Practitioner and young people engagement

Once you have come to the end of your strategic document review and observations you will want to think about engagement with practitioners and young people. Who you speak to will depend upon your steering group and what you are looking to find out. Focus groups will allow you to delve deeper into issues raised in the audit to date and understand how people in the area feel about safety. We recommend separate focus groups with two groups:

  1. Practitioners. Depending on what is agreed by your steering group there are several options of who could form this focus group. You might want a group of practitioners from different agencies: health, education, police, social care etc. You may also want to speak to people who may not be familiar with the issues or those working directly on peer-on-peer abuse.
  2. Young People. It’s important to think about the dynamics of the group. We suggest forming a focus group of young people who already know each other and are comfortable with each other. You may want to speak with young people who are known to a particular service or who already have a role in the area. It’s important to carefully think about the dynamics of the group and ethics of speaking with them.

Focus groups are a great way to understand what is happening in your area on the ground and to check that what is being said at strategic level is happening in reality. The quotes below are from our engagement with practitioners and young people since 2013.  They help demonstrate how focus groups reveal important strengths and weaknesses in local responses to peer-on-peer abuse:

Close Children's Social Care

“I don't have a response for the cases that come to me where there are life or limb gang issues or street violence stuff but there are no concerns about parenting.  From a children’s social care point of view, our bread and butter is bad parents, let’s be honest.  It’s parents who don't know what they're doing, aren’t coping, not able to manage their children. […] for children’s social care, there are no processes in place where parenting is not the issue.  So if the gang violence, sexual exploitation for instance is the main issue, then it’s very difficult to put a process in place.” (Practitioner)

Close MASE

“I sit on MASE but for me if I hadn't been there then I wouldn't have known half of the information about different addresses of people, locations that we may need to be aware of or they may want to glean more information on. Because the one thing we don’t have we don’t have systems that talk to each other properly […] I just want to make sure we don’t lose that, because to me MASE has been really, really good.”  (Practitioner)

Close Safety in schools

“I don't feel safe because in our school you can buzz in, it doesn't matter who you are, they will still let you in.  So I don't feel safe in my school because say if someone has a gun or whatever, they can buzz in the school and they will still let them in.  So I don't feel safe.” (Young person)

Close Youth clubs

“I wondered if there is anything you think is important to say that you’d like them [members of the local authority] to hear?

“I’d say to them, make the youth club open every day, because it keeps you… lets you do something that you  want to do, you're just going to stay home, just watch TV, it actually makes you work in that kind of way.” (Young person)

However, before starting it’s important to think about the ethics and practicalities of carrying out a focus group. It is essential that the right person facilitates the focus group and that they have a good understanding of the complexities and ethics of doing them. This is particularly relevant when carrying out focus groups with young people where you need to think about who you are bringing together, what you will discuss and what the impact might be on them. In your second steering group meeting you will have talked about who you want to speak with, but before you organise these it’s important that you understand the ethics of carrying out focus groups.  

When you bring people together it can often be difficult to determine how a conversation will go and what will be discussed. Topics that may appear neutral may in fact be upsetting or triggering for some. It is therefore essential that you have people who are prepared and understand group dynamics. Many of these issues may be common sense for some but it is always helpful to have some tips and tricks when dealing with complicated issues.

Before proceeding please listen to the following audio conversation about the ethics of doing focus groups with young people. You will also find documents that will help you set up the groups.

Preparing for focus groups with young people

This podcast outlines key steps and considerations for practitioners preparing to carry out focus groups with young people.

Focus group documents

These resources support practitioners to carry out focus groups. This could be as part of a Contextual Safeguarding audit or a contextual assessment.

Focus Group Information Sheet


Focus Group Consent Form


Focus Group Questions For Young People


Focus Groups Things To Think About