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Fact Files

Offender literacy

A study focused on basic skills and crime in 2 sample groups born in 1970 and 1958 identified an initial striking finding. A massive increase was reported in police contact and offending in the younger group, especially young men. 25% from the 1970 group had been arrested compared with 5% from the 1958 group.

RM message: With research you should be prepared for the unexpected!

A significant association between repeat offending and poor literacy or number skills was identified. This is backed up by the Basic Skills Agency’s figures for 2002. Tests on new prisoners showed 48% had difficulty with reading and 65% with number work.

Source: Basic Skills & Crime , Samantha Parsons, Centre for Longitudinal Studies, Institute of Education, 2002

RM message: social work and social care needs to draw on research from a wide range of disciplines

Substance abuse and young offenders

A study of 293 young people involved with Youth Offending Teams in England and Wales identified the members as having committed multiple repeat offences

  • Amongst the group substance abuse was very high. Over 85% had used cannabis, alcohol and tobacco. Less than 20% had used heroin or crack cocaine (although the figure is much higher than in the general population)
  • There was a greater association between alcohol, tobacco and cannabis use and offending than other drugs
  • Key factors associated with both substance abuse and offending include, disliking and being excluded from school, lack of positive coping mechanisms and expecting to get into trouble again

Source: Substance abuse amongst young offenders, Richard Hammersley, Louise Marsland and Marie Reid, Home Office, 2003,

Social exclusion and the onset of disability

Little is understood about the process of becoming disabled: who is most at risk, how it affects their income, and the impact on the rest of the family. This study, by London School of Economics that aimed to, understand better the relationship between the onset of disability and social exclusion for people of working age found that:

  • The majority of disabled people experience the onset of their health problem or impairment during adulthood.
  • People in the poorest fifth of the income distribution are two-and-a-half times more likely to become disabled during any year than those in the top fifth. Other indicators of disadvantage, for example educational qualifications or occupational group. The risk of onset.
  • The average fall in income associated with becoming disabled is less than might be expected, because many are already on a low income. For people not initially in employment, greater benefit entitlement can result in a small overall increase in income.
  • Someone becoming disabled also affects other members of the household. In single-earner couples, even where it is not the earner who becomes disabled, one in five leaves employment. In some cases this is to take on new caring responsibilities.
  • The researcher concludes that three policy areas could be enhanced: the health inequalities agenda, to reduce the risk of becoming disabled among the worst off; job retention schemes, to reduce the risk of leaving employment among those who become disabled; and benefits for carers, to give greater recognition to the contribution made by them.

Source: Being and becoming: social exclusion and the onset of disability, by Tania Burchardt, is published as CASE report 21. London School of Economics, accessed from Joseph Rowntree Foundation website 11/03

Children and domestic violence

Over 50% of children from backgrounds of domestic violence have behavioural problems (such as aggression, undercontrolled or overcontrolled behaviour, or antisocial behaviour) which reach clinical levels or require some form of intervention.

The aim of the study was to assess the psychological adjustment of children previously exposed to demestic violence by examining the behavioural problems, social competence, reponses to conflict, anxiety levels, and reading skills of these children. The sample consisted of 79 children, aged 6 to 12 years, all of whom had recently resided with their mothers at one of ten women's shelters. 22 children from this sample were compared with 22 control group children, matched for age, sex, socioeconomic status and reading age, but who had no history of domestic violence. This study was conducted in Australia.

Source: The Psychological Functioning of Children from Backgrounds of Domestic Violence by Mathias et al, The Australian Psychologist, 1995, Vol. 30, No. 1, pp. 47-56.

Reproduced from Child Care Information System (v2.1) from Institute of Public Care

Monitoring poverty and social exclusion 2002

The New Policy Institute with support from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation produces annual reports of indicators of poverty and social exclusion. The data is the most comprehensive and up-to-date available. Here are some key indicators from the 2002 report:


  • The most commonly used threshold of low income is 60% of median income. In 2001/02, before deducting housing costs, this equated to £187 per week for a couple with no children, £114 for a single person, £273 for a couple with two children and £200 for a lone parent with two children.
  • In 2001/02, 12½ million people were living on incomes below this income threshold. This represents a drop of 1½ million since 1996/97.
  • The numbers of people on relative low incomes remained broadly unchanged during the 1990s after having doubled in the 1980s.

Child poverty

  • The number of children living in households below 60% of median income was 3.8 million in 2001/02. This represents a drop of 0.6 million since 1996/97.
  • Children are one and a third times more likely to live in a low income household than adults.
  • 2 million children live in workless households.

Ethnic minorities

  • People of Black Caribbean, Bangladeshi and African ethnicity are twice as likely to be out of work and wanting work compared with white people.
  • Although the rate of permanent exclusions for black pupils fell by a fifth between 1998/99 and 1999/00, they were still four times more likely to be excluded than Whites.
  • Black young adults are seven times as likely as white young adults to be in prison.
  • Asians are three times more likely to report that their quality of life is greatly affected by the fear of crime than people on average.

Older people

  • In 1999/00, 1¼ million pensioners had no income other than the state pension, unchanged since at least 1994/95.
  • The proportion of elderly people aged 75 and over who receive support from social services to help them live at home is now two thirds of what it was at the peak in 1994. County councils and unitary authorities appear to support far fewer households than either urban or Welsh authorities
  • A quarter of men and three fifths of women aged 60 and over feel unsafe going out at night, unchanged from a decade ago.

Source: New Policy Institute with support from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Inequalities in Mental Health: A Systematic Review,
2003, Dr. David Melzer, Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge

  • Common mental disorders (including depression, anxiety and certain other psychiatric syndromes) are linked to markers of lower social position.
  • The excess of common mental disorders is NOT well described by occupational social class in the general population. More specific relevant social position markers include unemployment or economic inactivity, poorer material circumstances and less education.
  • The large contribution of the common disorders to morbidity and disability in working age adults justifies priority being given to addressing mental health inequalities within social and economic policy.
  • There is evidence that common mental disorders are at least as prevalent in ethnic minorities as in the general population, and in some cases may be more prevalent. However, the dramatic differences in prevalence reported from clinical settings for some groups and disorders are not evident in population surveys for the common disorders. Research up to now has been insufficient and inadequate to provide unequivocal guidelines for policy, but the additional problems of ethnic minorities need to be specifically addressed in programmes to identify and treat common mental disorders at all levels.

Source: Was on DH website, referred to on DH - Research on Inequalities in Health

How to carry out research with people with learning difficulties

A report was commissioned in response to the Government White Paper “Valuing
People”, which showed the need for research among people with learning difficulties.

The research aimed to find out what life is like for people with learning difficulties, and what they want. It is a good example of a piece of research was a partnership between a university and a user-led organisation. The report is presented in plain English and discusses an important subject – researching how to do research with a particular group of people

People with learning disabilities were involved at all stages of the research.

The study found out that the way to start to ask the questions is:

  • Spend a day training the people who are going to ask the questions. People with learning difficulties will run some of the training.
  • Send a letter to all of the people you want to talk to. This will be written in a way that is easy to understand.
  • Before you visit to ask the questions, first check people understand what you are trying to do and find out if they are happy to take part.
  • You need to find out if they want someone to be with them and if they are happy for someone to help them answer some of the questions.
  • It is important for the people asking the questions to remember some key points:

    o Unless the person with learning difficulties cannot talk at all, ask THEM the questions and NOT the support person.
    o Let the support person help to explain things, and help answer the
    o questions sometimes, but don’t let them take over
    o Remember there are some things people do not want to say when a support person is there
    o Explain clearly what the questions mean – use the picture cards to help, and try asking the question in a different way if needed.
    o Allow plenty of time for each question – make sure the question has been understood.

Source: Learning Difficulties Research - Report on finding out the best way for the Department of Health to do the research, Eric Emerson, Institute for Central Health Research England, Lancaster University and Central England People First, 2003. See also Major survey of people with learning difficulties: final report to be published July 2005.

Child abuse and maternal depression

Child physical, sexual or emotional abuse is significantly more likely to be present in families with depressed mothers than in families where mothers are not depressed.

The aim of the study was to determine whether there is an association between child abuse and maternal depression. The sample consisted of 116 mothers of children currently on social workers' caseloads. These mothers were interviewed and assessed for levels of depression. Case records were examined for the existence of actual or suspected abuse and neglect, using agency-based criteria. This study was conducted in the UK.

Source: Double Jeopardy: the link between child abuse and maternal depression in child and family social work by Sheppard in Child and Family Social Work (1997) Vol 2, pp 91-107.

Reproduced from Child Care Information System (v2.1) from Institute of Public Care

Domestic violence

Evaluation of a 52-week domestic violence court-mandated U.S. intervention programme
Data from in-depth interviews that was part of a larger research study identified the most helpful in domestic violence intervention were primarily relational ones, such as group support and therapist/facilitator alliances, and secondarily, specific strategies of handling anger and other emotions, and interpersonal communication.

Source: Rosenberg, M. (2003) Voices from the group: domestic violence offenders' experience of intervention, Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma, 7(1/2), pp.305-317.

  • A study exploring the needs and problems of the diverse communities of older people in Slough in relation to information, advice and advocacy found that older people
  • valued information that was topic-based, rather than the agency-based information that was more frequently offered.
  • had diverse approaches to obtaining information. Different modes and styles of information suited people at different times and in relation to different topics
  • desired continuity of contact, to avoid having to retell their story to new people
  • were not familiar with the concept of advocacy
  • preferred solutions that included: an information bank to provide a comprehensive and updated source of information, and an information centre to provide a point of contact for older people

Source: Older people’s perspectives: Devising information, advice and advocacy services, Ann Quinn, Angela Snowling and Pam Denicolo, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2003


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