Examining the Role of Lived Experience Consultants in an Australian Research Study on the Educational Experiences of Children and Young People in Out-of-Home Care

Philip Mendes, Jade Purtell, Sarah Morris, Emily Berger, Susan Baidawi, Levita D’Souza, Jenna Bollinger, Natasha Anderson, Geordie Armstrong


Children and young people’s access to and engagement in education is a key determinant of future positive outcomes. Children and young people in out-of-home care disproportionally experience educational disruptions and disengagements affecting their ability to participate in schooling, further and higher education. There is increasing international interest in the participation of young people with lived experience of out-of-home (OOHC) in research projects.

This paper presents the findings of a study in the Australian state of Victoria where a group of lived experience consultants (LECs) were employed to consult on the results of a broader survey of the attitudes of professionals, carers and care leavers regarding the educational experiences of children in OOHC. Two meetings were held with the LECs, one to gain their views on the survey findings, and secondly, to reflect on their experiences working on the project.

The findings suggest that formalizing the engagement of lived experience voices in research, inherently a qualitative approach, promotes a more informed representation of the challenges faced by children and young people within OOHC. In this case, engaging young adults with lived experience helped identify key barriers to effective educational participation that the project design may otherwise have overlooked. They also identified key strategies for improving LEC engagement such as involving them in developing key research aims and questions, and enabling the provision of a ‘safe space’ for them to participate. This new approach promotes co-design at multiple levels, providing opportunities for a meaningful collaborative approach to research.

Qualitative Social Work