Challenges to undertaking randomised trials with looked after children in social care settings

Gill Mezey, Fiona Robinson, Rona Campbell, Steve Gillard, Geraldine M Macdonald, Deborah Meyer, Chris Bonell, Sarah White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
242 Downloads (Pure)


Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are widely viewed as the gold standard for assessing effectiveness in health research; however many researchers and practitioners believe that RCTs are inappropriate and un-doable in social care settings, particularly in relation to looked after children. The aim of this article is to describe the challenges faced in conducting a pilot study and phase II RCT of a peer mentoring intervention to reduce teenage pregnancy in looked after children in a social care setting.

Interviews were undertaken with social care professionals and looked after children, and a survey conducted with looked after children, to establish the feasibility and acceptability of the intervention and research design.

Barriers to recruitment and in managing the intervention were identified, including social workers acting as informal gatekeepers; social workers concerns and misconceptions about the recruitment criteria and the need for and purpose of randomisation; resource limitations, which made it difficult to prioritise research over other demands on their time and difficulties in engaging and retaining looked after children in the study.

The relative absence of a research infrastructure and culture in social care and the lack of research support funding available for social care agencies, compared to health organisations, has implications for increasing evidence-based practice in social care settings, particularly in this very vulnerable group of young people.
Original languageEnglish
Article number206
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2015

Structured keywords

  • DECIPHer


  • Trials
  • Local authorities
  • Looked after children


Dive into the research topics of 'Challenges to undertaking randomised trials with looked after children in social care settings'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this