Award for life-changing research with homeless young people

18 June 2015

Social innovation award
left to right: Andrew Evans, Geldards Law Firm; Dr Katherine Shelton, School of Psychology; Kate Hodgson, KTP Associate; Professor Marianne van den Bree, Institute of Psychological Medicine & Clinical Neurosciences; Sam Austin, Llamau.

Researchers who helped change the lives of homeless young people in Wales have won the prestigious 'Social Innovation Award' at Cardiff University's Innovation and Impact Awards 2015, sponsored by leading law firm Geldards and IP Group

The Cardiff University team were able to identify high levels of previously undiagnosed and emerging mental health issues amongst vulnerable young homeless people in Wales, which were having devastating impacts on their lives and their ability to live independently.  The study showed that 73% of those interviewed met the criteria for two or more current psychiatric disorders compared with 12.4% of the same age in the general population.  

Llamau, Wales' leading homelessness charity providing supported accommodation,  education and training to homeless young people and vulnerable women in Wales, teamed up with the University after learning of research conducted by Dr Katherine Shelton, School of Psychology and Professor Marianne Van den Bree, Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences.

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) grant was awarded by Innovate UK, Welsh Government and the Economic and Social Research Council to help support the three-year project, which created a unique opportunity to translate research into practice and enabled Llamau to improve their service provision for the most vulnerable young people in Wales.

Working in partnership, the researchers developed new screening techniques to help Llamau staff identify 'at risk' warning signs and deliver effective support services for young people.

KTP Associate Dr Kate Hodgson, who worked at the heart of Llamau and who managed the ground-breaking project, said: "The KTP offered me a unique experience: being able to conduct my PhD research whilst working closely with Llamau staff to embed the findings from the project across the organisation.

Professor van den Bree said, "We developed a tool to establish the mental health needs of these vulnerable young people. Our study was unique because we followed participants over three years, enabling us to establish how mental health problems and risk of self-harm changed over time.

Dr Hodgson added, "We worked closely with Llamau staff to ensure our findings were translated across the organisation."

Dr Katherine Shelton said, "We are delighted that our work has been recognised by this award. Working with Llamau enabled us to translate our research findings into organisational change and has made a positive difference to the work of the charity."

Sam Austin, Operational Director & Deputy Chief Executive at Llamau, said: "The Award for Social Innovation is really well deserved by all the researchers involved.  Working with Cardiff University's researchers has helped us develop new ways of working which are resulting in real changes to the lives of the very vulnerable young people we work with.  We are delighted to have been able to build such a strong and positive working relationship with the School of Psychology and Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences, and we are planning ways to continue to work together in future."

Cardiff's involvement has helped Llamau improve their assessment and monitoring procedures, develop better staff training, and has underscored the importance of focusing on the mental health challenges that young people face in order to help them gain the skills to live independently and reach their potential.

The award was presented to Dr Katherine Shelton (School of Psychology), Professor Marianne van den Bree (Institute of Psychological Medicine & Clinical Neurosciences), Sam Austin (Llamau) and Kate Hodgson (KTP Associate) by Andrew Evans, Partner, Geldards Law Firm.