Date: 6 July 2022

The Coronavirus pandemic changed our lives; we all had to adapt our ways of living and working. As we move on from the pandemic it remains vital that we continue to plan services not only to keep our children in care and care leavers safe and supported but to also make their lives as positive as possible. To do this, we need to focus on what children and young people themselves say helps their wellbeing. This year CoramBAAF will be working in partnership with Coram Voice to hear more from children in care and care leavers about what makes life good. We will work together to incorporate findings from the Bright Spots programme into our training and events work.

Since 2013, the Bright Spots programme, a partnership between Coram Voice and the Rees Centre, (Professor Julie Selwyn at the University of Oxford), has worked with children in care and care leavers to explore their views and experiences of what makes life good.

The starting point for our work was to define wellbeing based on what children say. We worked with children and produced two new sets of wellbeing indicators that are measured by two surveys (Your life, Your Care and Your Life Beyond Care). So far over 17,000 children have taken part from nearly 60 local authorities. We have learnt a lot.

As part of the programme, we have developed a ‘practice bank’. In it are examples from local authorities of how they (often alongside children and young people) have used their Bright Spots findings to improve the wellbeing of children in care and care leavers. Some changes were small and easy to implement (e.g., North Somerset changed the language used by professionals to be more child focused) whereas others were bigger and strategic (Isle of Wight involved care leavers in commissioning new supported living accommodation). St Helens and North Yorkshire describe their work to build trust in relationships with social works Other local authorities have worked on ways to promote peer to peer relationships amongst children in care and care leavers;  East Riding created dance workshops and developed a football project to combat loneliness. Sheffield have worked with their young people on a range of exciting projects; to challenge stigma young people created resources for schools (Assembly Squad) and to promote positive body image a fashion show was held.

Looking at wellbeing through a child’s lens requires all who work to support children in care and care leavers – foster carers, social workers and managers – to think differently. Some areas may not conventionally be seen as the remit of children’s social care (the importance of pets, friends, feeling happy with appearance or combatting loneliness). Focusing more on the Bright Spots wellbeing indicators can help establish a care system that not only keeps children and young people safe, but helps them to flourish, by designing services and providing support focused on what wellbeing is to them.

To do things differently in our practice we need to be brave and focus on what young people are telling us about what makes life good. This young person sums up well the challenge to us all:

“I think social services try to do things right, but they have to do things legally and make sure they can't get into trouble when they make decisions, but from my experiences this leaves the kid worse off, I think they should not be so prim and proper and focus more on realistic ways of life when working with us instead of going by the books just so they look good.”

Coram Voice will work further with CoramBAAF to bring learning from the Bright Spots programme to training courses and events. We presented an Exploring Expertise session on 14 June, which CoramBAAF members can watch again here.

If your local authority is interested in finding out more about taking part in the Bright Spots programme, contact


Dr Claire Baker, Coram Voice