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 Samantha Fitz-Symonds

Samantha Fitz-Symonds

Research student,


I am a research assistant working in the Children's Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE) at Cardiff University (School of Social Science). I am currently working on a HCRW-funded evaluation of parental advocacy services in Wales and on a study exploring the implementation of child sexual exploitation guidance in Wales.

I am also completing my PhD part-time (ESRC funded) in the School of Law and Politics and work as a tutor on the LLB Family Law module. For my PhD, I am exploring themes surrounding agency of opportunity for care-experienced young people in relation to access to higher education. As part of this, I am comparing legal and policy models in Wales and Norway. My research interests more broadly relate to care-leavers' experiences of transition from care to independence and experiences within children's social care.


Research interests

I am interested in the role of law and policy within children's social care. As a socio-legal researcher, I am particularly interested in the interaction between law and lived experience. My doctoral research focuses on how care-experienced individuals experience and exercise agency in accessing higher education and employment and how legal and policy models influence this. For my PhD, I am comparing Welsh and Norwegian legislation, policy and practice in relation to the transition from care to independence. I am also interested in other experiences of children's social care, including peer parental advocacy, children's advocacy, participation and decision-making and CSE as part of my work with CASCADE.

Current Projects:

  • An exploration of policy models around leaving care in Wales and Norway (Doctoral research).

  • Evaluation of parental advocacy services in four local authorities in Wales.

  • An evaluation of the implementation of CSE guidance in Wales.

Previous Projects:

  • A realist evaluation of peer parental advocacy services in Camden Local Authority.

  • Evaluation of Resolve West Early Intervention project.

  • An exploration of local government responses to digital inclusion for care leavers during the pandemic (Masters dissertation)

  • Evaluation of FDAC outcomes in Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire.

  • A comprehensive review of literature on vulnerable suspects and defendants in the UK and US (CUROP).

Written Outputs

  • Diaz, C., Fitz-Symonds, S., Evans, L., Westlake, D., Devine, R., Mauri, D., & Davies, B. (2022). The Perceived Impact of Peer Parental Advocacy on Child Protection Practice: A Mixed-Methods Study. What Works for Children's Social Care 

  • Diaz, C. & Fitz-Symonds, S. (2022) Evaluation of the Resolve West Take 5 Early Intervention Project: Final Report. Project Report. Cardiff University.

  • Fitz-Symonds, S. (2021) Leaving Care in a Pandemic: The Impact of Policy and Practice on Digital Exclusion and Social Capital During Covid-19. SSRM MSc Dissertation.

  • Fitz-Symonds, S. (2021) FDAC Outcomes in Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire: Final Report. Project Report.

  • Fitz-Symonds, S. (2020) An Exploration of Why Care-Leavers Choose Not to Access Higher Education. LLM Dissertation.

Conference Papers:

  • Cardiff Law School PGR Symposium (2022). Paper Presentation: ‘Agency of opportunity and care leaver transitions: A comparison of Welsh and Norwegian models of practice’.

  • Cardiff University Breaking Boundaries Conference (2022). Poster Presentation: ‘A comparison of care leaver outcomes in Wales and Norway’.

  • Annual Childlife Conference – Oslo Metropolitan University (2022). Paper Presentation: ‘Leaving state care in a pandemic: The impact of policy and practice on digital exclusion and social capital during Covid-19’.

  • Kempe Conference (2022). Paper Presentation: ‘Peer Parental Advocacy: Implementation and Impact (co-presented with Dr Clive Diaz); Panel Discussion: ‘The voice and leadership of young people in child protection'. Paper Presentation: ‘Leaving care in a pandemic: The impact of policy and practice on digital exclusion in the UK’.


  • LLB Family Law (2022-2023)

  • LLB Contract Law (2021-2022)


Towards Agency of Opportunity for Young People Leaving Care: A Comparison of Welsh and Norwegian Models of Practice

Drawing a comparison between social care and welfare provisions in Wales and Norway, this study will investigate the extent to which legal and policy structures influence access to higher education and secure employment for young people transitioning from state care.

Despite extensive policy and legislative change in the UK, significant barriers remain for care-experienced young people transitioning to adulthood. Concerns have been consistently raised over the varying quality of leaving care services and variation in frameworks across the devolved nations, resulting in a clear disparity in outcomes between care-leavers and their peers in the general population. Although, national coordination of services and a basic level of support for all young people is a staple of the Scandinavian welfare model which places a heavy reliance on a universal strategy benefiting all citizens regardless of care status, recent statistics suggest that this still does not enable equality in accessing opportunities for care leavers. This research project will explore similarities between care leaver outcomes between these nations, despite the operation of vastly different welfare models.

Research Questions:
1. What service provision is available, in theory and practice, in Wales and Norway for young people transitioning from state care?
2. To what extent are care-leaver choices constrained or enabled by social structures regulating the leaving care process in both countries?
3. How does care leaver locality impact decisions and access to opportunities, and how does this correlate to access to education and employment?
4. How do care-leaver and practitioner perceptions of the care-leaving process differ between Wales and Norway?

Funding source

Economic and Social Research Council


Julie Doughty

Dr Julie Doughty

Senior Lecturer in Law


Dr Hannah Bayfield

Research Associate, CASCADE