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

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

The LYPSA project is led by Dr Jason Schaub funded by What Works for Children’s Social Care, and includes three studies:

  1. A systematic scoping review of the international research literature concerning the health and wellbeing experiences of LGBTQ+ youth in care (study completed);
  2. A qualitative study exploring the residential social care experiences of LGBTQ+ youth in England (study completed); and,
  3. A randomised controlled trial testing the effectiveness of an LGBTQ+ e-learning training package for children’s social workers in England (study ongoing). 

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

Research objectives

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

Study 1 involved a PRISMA-compliant systematic scoping review of the global evidence regarding the health and wellbeing experiences of LGBTQ+ young in both foster and residential care. This review captures the characteristics of moderate to high-quality evidence on the topic, summarises the main findings, and identifies gaps in the evidence base to guide the planning and commissioning of future research. 

Key findings from the report:

  • 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 

This study has now concluded.

STUDY 2: LGBTQ+ Young People experiences of Residential Care

Study 2 was the first study to gather qualitative data on the experiences from LGBTQ+ young people about residential social care in the UK. Twenty semi-structured online interviews were carried out with LGBTQ+ young people (aged 16 to 24) across England who were either currently or previously placed in residential care (3 months or longer). 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 include:

  • 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 disorders)
  • 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:

This study has now concluded.

STUDY 3: LGBTQ+ Online Training Programme RCT

Study 3 is currently recruiting and involves a randomised controlled trial testing the effectiveness of an e-learning training module for children’s social workers to support LGBTQ+ young people. Participants in this study will be randomly assigned to one of two groups: one group receiving the online training and the other receiving business-as-usual equality and diversity training from their employer. Both groups will be asked to complete brief online surveys about their attitudes, knowledge, and skills in working with LGBTQ+ youth. 

Interested participants must be employed by an English local authority, work in children’s social care services and also be registered with Social Work England. Managers, senior managers and supervising social workers of foster carers are also eligible, provided they are employed by a local authority. Participants will receive a £10 voucher as an incentive for participation. To learn more and participate, please visit our registration page.

The study runs until December 2022 and findings from this research will be available in March 2023. 

Further information related to this study:

Outputs and impact

This project will produce 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. We have presented at 18 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, and the Home Office’s child sexual abuse unit. 

With the support of one of our young advisors, we presented at the Joint Social Work Education and Research Conference (JSWEC 2022).  

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

Project Reports:

LGBTQ+ Young People’s Health and Wellbeing Experiences in Care: A Scoping Review

Research team


What Works for Children’s Social Care