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10,000 voices: the views of children in care on their well-being

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For almost a decade the Bright Spots programme has worked with children and young people to explore what they feel makes their lives good.  

We have found that what is important to children and young people is not always the focus of children's social care. But we feel it should be.  

Our new report 10,000 voices, published by Coram Voice and the Rees Centre at the University of Oxford, highlights what children in care have said about their well-being. The questions it explores are the areas that the children in care told us were important. The report summarises what we have learned from the 9,426 responses we received over 5 years from children in care aged 4 to 18. 

Although we often focus on the additional challenges care experienced children and young people face, the Bright Spots findings show that many do well. 83% of children in care feel that life is getting better. Compared to the general population a higher proportion reported feeling safe where they live, liked school and felt that the adults they lived with took an interest in their education. 

However, some children still struggle and there are areas where they do worse than children and young people in the general population. By the teenage years 1 in 6 reported low overall well-being. Our findings clearly showed the importance of not treating all children in care as if they are the same. Whilst they had things in common, the challenges that children and young people faced also differed with age, sex, placement type and ethnicity. 

Social care professionals should be mindful of the well-being concerns of different groups of children in care, especially girls and those in residential care or living ‘somewhere else’. They need to be aware of how identity can impact on well-being, and consider whether particular children and young people may require additional support. To take account of how well-being changes over time, social workers should regularly review plans and use active listening to make sure that children and young people’s views and experiences are reflected in their care plans. 

All the things that we ask about in the Your Life Your Care survey are important to children in care’s well-being. However, our analysis showed that some things were more strongly associated with well-being. These will be particularly important to focus on in order to make children in care’s lives good.   

Factors associated with well-being for children in care 

What children in care say they need:  

  1. Carers who they trust and who are sensitive to their feelings 
  2. Somewhere to live where they feel safe and settled 
  3. Social workers who they trust, don’t change, are easy to contact 
  4. Opportunities to build and keep relationships with the people who are important to them 
  5. Involvement in and information about their care and their families 
  6. Opportunities to be trusted and practise life skills as they get older 
  7. Fun in their free time and chances to do similar things to their friends 

As individual practitioners who focus on the factors associated with well-being in your day-to-day work; be curious about how children and young people feel they are doing in these areas; listen to what they feel they need and take the steps you can to make their lives better.  


Linda Briheim-Crookall, Head of Policy and Practice Development, CoramVoice