Conducting Research on the Care Leavers Project for Digital By Default

dbd-research (1)This week saw the start of the research element of the Care Leavers Project as part of the Digital by Default programme. This project is looking at how we currently provide support services to Care Leavers, and how we might use digital technologies to improve outcomes for Care Leavers. Over the next three weeks, members of the project team will be spending time with care leavers who have agreed to talk to us and allow us to gather our “user needs”. We are spending approximately 6 hours with each care leaver, seeing how they go about their daily lives, and asking questions about the Care Leavers Service. We want to understand how activities, technology and appropriate support and services can improve future outcomes for Care Leavers.

The first visit took place on Tuesday, with one of the project team from the Observatory spending the day with a care leaver who is a young mother. She used to live with a foster carer in Warwickshire, but now living independantly in a city centre. The day was spent both at their home and shopping with the children, her friend and boyfriend. During this time many questions were asked about how and why she does things, her experience of life and the care services and various topics were covered such as communication, aspirations and attitudes. As you can imagine, spending the day with a young person is a daunting task, especially living in a social deprived area, when it is at times surrounded by gangs.

“The experience was extremely rewarding – yes the area was everything that you would expect but I felt fully protected by the people that I was with when shown around the local area. The care leaver spent the day answering my questions, taking me through a typical day that she would experience, taking me shopping to her local supermarkets (alongside her friend and baby).

I noticed a few interesting things throughout my time with them:

– the planning around shopping at a number of different supermarkets in order to get items at the lowest prices e.g. Aldi for nappies, main shop at Tesco (for value products primarily), Iceland for all frozen food. But no fruit or vegetables! All food was convenience food and easy to cook e.g. beans, pizzas, instant noodles.

– Using top ups to manage her mobile phone – only spending £10 per month getting unlimited internet but typically running out of text messages. She hadn’t purchased her phone from a typical provider but from Cash Generator and her friend agreed this was the cheapest way to get a phone.

– Buying the majority of clothes and some household items from ebay and Gumtree – sometimes getting items for free if they would collect. All of the clothes for the children they buy in bundles on these websites for very small amounts of money.

– Attitudes towards others were very broad e.g. “social workers are all the same”. She had branded everyone with one view based upon experiences with just a couple of people. She had a very similar view towards her neighbours and local people.

– Ability to manage money – as money is tight every penny counts!

– A desperate need to not repeat the life she had for her children. She was trying to seek advice on how to get out to work and have a career that she wanted but felt she was not getting the support to do this.”


The entire experience has been fascinating and a real eye opener for the project team. Pre-conceptions that the team had before they conducted the research are being challenged by many of the people that they are meeting. It is already proving to be a very valuable method of conducting research and engaging with young people that access our services. It has already highlighted ways and methods that we can engage better with care leavers and will ultimately help identify ways that we can help them access services in the future.
This is the first post of many by the project team but hopefully it gives an insight into the very useful research that we are conducting.

Crime, Recovery and Treatment

It has been suggested that drug users are more likely than non-users to commit criminal offences.

Research studies have found that acquisitive crime such as stealing is commonly linked to offenders of these crime types testing positive for drug use. Treatment for drug using offenders has been measured using a Value For Money (VFM) tool, which demonstrates that crime falls and health improves when people are in drug treatment.

A report has been produced, focusing on drug related criminal activities across Warwickshire for 2012/13. A link to this report can be found below.

Crime, Recovery & Treatment in Warwickshire 2012-13

Substance Misuse among Young People in Warwickshire

Front coverA report published by Public Health England was written, focusing on substance misuse among young people in England for 2012/13.  Following a similar structure, a Warwickshire based report has been produced highlighting the key messages around young people who accessed specialist treatment as a result of substance misuse in 2012/13.

Analysis was carried out using data from Compass, Warwickshire. Compass is a national leading provider, delivering services to young people in order to help tackle problem drug and alcohol use. The report includes figures for drug choices among young people in Warwickshire, most popular age, treatment services, referral sources and risky behaviours. A link to this report can be found below:

Substance Misuse among Young People in Warwickshire 2012/13

Release of Older People’s Health & Wellbeing Atlas

On the 8th of November 2012, the West Midlands Public Health Observatory (WMPHO) released an update of the Older People’s Health and Wellbeing Atlas.   The interactive mapping tool presents data about the 65+ population of England, using directly standardised rates per 100,000.

As the population ages, the health and wellbeing of older people and the provision of services to meet their needs becomes increasingly important. The updated Atlas can be used to identify deficits in the health and care of older people and to highlight large variations between local authorities across England

The Atlas contains over 100 indicators relevant to the health and wellbeing of older people. New indicators for November 2012 include current and projected population; current and projected dependency ratios; hospital admissions due to falls; hip fractures; excess winter deaths index and; registered blind.

Within Warwickshire

The dependency ratio (the number of people of state pension age and over as a percentage of the working population age) is significantly higher than the England average in all District/Boroughs other than Warwick and generally performance on all other indicators is mixed. Within each District/Borough there are indicators which are significantly different to the England average (note that all rates refer to those aged 65+ and not the whole population).

In North Warwickshire the mortality rate from stroke and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is significantly worse than the England, whilst the rate of emergency hospital admissions due to falls is significantly better.  Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough has significantly worse rates for disability free life expectancy at 65 and worse rates for revision hip replacement. The Borough performs significantly better than the England average for the numbers of all hospital admissions.

Rugby Borough performs significantly better on mortality rates from heart disease and significantly worse for all respiratory mortality rates, whilst Stratford-on-Avon District performs significantly better on all falls, and all mortality rates for respiratory diseases, heart disease and COPD.  Warwick District has significantly lower fall rates than the England average, but significantly worse rates for heart disease mortality.

Find out whats new in The November 2012 Atlas Update and access the tool from the WMPHO’s Older People’s Health and Wellbeing Atlas.

Quality of Life in Warwickshire 2012/13 Annual Report Published…..

Today Warwickshire Observatory publishes the annual Quality of Life report which provides a detailed look at the people, places and communities in our county. The report is an assessment of the demographic, social, economic and environmental themes that all play a part in influencing our residents’ quality of life.  Some of the issues are easier to influence than others, but the purpose of the report is to provide decision makers with the analysis they need to make more informed choices, and to give all staff in the council a better understanding of the communities that we serve in Warwickshire.

We are always looking at ways to improve the Quality of Life Report and the main innovation this year has been to provide a tool to view and analyse many of the datasets included in the report at a very local level. Throughout the report, you will see the ‘Interactive Map’ icon,  which allows you to examine local data on particular themes through our Instant Atlas tool. This feature also allows downloading of the raw data for each indicator so that you can carry out your own analysis, should you wish to.

This year we have seen some interesting changes, for example where trends may now have reached a turning point and are starting to shift, and where there is little evidence to suggest that inequalities are shrinking.

To find out more please click on the link below to be taken to the report.

2012-13 Quality of Life Report

Any feedback you have can be made through the comments section of our Blog or via Twitter (@WarksObs).

Disability-free Life Expectancies in Warwickshire

The Observatory has regularly published statistics on life expectancy in Warwickshire, and our Quality of Life reports have, over time, demonstrated how average lifespans have increased.  More recently, the analysis has started to consider the implications of these changes; one of the emerging themes has been the quality of these extra years of life gained, and we have also published figures on healthy life-expectancy to help inform this debate.

New experimental figures published by the Office for National Statistics consider disability-free life expectancy (DFLE).  DFLE is defined as an estimation of the length of time that an individual can expect to live free from a limiting long-standing illness or disability, and therefore adds a qualitative dimension to measures of life expectancy.  The new figures provide estimates at local authority district level, and the attached graphic illustrates the figures for Warwickshire in a national context.

At age 16, DFLE can vary by up to twenty years amongst different local authority areas.  For example, females aged 16 living in Knowsley (Merseyside) have a DFLE of 41.7 years, compared with 60.2 years for those living in Tandridge (Surrey).  There are also differences locally, demonstrated in the graphic.  This type of data can help those commissioning services such as social care and health to understand where resources are likely to be needed most.

The ONS research has also established a significant link between DFLE and deprivation, with people living in more deprived areas likely to have significantly lower disability-free life expectancies than those people living in relatively less deprived areas.

The full ONS study can be accessed here (see page 40). Our illustration can be viewed here.

Examining the link between unemployment and the number of children entering care

The impacts of the economic downturn are far-reaching; work carried out by Sandwell Council has identified a relationship between changes in the unemployment rate and the number of children entering care.  The Children, Young People & Families Directorate commissioned the Observatory to examine whether a similar relationship existed in Warwickshire.  The attached Briefing Note summarises our analysis.

We confirm that there is a relationship between the two variables – as unemployment increases, so does the number of children entering care.  However, our analysis suggests that there is a lag period, and that a change in unemployment will most accurately predict the change in the number of children entering care in the following year.  It is also important to remember that correlation does not necessarily mean causation; there may be other variables that can more accurately explain the relationship between demand for care and unemployment.

Looking ahead, the Office for National Statistics states that “unemployment is forecast to rise … by the second quarter [of 2011], falling back to 6.4 per cent by 2015”.  Although many commentators regard this projection as optimistic, it is reasonable to suggest that we can use current unemployment trends to provide an indication of children entering care next year.  If the ONS forecast is accurate, we can expect overall reductions in unemployment during the next three or four years.  On that basis, we could also expect reductions in the number of children entering care in Warwickshire over this period.