Literature reviews

On money advice for young people – for MaPS – 2021

This literature review for the Money and Pensions Service seeks to build insight and understanding of a young person’s journey when seeking help or support around financial matters. The review will build on existing knowledge around how and why young people seek such help; what channels, sources and modes of information prove more or less effective; and the evidence around the impact from any advice secured.

On volunteer support for families – for the NSPCC – 2020

The UK has a substantial history of volunteering, including providing support to vulnerable families, for example through Homestart and Family Action. This literature review commissioned by the NSPCC, and conducted with Dr Louca-Mai Brady, aimed to find out how volunteers are deployed and why, and explore the available evidence around their effectiveness. In other words, what difference do they make for families or to services? We explored the evidence on relevant processes and outcomes and found that volunteers fulfil a range of roles, often bridging the divide between health or social care professionals and families; and are mostly motivated by a desire to ‘give back’ to the community, especially if they previously used the service in question. The role of the volunteer coordinator is critical: they need to be highly experienced and astute in recruiting, training and matching volunteers and families; ensuring consistency, safety and quality; and plugging gaps where needed, for example if a volunteer is ill or has to stop. Families often related more easily to volunteers but that is not a given. Consistency, knowledge, trust and availability were found to be very important, regardless of the role. Read the full report here or listen to our podcast here.

On ‘early help’ for Action for Children – 2020

This rapid literature review explored the evidence around early help, and gaps in same, and its reported merits. ‘Early intervention’ and ‘early help’ are common terms, and commonly used  interchangeably and/or conflated with ‘early years’ and are often poorly defined. Early help is seen as a means to address inequalities and negative outcomes for children and young people and prevent issues escalating, e.g. becoming child protection. However, although once top of the policy agenda (eg Every Child Matters, 2003; Munro, 2011; Allen, 2011; Marmoth, 2010 and 2020 ), especially as a means to address inequalities and negative outcomes for children and young people, lately this issue has been demoted politically and is further challenged by austerity cuts to local authority budgets whihc impact on prenventative measures. This review also illustrated the challenges in evidencing outcomes and impact in this field.

On the disproportionate exclusion from school of certain groups of children and young people – for the DfE – 2019

I led a literature review to examine the drivers behind the continuous disproportionate exclusion from English schools of certain groups of pupils, not least Black Caribbean boys, GRT children and young people, pupils with special needs and those on free school meals. Our literature review formed part of the wider-reaching review by Edward Timpson CBE. Follow the links to read the literature review report, and technical data and tables behind the Timpson review, and the Government’s response.

Other literature reviews

Over recent years, I conducted a literature review on the ‘home learning environment‘ for Action for Children to inform their policy strategy and priorities; and conducted a joint literature review with Research in Practice and the Council for Disabled Children on peer support for parents of disabled children.

My research and evaluation projects often involve a rapid literature review to set the scene and ensure we build on, rather than duplicate, existing knowledge.