Off the shelf, on the agenda

By Matt van Poortvliet 10 March 2010

In my darker moments, I sometimes think: what is the point of research? All these reports that sit on shelves gathering dust…who reads them? What happens to them? What difference do they actually make?

At such times of crisis it is important to have articles of faith. For me, one of these is NPC’s research on disabled children, Ordinary lives. This report highlighted the need for short break services for disabled children and led to concrete change and additional funding for the sector. It prompted one foundation, The True Colours Trust, to fund a campaign that put the issue on the agenda and resulted in an extra £430m from government for services for disabled children and their families.

There is currently an appetite for change in the youth justice sector. Charities and funders can use research to ensure that they are focussing on areas where they can have the biggest impact. In our recent report on young offenders, Trial and error, we highlight a number of gaps where voluntary funding can help to tackle youth crime, including:

• work to support the children of prisoners (two thirds of whom go on to offend themselves);
• mentoring and advocacy for children at risk of offending; and
• research to build the evidence base into what works (eg, a cost-benefit analysis of alternatives to custody).