and institutional care to migrant children. The children in their centres mostly hail from states of Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa, Punjab, and Maharashtra.

Participatory research methods help us to better understand the lives and experiences of children. The creative and visual methods help in developing communication, bond, faith and enhanced engagement. Moreover, it allows researchers to initiate discussions to explore the any topic that one is interested in exploring with children in comparison to other mundane methods. However, there can be some disadvantages for incorporating such methods. For example, not all children consider it to be fun and others may be inhibited by their capabilities. Older children may call it ‘babyish’ and not interesting. Beginning such methods with very small exercises acting as icebreaker games creates a happy and comfortable environment.

Participatory methods have proved to be an extremely handy tool for children in the age bracket of 10 years and above. As a researcher working on child migration in an urban setup, the approach was to enable participants to use and engage using the tools in order to gain in-depth knowledge on the marginalised and often neglected section of our society.  It was quite an emotional experience for both participants and the researcher that enables children to not only have time full of fun and frolic but as well as engage with other children to enhance stimulation. Pain and Francis (2003) explains how participatory techniques create a space of inclusive accounts among the participants by enabling them to make use of their own words and frameworks of understanding through a range of exercises such as mapping, drawings and similar techniques.

 

  1. Drawing maps or plans

A popular participatory method used in many studies to gather information about significant spaces for children and to explore their perceptions of these places. This tool enables children and young people to explore the risks they face such as in their local communities, to identify protection factors in their local communities, also identifying the risks they most want to change. It provides views and opinions on their current situations. For instance, drawing a village or a community with the help of other children of the group or the researcher.

  1. Thought showers

A popular tool to explore their views and ideas. Children are asked to write or draw a picture in the middle of a large piece of paper to enquire what ideas come into their heads associated with that word or thing. The picture drawn will act as a stimulus for children to think about the journeys and decisions taken, fears faced and cultural context of the environment they are and have come from. Such as, how do you feel around say, a brother or father, how do you like your village and similar circumstances.

  1. Drawings

As a method, it is regarded as an appropriate warm-up activity to enable the children to become familiarized with the adult researcher. The use of drawing gives children time to think about what they wish to portray. The image can be changed and added which gives children more control over their form of expression, unlike an interview situation where responses tend to be quicker and more immediate.

  1. Tree activity

This is specially designed as an assessment exercise helping to initiate discussions on resilience and stress factors in the lives of participants. To initiate this activity, pens, A4 size paper and a quiet space are the basic requirements. Children are often good at making and listening to stories. Hence, in this activity they think of themselves as a tree and draw or write on the roots about the things or people who keep them safe and sound. This activity is great when one wants to know about personal/innate attachments of the child in the family or maybe how he/she deals with a person they don’t like.

While the roots represent resilience factors in the life of the child, the trunk will show the strengths and positives surrounding them. The leaves and branches will explain the vulnerabilities, risks, negatives and stress factors in their lives. In this activity, questions such as who looks after you, supports physically and emotionally, what qualities this person has that makes the child comfortable, what skills did you use? How did you feel after you coped with it?

From the many experiences during the 6 months duration of incorporating participatory  methods, I have learnt a lot.. For example,  the activities that are prescribed and many more that one wants to conduct needs proper planning and execution. Chances of children leaving during the activity is normal and high. Therefore, it must be planned and initiated according to the age and interest related children groups. One should know the characteristics and interests of the children they  want to involve to make smooth beginnings and endings of each activity.In addition, it is recommended to create small groups of less than 10 people (in each group) in order for children to enjoy the whole process in a group setting and gauge their interests for longer hours. At the end, just go with the flow and enjoy the journey with children!!

The author of this blog is Yukti Lamba, PhD Candidate in Social Work at the University of Edinburgh.

REFERENCES

World Bank Group. (2018). Migration and Remittances. IDEAS Working Paper Series from RePEc.

Pain, R., & Francis, P. (2003). Reflections on participatory research. Area, 35(1), 46–54. https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-4762.00109

Darbyshire, P., Macdougall, C., & Schiller, W. (2005). Multiple methods in qualitative research with children: more insight or just more? Qualitative Research, 5(4), 417–436. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468794105056921

Morrow, Virginia. (2008). Ethical dilemmas in research with children and young people about their social environments. Children’s Geographies.

Punch, S. (2002). Research with Children: The Same or Different from Research with Adults? Childhood: A Global Journal of Child Research, 9(3), 321–341. https://doi.org/10.1177/0907568202009003045

Wosu, H., & Tait, A. (2013). Direct work with vulnerable children : playful activities and strategies for communication. London: London : Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

 

 

If Black Lives Matter then we have to tackle Hate Crime in Scotland

 Photo by Adam Wilson on Unsplash

Scotland is often considered to be one of the world’s most friendly, welcoming countries (as well as being voted as such), and having the best LGBT+ legal equality in Europe.

However, is this borne out in reality? Annual data published by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service demonstrates that hate crime and prejudice in all their forms continue to be lived, everyday realities for many of our citizens in Scotland, with an increase in the number of charges reported in 2019-20 compared to 2018-19 for all categories of hate crime.  There were 5612 charges in 2019-20, an increase of 698 from the previous reporting year. Worryingly, this will only ever be part of the picture – there is a consensus in the literature that it is under-reported (for many reasons), particularly hate crime relating to disability and transgender identity (Walters et al 2016).  It is also notable that the data gathered and published by the Crown Office reflects only the amount of charges and not convictions (these are typically far less), and does not account for crimes that have not been reported, the numerous hate incidents (any incident that is not a criminal offence, but perceived by the victim or any other to be motivated by hate or prejudice), or unconscious, institutional, and structural bias.

There are also troubling reports that hate crime has increased during (or as a direct impact of) the coronavirus pandemic, with England and Wales reporting a three-fold increase in hate crime, and anecdotal evidence on this emerging in Scotland.  This potentially reflects notions of ‘scapegoating’ when theorising the causes of hate crime, a blaming of ‘others’ for society’s ills (Roberts et al 2013). This is also against a backdrop of the growing body of evidence demonstrating that ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected by the pandemic, highlighting fundamental socio-economic inequalities in the UK and beyond.

Of course, it’s not just about the numbers and statistics.  Research indicates that hate crime is more harmful to victims and communities than parallel offences, with wide-ranging emotional and psychological harms, and vicarious trauma felt by community members.  It’s damaging to community cohesion, and often aims to ‘send a message’ (whether literally, or symbolically) to individuals, groups, and communities that they are ‘not welcome’ (Walters et al 2016).  Many authors highlight that black and ethnic minority victims of hate offences are likely to be more negatively impacted by the offence than white majority group victims due to it constituting “a painful reminder of the cultural heritage of past and ongoing discrimination, stereotyping, and stigmatization of their identity group” (Iganski and Lagou 2015).  This is a potentially important point to note for practitioners working with people who commit hate crime belonging to ‘majority groups’, who may blame victims or groups for perceived slights and/or the offence(s) for which they have been convicted.

Recent events in the USA have served to bring racial prejudice, bias, and hate into stark relief, with people across the world mobilising like never before in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.  Scotland is not exempt from racial prejudice, injustice, and harm; racial crime remains the most commonly reported hate crime, with 3,038 charges relating to race crime reported in 2019-20, an increase of 4% compared to 2018-19 (with the aforementioned caveat relating to underreporting). These international events have sparked a much-needed interrogation of many of our own institutions and practices, and it remains vital that, despite improved responses to hate crimes/incidents by statutory agencies in Scotland, we must ensure we are not supporting the perpetuation of prejudice and take necessary action to prevent and reduce this.

Scotland is also at an important moment in time in terms of its innovative review of hate crime legislation, with the new Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill being introduced to Parliament on 23 April 2020.  The proposed changes have not been without criticism, however, with concerns regarding freedom of speech coming from several quarters and potentially obscuring the positive changes the legislation seeks to bring.

In these troubling and challenging times, it is clear that hate and prejudice remain an issue at all levels of society, across the globe, and it appears to be more of an issue in Scotland than many of us may think.  For me, as a social work practitioner and researcher, it is therefore imperative to explore some key questions:

  • What drives people to target and harm other people on the basis of certain identity characteristics?
  • What are the individual/interpersonal, community-level, and wider structural ‘causes’ of hate crime?
  • Can we truly say that purely hate is the motivating factor?

The motivations or drivers that lead people to commit hate crime are an under-researched area. The very recent SCCJR report, ‘Taking Stock of Violence in Scotland’ recognises this, noting that existing inequalities and exclusion are exacerbated by the “repeat and routinised” nature of everyday hate crime and incidents in Scotland’s communities, many of which are not reported to the police as has been highlighted. The report emphasises that hate crime in Scotland should therefore be a focus for future research.

To this end, my social work PhD research is an attempt to shed further light on how and why hate crime occurs, by speaking directly to the very people convicted of hate crime in Scotland and gaining their accounts. This became of significant interest to me during my role as a Justice Social Worker, seconded to explore hate crime and our role in working with people who commit it, and led to the implementation of a restorative justice service within the statutory justice social work service I worked in to address the harms of hate crime. I feel it is vital to listen as closely as we can to the accounts of people who commit hate crime, in order to begin to truly understand the ‘motivators’ that underlie hate crime.  This will add to the body of research and interventions to address the harms of this type of offending, with the aim of reducing re-offending in this area.  I hope to be able to add depth to the existing research, and to explore the different intersecting levels that may contribute to hate crime occurring. Greater knowledge of the dynamics of hate crime may better inform our responses to it (including the wider use of restorative justice), and prevent further re-victimisation and harm.

The author of this blog is Rania Hamad, PhD Candidate in Social Work at the University of Edinburgh.   Follow her work on Twitter @RaniaHamad11

References:

Iganski, P and Lagou, S (2015) ‘Hate Crimes Hurt Some More Than Others: Implications for the Just Sentencing of Offenders’, Journal of Interpersonal Violence 2015 Vol 30(10): 1696-1718.

Roberts, Dr C et al (2013) Understanding who commits hate crime and why they do it.  Welsh Government Social Research Report No. 38/2013.

Walters, M, Brown, R and Wiedlitzka, S (2016) Causes and motivations of hate crime.  Equality and Human Rights Commission Research Report 102.