Researchers based at York University have just reported the results of a three-year study of the needs of 11-17 young people who are abused and neglected. A key finding of the research was that young people find disclosing maltreatment very difficult. They find it hard to form trusting relationships with social workers, who are often overworked and frequently changing. And even when young people succeed in forming trusting relationships with professionals, they are aware of the "far-reaching consequences", for themselves and for their family, and this often results in them not disclosing the abuse. Generally young people lack knowledge and information about how best to make a disclosure.
One of the researchers, Professor Mike Stein, is quoted as saying: “This research shows that we are far less responsive in understanding and meeting the needs of those young people who are maltreated.”
This research is on exactly the right lines. The researchers have focused on the extent to which the needs of abused and neglected young people are not being met and identify salient reasons why young people fail to disclose maltreatment.
I think the policy consequences of these findings are all too clear. Instead of services that are driven by internal targets and producer-focused procedures, we need to develop effective means of engaging with children and young people and providing them with services that they can actually use. And we need to listen to their views - as these researchers have done - about the best way of doing it.