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Care leavers’ transition into the labour market in England

1 March 2019 - 31 July 2023

Awarded to: Associate Professor Neil Harrison

Research partners: University of Oxford; University of York

Funding awarded to Exeter (total funding of £159714)

Sponsor(s): Nuffield Foundation

About the project

This mixed methods study investigates the predictors of educational and employment outcomes at age 21 for care leavers and other care-experienced young people and explores their perspectives on the barriers and facilitators to participating in education, employment and training. The research questions underpinning this study are:

1. What are the key individual, care, and educational predictors of care leavers’ participation in education, employment and training?
2. What are the perceptions of key stakeholders with regards to the barriers and facilitators for care leavers’ participation in education, employment and training, and to the role played by children’s social care services in these processes?

There are two strands to the study:

1. We undertook a novel linking of national adminstrative datasets to explore the cohort of 530,440 young people born in 1995/96 through to their 21st year.  This includes data from their schooling, further education, employment and receipt of benefits which we used to build a detailed picture of their lives and how their social and educational backgrounds influenced their pathways into adulthood.  Our cohort included 7,300 young people who had experience of the care system and we used various forms of statistical analysis to compare this group to their peers who had not.

2. In addition, we also gathered the perspectives of care leavers and key people in their lives, including foster carers and a range of professionals from local authorities, education and employment.  In total, we collected rich qualitative data through interviews and focus groups with 69 young people, carers and professionals across five contrasting local authority areas.

The findings will assist policymakers and service providers to better support care-experienced young people into employment and mitigate the risks of their becoming NEET.  The study also aims to highlight policy changes and practices that could increase the percentage of care leavers in employment, training or further study, while also informing recommendations for further research on post-16 trajectories of care leavers and other disadvantaged groups.

The final report of this study was published in January 2023 and can be accessed via the Rees Centre at the University of Oxford, which hosted the study.