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Mismatched understandings? Findings from a study of vulnerability Kate Brown.

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Presentation on theme: "Mismatched understandings? Findings from a study of vulnerability Kate Brown."— Presentation transcript:

1 Mismatched understandings? Findings from a study of vulnerability Kate Brown

2 Vulnerability and young people What it’s not about… How to measure vulnerability, how to recognise or ‘cure’ it etc. Instead: Exploring ideas about vulnerability from different perspectives Key points/questions for consideration

3 Why vulnerability? Interest from work with ‘sexually exploited’ YP Lyndsay – grew up in care, selling sex and using heroin since 12 (2004): “some kids get left out of being seen as victims. They don’t seem vulnerable, but just because they don’t seem vulnerable, doesn’t mean they aren’t.”

4 Older children in need often present as ‘badly behaved’; whether in trouble with the criminal justice system, abusing drugs or alcohol, going missing, truanting, self-harming, or in other ways [….] this can mask their vulnerability, and lead professionals to ‘blame’ or judge children… (House of Commons Education Committee, 2012: 34)

5 Quick outline of the study 25 interviews with ‘vulnerable’ young people (intensive support, aged 12-18) 15 interviews with professionals (commissioners, managers, ‘front line’ workers) Sampling - Young women and young men, years old, 7/25 BME YP, range of vulnerabilities, and half young people were ‘troublesome’

6 ‘Peter Schmeichel’ Aged 16

7 Jade Aged 17

8 Relevant Findings Official understandings of vulnerability and idea of ‘vulnerable groups’ Vulnerability and ‘difficult behaviour’ - closely linked Young people’s perceptions of vulnerability very different to ‘official’ views Young people’s ideas about addressing vulnerability (resilience)

9 The view from professionals: ‘vulnerability’ differed according to personal judgements and setting … differences in people’s levels of acceptability (ASB worker) A number of government initiatives have used vulnerability in a different way and that's reflected in the local authority structure and the result is a lot of debate and confusion around where boundary lines are drawn around vulnerability (Commissioner, City Council) Discretion important, so practices are more plasticine than they seem – difficult to research?

10 Which young people are ‘vulnerable’? Vulnerable group or circumstancesNo. of informants ‘Sexually exploited’ young women*9 Parental abuse/neglect/poor parenting7 Drug and alcohol use*6 Homeless/poorly housed6 Offending behaviour/ getting ‘in trouble’*6 Parental drug/alcohol use5 Parental domestic violence5 Looked after children4 Not achieving at school4 Mental health issues4 Learning difficulties3 Gypsy and traveller young people3 Significant health problems3 Parents who offend3 Young carers3 English as second language3 Disabled young people2 Asylum seekers and refugees2 Those who run away*2 Living in poverty2 Self-harm*2 BME backgrounds2 Parents with mental health issues2 NEET*2

11 Adversity packages Difficult lives, multiple disadvantage… Family problems? Or wider structures and systems: … it would be about when I were just turning fifteen. My Mum were with a really good mate of hers, a bloke, and I got touched by him, so and he got took to thingy and that when I were younger… To t’police and then nowt come of it (Jay Jay, M, 17) In the end I ended up running away and being homeless and they wouldn’t find me anywhere else to live because I was getting bullied this children’s home (Alicia, F, 16) When you’ve got money, like, everything seems to be fine, there’s, like, no stress to lead to family arguments or things like that (Hayley, F, 16)

12 Which young people are ‘vulnerable’? Vulnerable group or circumstancesNo. of informants ‘Sexually exploited’ young women*9 Parental abuse/neglect/poor parenting7 Drug and alcohol use*6 Homeless/poorly housed6 Offending behaviour/ getting ‘in trouble’*6 Parental drug/alcohol use5 Parental domestic violence5 Looked after children4 Not achieving at school4 Mental health issues4 Learning difficulties3 Gypsy and traveller young people3 Significant health problems3 Parents who offend3 Young carers3 English as second language3 Disabled young people2 Asylum seekers and refugees2 Those who run away*2 Living in poverty2 Self-harm*2 BME backgrounds2 Parents with mental health issues2 NEET*2

13 ‘Poor behaviour’ and vulnerability Jess (15): In 2009, I was abused by my Dad and that was when I got my social worker. They tried to get me a foster home, but because I didn’t want to stay there, my behaviour got bad. That’s when I was selling sex. Scott (18): I've got big scars on my arms and that where I've been attacked with knives and stuff because, I don't know, I've been in [housing estate] and I've been on my own and I’ve still looked for a fight. I don't know, I like being on the floor getting booted in the head sometimes Vulnerable young people often not ‘weak’, deferent, ‘innocent victims’ Link between behaviour and social and economic circumstances

14 ‘Poor behaviour’ and vulnerability... poor behaviour and vulnerability is absolutely the hardest thing to deal with. Without question. If you’re vulnerable and you’re compliant... you know… vulnerable and awkward is a totally different ball game. (Commissioner, City Council) Rarely recognised in policy? – YP imagined as ‘vulnerable victims’ or ‘dangerous wrong-doers’

15 Vulnerable when demonstrated… “Compliance” “engagement” “motivation for change” being forthcoming with details... if someone’s lived at home and they’re just being naughty and they keep going into prison, we wouldn’t say that’s vulnerability – that’s just them they’re not abiding by the rules and they just think it’s a joke and they think it’s a game… (Manager, Housing Service) Ideas about ‘vulnerability’ lead to exclusion of ‘most vulnerable’? How far do services “Cherry-pick the easy to engage”? (Social Care Manager) especially in times of limited resources and competition More about performance than circumstance?

16 … aggression sometimes from young, 15 or 16 [year old]... big lads coming in can sort of make you look at them differently. It shouldn’t do but it can. (Manager, Education Service) I don’t think I’ve ever heard of someone saying ‘he’s a vulnerable lad’ ever, but I’ve heard loads and loads of people say ‘oh, she’s a vulnerable girl’ and all this (Alicia) See also Cramer (2005) and Passaro (1996) - vulnerability, gender, housing How does gender fit?

17 Young people’s views of vulnerability Kate: What about if workers said that you were vulnerable? Charlie: I'd tell them to shut up. Kate: Why? Charlie: 'Cos I'm not vulnerable. They just chat a load of shit. […] I think I'm doing well for myself, and if [Social Worker] just said that I was vulnerable, then it'd make me feel like I'm doing loads of things I shouldn't be.

18 More about resistance Not all resistant, and not always, past and future was different Different views of situations, relative responses Tensions: family loyalty, acceptable behaviour, ‘nosiness’, clashes over independence

19 Chris (17) “Absolutely not vulnerable at all…” People have even more difficulties than me. This might not be such a big thing. I've seen other people have more difficulties even worser than these. Yeah it's difficult, but not difficult difficult, I’d say.

20 Wadren (17): … they were basically blaming my Mum so… which made me lose my temper. Jess (15): [Social Worker] helped by putting me in care, but she didn’t really help me ‘cos I’m not allowed to go out by myself ‘cos I put myself in too much risk. Brook (16): Basically, he [YOS Worker] wanted to know the ins and outs of a cat's arse. He wanted to know everything. Things that he didn't need to know, he just wanted to know.

21 Mismatched understandings Responded to the idea of a ‘difficult life’, but most YP were resistant to vulnerability classifications Raises questions… How far young people’s understandings subjugated? Legitimacy of classification systems used in practice and research? Further work needed on young people’s classifications/assessments?

22 Views on resilience Friends, family, informal networks – varied. Where limited family/friends, services very significant: Timeliness Trust/‘being taken seriously’ Short term interventions and struggles with transition Limitations of speaking interventions – action! What do factors have in common?

23 A mixed bag of conclusions More questions than answers… Some suggestions for further reflection: Adversity packages ‘Difficult’ behaviour and vulnerability Line between family and society Gender expectations and intervention patterns Austerity, outcome pressures and cherry picking? YP don’t see lives as ‘problematic’ in same way as professionals/policy-makers Legitimacy of services and interventions Specialism/multi-agency working – research/practice approach designed to suit adults? Relationship with workers Importance of time


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