LYPSA: Improving LGBTQ+ Young People’s Experiences of Social Care

The Lgbtq+ Young People in Social cAre (LYPSA) project included three separate studies seeking to understand and improve the social care experiences of sexual and gender minority youth in England. 

The LYPSA project was led by Dr Jason Schaub funded by What Works for Children’s Social Care. The project has now concluded and included three foundational studies:

  1. A systematic scoping review of the international evidence base concerning the health and wellbeing experiences of LGBTQ+ young people in foster and residential care;
  2. A qualitative interview study providing the first in-depth analysis of LGBTQ+ young people’s residential care experiences in England; and,
  3. The first randomised controlled trial testing the effectiveness of an LGBTQ+ e-learning training module for children’s social workers in England. An e-module for children and young people’s services delivered by Stonewall was used in this study.

The project included collaboration and co-production with a young advisors’ group who have lived experiences of social care and identify as LGBTQ+, as well as stakeholder groups connected to LGBTQ+ young people in social care.

Research objectives

STUDY 1: Scoping Review of LGBTQ+ Young People’s Experiences in Care

A PRISMA-compliant systematic scoping review of the international evidence about the health and wellbeing experiences of LGBTQ+ young in both foster and residential care. This review captured the characteristics of moderate to high-quality evidence on the topic, summarised the main findings, and identified gaps in the evidence base to guide the planning and commissioning of future research. 

Key findings

  • LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to come into care, have more care. placements, and spend longer periods of time in care than non-LGBTQ+ youth
  • LGBTQ+ youth in care have more health, mental health and wellbeing inequalities compared to non-LGBTQ+ peers.
  • These inequalities often relate to rejection and discrimination from birth families, social workers, foster parents, residential staff and peers because of their LGBTQ+ identities.
  • Social workers state they need more knowledge to adequately support LGBTQ+ youth, particularly transgender & gender diverse youth.

 

STUDY 2: LGBTQ+ Young People experiences of Residential Care

The first study to gather qualitative data about LGBTQ+ young people’s experiences of residential social care in the UK. Semi-structured online interviews were carried out with 20 LGBTQ+ young people (aged 16 to 24) across England. The sample were diverse in terms sexual orientation, gender identity/expression and race/ethnicity, with a large portion of the sample identifying as trans or nonbinary (35%) and as racial or ethnic minorities (50%). 

Key findings

  • LGBTQ+ young people experience unique and heightened challenges in residential care related to their sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, and other minority identities (race/ethnicity, disability, and neurodevelopmental difficulties).
  • LGBTQ+ youth – and trans and gender diverse youth in particular – encountered widespread institutional and interpersonal discrimination connected to their LGBTQ+ identities including intense regulation of binary gender norms.
  • Most youth described significant mental health struggles and experienced high rates of instability and multiple placements throughout their care journey which resulted in formidable educational barriers.
  • Findings demonstrate the importance of individual affirming relationships with residential staff and social care professionals. 

Further information related to this study:

STUDY 3: LGBTQ+ Online Training Programme RCT

The first randomised controlled trial to test the effectiveness of e-learning training module for children’s social workers to support LGBTQ+ young people. We recruited a large sample of 614 children’s social workers, half of which were provided the online training package (intervention group). The other half (control group) experienced ‘business as usual’ conditions (such as being provided annual Equality, Diversity and Inclusion training by their employer). All participants completed a pre- and post-test (before and after they were assigned to a group) assessing their LGBTQ+ knowledge and attitudes towards LGBTQ+ young people. We sought to understand whether the participants who completed the training improved their knowledge and attitudes over time compared to the control group. 

Key findings

  • The online training was effective at increasing LGBTQ+ knowledge and improving attitudes toward LGBTQ+ youth for children’s social workers.  
  • Children’s social workers who completed the training were satisfied with the online training and felt more confident about being able to support LGBTQ+ youth.  

Anonymised data from the study has been housed on the Open Science Framework website, to allow other researchers to utilise for further research. 

Further information related to this study:

Outputs and impact

This project produced academic journal articles, presentations to sector organisations and academic conferences, research reports, professional and public publications, and an animated video. 

We have shared our research findings with a wide range of organisations. Throughout the project we presented at 25 social work teaching partnerships and representative organisations across England. Some key groups include the National Principal Social Worker (PSW) Network, the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), the Department for Education, the What Works Network, and the Home Office’s child sexual abuse unit.

With the support of our young advisors, we have also presented at key events and conferences in the sector. These include national and international presentations at:

  • The Joint Social Work Education and Research Conference (Nov 2022)
  • National Children and Adult Services Conference (Nov 2022)
  • Hochschule RheinMain, Wiesbaden Germany (Nov 2022)
  • Headliner session at Social Work Week, organised by Social Work England (March 2023)
  • The 12th European Conference for Social Work Research (April 2023)
  • The Sexuality and Social Work Conference (July 2023)

Through these various mechanisms, we presented to an estimated 1,400 social workers, managers and leaders during 2022-23. 

Findings from the LYPSA studies also featured in several sector publications including the Local Government Association’s (LGA) First magazine – a magazine for local councillors – and the British Association of Social Worker’s Professional Social Work magazine.

Journal Articles

Schaub, J., Stander, W. J., & Montgomery, P. (2022). LGBTQ+ Young People’s Health and Well-being Experiences in Out-of-Home Social Care: A Scoping Review. Children and Youth Services Review, 106682.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2022.106682.

Project Reports:

Research team

Partners

What Works for Children’s Social Care