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Invitation to tender: Young People participation pathway feasibility pilot evaluation

A process evaluation of a feasibility pilot delivering a new Young People Participation Pathway enabling 12-18 year olds in public law care proceedings to participate through regular discussions with the judge.

This ITT outlines our requirements for an organisation to conduct a process evaluation of an initial small-scale feasibility pilot being set up in two Local Family Justice Board areas involving a number of Local Authorities across the North East and North West of England.

The Greater Manchester Family Justice Board and the Cleveland and South Durham Local Family Justice Board along with the designated Family Lead Judges for those areas are supporting this pilot.  

  1. Background to the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory  

The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory (NFJO) was set up by the Nuffield Foundation to find and fill the gaps in understanding about the family justice system, highlight the areas where change will have the biggest impact and foster collaboration to make that change happen. A bridge between the academic community and frontline practitioners, the Nuffield FJO is an independent and resolutely focused on improving outcomes for children and families by improving the use of data and research evidence in decision-making.  

  1. The Young People Participation Pathway Pilot background and purpose  

Why is the pathway necessary?  

The number of older children (aged 10-17) subject to care proceedings increased by 95% between 2011-12 and 2019-20. Research with care experienced young people has identified that they find the court system unclear and confusing, with limited opportunities to participate. Young people have reported that the court system feels like something ‘done to’ them rather than ‘worked with’ them. 

There are currently challenges in fulfilling the Article 12 rights of many young people, where they cannot always directly communicate their views, wishes and understanding to the person who makes the decisions – the Judge. 

What is the Young People Participation pathway? 

The pathway has two key components.  

  1. A deliberate and planned intervention focused on the court offering a series of 3-6 planned engagements between young person, the judge, their social worker and their Cafcass guardian (if available) and a support person agreed with the young person (if desired). These meetings are expected to take place throughout the course of proceedings without the presence of lawyers, focusing on encouraging the young person’s participation in the court process and other decision-making forums they are involved in.  
  2. A participation framework delivered through the MY Plan agreement. Here a young person is supported by their social worker to identify achievable goals and issues they would like addressed and changed for their own lives. These are goals connected to the everyday barriers young people say they face and are aimed at encouraging their capability to tackle and overcome these through the meetings with the judge, social worker, Cafcass Guardian (if available) and support person (if desired).  

This pathway is built on a previous project that ran in Coventry and Warwickshire for three years from 2017-2020. 52 young people completed a version of that pathway over the three year period. 

Who is eligible to participate?  

The eligibility criteria for young people to enter the pathway will be: 

Where are the pilot sites? 

The participating Local Authorities in the North West include Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside and Trafford. The North East includes Durham County Council, Darlington, Hartlepool, Stockton, Middlesbrough and Redcar. 

Implementation of the pilots 

While the core components of the pathway are as described above, specific implementation is likely to vary across the local authority sites, as teams make the pathway fit within their wider practice models. There will be one key person in each region to act as the point of contact for the evaluator/s. 

The local authorities and courts who have signed up to run the pilot are aiming to formally start the pathway in Easter 2024 for a duration of 1 year. We expect 30-50 young people in total to participate in the pilot. 

Our strategic goal for the Young People Participation Pathway pilot is to identify feasible ways to improve participation of children and young people in the family justice system – that will be relevant and replicable beyond the pilot areas, across England and Wales. 

  1. Focus and scope of the evaluation 

We are looking for an evaluation team to work with the participating local authorities to evaluate the process of setting up and delivering the Adolescent Participation Pathway pilot in their areas.  

The key elements of the pilot and expected outcomes for young people, judges, social workers and Cafcass Guardians who participate are outlined in the appendix  – see ‘Pathway on a Page.’ 

We would expect the research team appointed to work with the local authorities running the pilots to maximise the useability and impact of the research and minimise the burden on the young people and professionals involved. This would include sharing insights as the research develops. The evaluators will engage with one point of contact in each region, who can share information to all the participating local authorities in that region. 

We are interested in a process evaluation, though any initial commentary about which outcomes could be captured and suggestions for measuring impact would also be welcome. 

Staff at Nuffield FJO will be available to provide support to the evaluators e.g.  if help is required liaising with local authority teams and sharing our knowledge about the previous project in Coventry and Warwickshire. 

If the pilot is successful, there is appetite in the sector to expand the numbers going through the pathway and the areas in which the pathway operates. We expect this evaluation to produce findings that Nuffield FJO can share across England and Wales.  

The closing date for applications is 5pm on Friday, March 22nd, 2024

If you have any questions, please email with the subject: YPPP feasibility evaluation

To learn more about this ITT, please download the PDF below: