List of 2016 conferences where the MPLC study will be presented

The study is being showcased at several conferences and events this year. The following is a list of presentations about the study for 2016 (both past and upcoming!).

April 2016

American Association of Geographers, San Francisco, USA

Using qualitative secondary analysis to explore gendered and generational relationships in families in low-income localities in the UK

Abstract

In recent years, the possibilities and pitfalls of qualitative secondary analysis (QSA) have been the subject of intense critical debate, particularly in British sociology, but less so in social geography. Such debate is linked to the growing availability of qualitative data in digital archives, increasingly accessible to social researchers of all academic disciplines. In this presentation I will take the position that the re-use of qualitative data collected by other researchers might usefully be re-analysed for the purposes of geographical enquiry. Archived qualitative data sets open up possibilities for developing new social explanation, and asking pertinent methodological questions and therefore have great potential for developing geographical knowledge and understanding. I support this argument through a critical consideration of how the secondary analysis of linked qualitative longitudinal datasets has been utilised to explore processes of change and continuity in the lives of low-income families in a northern city of England. The analysis revealed the importance of processes of gender, generation and social exclusion in shaping peoples experiences of place, family and intergenerational relationships. I conclude that qualitative secondary analysis might be useful methodological tool for social geographers to explore further and that has the capacity to extend analyses of place that are sensitive to the processes and complexities of intergenerational (in)justice and gender inequalities as they are lived out locally in a global, neoliberal context.

May 2016

10th May Masculinities, roles and transitions: exploring diversity and well-being in the unfolding of men’s lives (FSHI funded), University of Leeds

Intergenerational inequalities and qualitative secondary analysis: The role of third sector support in the transitions to fatherhood and grandfatherhood in low-income families.

June 2016

Friday 3rd June – Father figures, Open University / Family Matters Institute

Men’s care responsibilities as kinship carers in low-income families: some preliminary findings

13th 15th June CRFR International Conference – Unequal Families and Relationships, University of Edinburgh

Using qualitative secondary analysis to explore men’s responsibilities and care trajectories in low-income localities; methodological and substantive considerations

Abstract

This paper addresses the methodological and substantive outcomes of a qualitative secondary analysis (QSA) conducted on two qualitative longitudinal datasets from the Timescapes archive; Following Young Fathers and Intergenerational Exchange. The analysis was conducted to develop new empirical research that will shed light on men’s experiences of living in low-income families. Qualitative secondary analysis, particularly that is conducted by a secondary analyst with no prior involvement in the original context of data production, is a relatively uncharted methodological territory raising a number of ethical and practical challenges. These challenges are further exacerbated when analyzing across two datasets. I explore some of the challenges I encountered and explain they were worked out and argue that, despite them, it has been possible to understand some of the mechanisms that influence the extent to which men are able or unable to fulfill their care responsibilities in low-income localities as their lives unfold. Using examples of analysis of the data, I will argue that we can hypothesise that financial insecurity, a gendered division of labour and relationship breakdown are key causal mechanisms that influence the extent to which men can fulfill their responsibilities over time but that we require additional empirical research with men to test and make such claims and to develop valid and reliable public theories.

July 2016

Tuesday 8th NCRM 7th ESRC Research Methods Festival, University of Bath

Invited talk: Getting out of the swamp: a strategy for working across qualitative longitudinal data sets to develop research design

September 2016

1st 2nd, Ethics and Social Welfare in hard times: 10th Anniversary Conference, Friends House, London

Achieving gender equality in care for men during a period austerity?

Abstract

Despite a convergence of poverty rates between men and women since the imposition of austerity measures, the female face of poverty means that men’s situations and their vulnerabilities to becoming impoverished are sidelined (Dermott and Pantazis, 2014), resulting in a limited evidence base about men’s poverty and experiences of living on a low-income. The relative invisibility of men’s poverty has been attributed to issues with poverty analysis more generally, which has captured single adult or female headed households as the main unit of analysis (Bennett and Daly, 2014). More complicated arrangements, such as multiple adult and couple households, remain under-explored (Dermott and Pantazis, 2014) and gender inequalities are not always identified as explanations for creating risks of poverty. Focusing on the household as a unit of analysis can be insightful, but people tend to live in families and to focus on the function of the household is to under-privilege the relational, ontological and social factors that are implicated in poverty processes (Daly and Kelly, 2015) and wider interdependencies that extend across households. Continuities in the gendering of care also result in a limited understanding of men’s role as carers in these contexts.

This paper reports on qualitative longitudinal empirical evidence that is currently being generated from a Leverhulme Trust funded study called, Men, Poverty and Lifetimes of Care, that seeks to address this omission in the existing evidence through an examination of men’s care responsibilities in low-income families over time and across the life course. Such evidence has the potential to inform research and policy and to make visible the experiences of men with care responsibilities and the processes that enable or constrain them. Understanding these processes is essential for the purposes of social justice and for supporting action to influence and encourage gender equality for men providing care in a wider societal context, characterized by an ethic of work.

 

Recent funding success – Extending impact from the Following Young Fathers study

The Leeds Social Sciences Institute (LSSI) recently awarded PI for this study, Anna Tarrant, some funding to extend the impact of the findings from the Following Young Fathers study, that she has become affiliated with via this research. The project that has been funded is called ‘Responding to fathers in a different way’ and aims to develop policy and practice in relation to work with young and teenage fathers. The project will run between May 2016 and May 2017 and involves working in partnership with professionals working for the Young Dads Council, Leeds City Council and Oakhill STC. By the end of the project we hope to have: piloted the development of a Young Dads Council in Leeds; gained an understanding of how young offender fathers experience transitions back to the community following imprisonment; extended the network that was established during the Following Young Fathers research; and produced a training module for professionals that work with young fathers. We also plan to speak at the APPG on Fatherhood when we have some findings to share. Bren Neale and Carmen Lau-Clayton, the project directors, are also consulting closely on the project.

The award has also been announced in the recent LSSI Newsletter here. Please do get in touch for further information or if you are interested in becoming a member of the network.

My guest blog post for the ‘Working across QL studies’ website

A new post about the MPLC study has been featured on the website for a new research project led by Dr Susie Weller and Dr Emma Davidson called, ‘Working across qualitative longitudinal studies: a feasibility study looking at care and intimacy’. The site has just been launched and looks really fascinating, with great potential as a resource for anyone thinking about re-using and scaling up existing archived qualitative longitudinal (QL) data.

Like me, Susie and Emma are exploring questions about the feasibility of re-using qualitative longitudinal data from the ESRC Timescapes Archive. In contrast to this study, Susie and Emma are exploring new procedures for working with and across multiple (i.e. more than two) sets of qualitative longitudinal data from the archive, focusing on the substantive topic of care and intimacy. This study is much smaller in scale and has involved working with just Intergenerational Exchange and Following Young Fathers data – a significant task in itself! Prior to writing the blog post for them, we all met in Leeds to discuss our current work and to think about the key questions that the secondary analysis of QL data has already begun to raise for us. As they highlight in the introduction to my post:  “How should we define a case? How does our epistemological positioning shape our approach to QL data analysis? Should qualitative secondary data analysts forge relationships with the primary researchers? How can we keep a strong purchase on time and temporality when looking across different projects? And can software help us?”

I expect to reflect on some of these issues further as my work progresses. We will also have the opportunity to reflect on these questions at the NCRM Research Festival 2016 in July where I will be presenting about my study alongside Susie and Emma. Booking for this event is now open so please do come along if this is of interest.

‘Getting out of the swamp’: Presentation now available

In November, I presented some of the findings from the secondary analysis I have conducted for the project at the State of the State of the art in realist methodologies pre-conference in Leeds, held by Realism Leeds. A copy of the presentation slides are now available on the Project Outputs page of the site. The conference provided an excellent opportunity to share some ideas about the methodology of qualitative secondary analysis, to share some brief findings from the analysis and to start to position myself as a realist methodologist. I have written the presentation up as an academic article that has now been submitted to a journal for peer review. Updates to follow when a decision has been reached!

Supporting Men to Care: Project mentioned on Huffington Post

Dr Esmee Hanna and I have written a blog post for the #Building Modern Men series that Huffington Post are running this month. You can read the post here. The series includes numerous posts about 21st century masculinities from the perspectives of a diverse group of men (and some women too!). A number of issues from sexuality, violence, boyhood to mental illness and lad culture are debated.

We wanted to make our contribution as female researchers interested in understanding men’s issues better. The project is also mentioned.

Mentoring Series Post Three – How the mentor/mentee relationship works (Kahryn’s perspective)

In Post Two, Anna described the mentor/mentee relationship from her perspective. In today’s post, Kahryn provides her view, highlighting how she views her role and the key requirements for providing positive encouragement.

As a part-time, permanent academic, mainly focused on research, becoming Anna’s mentor involved careful consideration of the commitment of the role for my job more broadly. It also involved a lot of relationship work, including the following:

  • agreeing on the expectations Anna and I can have of the relationship and our respective responsibilities,
  • agreeing on the support I can provide for her over the course of her fellowship,
  • establishing boundaries in terms of authority over her research,
  • carving out space for this in my part-time post,
  • setting expectations more broadly within our institution of Anna’s contribution (e.g., teaching)
  • seeking acknowledgement of the mentoring role in my own workload allocation.

 

This host of negotiations reflects a fundamental challenge for academics funded primarily by research councils, namely the careful allocation of resources and time, and the constant juggling of commitments in unpredictable and changing work contexts.

From the outset, in the absence of any institutional or funder guidelines, I considered my role as Anna’s mentor to be one of a sort of watchdog, not only of Anna’s research as it unfolds, but also of the milestones she will need to prepare for and hit over the course of her fellowship if she is to keep on track as a developing and successful researcher.

Research careers are continually changing and are necessarily incremental. It is essential that Anna successfully completes her research in order to satisfy her funders’ requirements, but she must also excel in other ways so as to maintain her career momentum. Anna must publish in order to meet institutional Research Excellence Framework (REF) targets, she must demonstrate an ability to translate her research into teaching, and she must develop a range of networks, both grass-roots and academic in order to ensure ongoing access to research participants, and to other academic institutions and funding collaborations. The spinning plates analogy is barely adequate as a comparison with the range of activities she must simultaneously maintain during her fellowship. I personally feel that early career researchers need significant support and although our institution runs training courses on this range of requirements, it is often extremely difficult for new researchers to see beyond funders’ expectations or difficult bumps in fieldwork.

While a good Gantt chart might begin to plot out what’s needed and when, I also see my role as keeping an eye on opportunities as they arise and sponsoring Anna into them. My worries include that I will advise her wrongly, overload her at the wrong time in her research in my concern for her longer term career, miss a significant milestone, or not anticipate a theoretical dead end early enough in her research so that she wastes time unnecessarily. It is here, in particular, that an absence of guidelines from institutions or funders is frustrating. The responsibilities for the relationship lie with Anna and I; but if we get it wrong the consequences are played out in a much broader, official and potentially punitive context where saying ‘sorry’ won’t suffice. This touches on a fascinating sociological question around how far it is possible to hold off personal from work relationships and identities, and simultaneously, how far we might want to invite institutional management and intervention into these relationships in order to sustain their personal character?

Enough of the concerns. Beyond a real pleasure in having Anna as my colleague – and be aware that the relationship won’t work if it is antagonistic – the benefits of mentoring are that, in an increasingly fragmented job, I am required every week to dedicate thinking time to specific research questions and debates. Anna is extremely productive in her writing and her reading which means I get the benefits of her literature reviews and, as her academic background is in geography, I also get a much broader disciplinary perspective than I would have otherwise. Anna’s diary keeping is invaluable. Although I have a very good sense of how her thinking has refined over the course of our conversations, so many great ideas happen in a few throw away lines, ephemeral and lost but for her record of them. In feeling responsible for making sure her line of enquiry is well-informed and cogent, I have to listen carefully to what she says. This means I have to consider my own thinking, to resituate ideas into new contexts, and old data into new thinking. Anna’s secondary analysis of the research I conducted with Nick Emmel has refreshed my memory of the participants, of our findings, and has alerted me to our blind spots – a sort of ongoing Johari Window onto my previous thinking.

For me, the mentoring relationship is collaborative and respectful; I know they’re popular words at the moment but equally they refer to an ethics of working. Academics are what they think. Our unique thoughts are our stock in trade; to share our thinking, our working, renders us vulnerable especially in an increasingly competitive and marketised workplace. Yet, as Anna outlines in her bullets above and as I describe in this piece, one gains significant benefits from working together. Collaboration generates advantages for all involved. In this way, I would suggest that a successful mentor/mentee relationship works as a rich resource, a strengthening of one’s academic position through the consolidation of shared academic interest and effort.

What about kinship care families?: the unintended consequence of changes to tax credits

I posted this blog post over on my website dratarrant but here it is again on the project website, not least because I discuss some of my findings from the project here but because the subject is so relevant to the research I am doing. I was really concerned to find out that there have been no assessments of the tax credit changes (cuts really) on kinship care families and the potential consequences that the intensified poverty they may face might have on their decisions about whether or not to keep children in the family. This post is a summary of those discussions that I stumbled across on Twitter earlier this week. 

On Monday (26th October 2015), the UK’s Tory government were forced to delay their proposed changes to tax credits. In a Guardian report today, according to the Resolution Foundation and the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the government can easily slow the pace of the tax-credit cuts, not least because by 2020, two-thirds of tax credit recipients could be worse off.

The delay does not go far enough, but it does allow time for a more thorough assessment of the potential impact of the cuts on different families. Worryingly, when Andrew Gwynne MP asked a Minister what assessment had been done on the impact of tax credit cuts on kinship care families, it was clear that none had been done:

tweet

Link to video: https://www.facebook.com/andrewgwynnemp/videos/875395322578963/

Family Rights Group, a London based charity that campaigns for Kinship carer rights, are fighting for this assessment. They argue that one potentially unintended consequence of the changes is that they might deter people from taking up kinship care (which entails keeping children in the family). This is especially the case because many kinship carers take on three or more children.

In the last few months I have interviewed seven men for the ‘Men, care and lifetimes of poverty’ project and of those seven, two have found themselves in a position where they have taken on, or are being asked to take on three or more children. They are already living within financial constraints. One, who I call Rob here, is a sixty-one year old grandfather who is currently unemployed so that he can look after his grandchildren. He is a kinship carer for his two granddaughters and his grandson, following the death of both his daughter and later, his wife. When decisions were made about how the children would be looked after, it was decided that his grandson be split up from his sisters. Despite Rob wanting to care for all three children, his grandson had to go to a care home, because his grandfather didn’t have enough space in his house and the council did not respond quickly enough to the needs of the family. Rob moved to new, bigger social housing and at that point his grandson started to live with him. The 17-year-old is currently in prison and has behavioural issues that Rob says are very difficult for him to manage. Imagine him then losing tax credits and child benefit, on top of the bedroom tax he is forced to pay while his grandson is in prison.

Another, who I shall call Toby, is 37. He has two sons of his own (12 and 2) and following the death of his sister in April, now lives in her home five days a week while he tries to re-house her two eldest children, his 19 year-old nephew and 17 year-old niece (who also has her own one-year old daughter) and two younger nephews, aged 12 and 8 (one of whom he suspects has behavioural issues). Toby is living between two households while he awaits information from social services about how best to proceed. He is currently making the difficult choice. They are either adopted out of the family or he applies for an SGO (Special Guardianship Order) for his youngest nephews and moves them back to his own home. This will make him unexpectedly a father of four, and while he will get some funding for holding a SGO, this is time limited and at the discretion of social workers who are making financial decisions about an already squeezed budget (in a paper due to be published by the end of this year, Brid Featherstone and I argue about the constraints on social services in making decisions about SGOs). Toby has left his job to support the children (his sister’s death happened not long before the school summer holidays) and has spent all of his life’s savings on household bills, food and all of the things that children need. He wants to keep the boys in the family but financial precarity may prevent him from doing so. If Toby takes the children on he won’t receive child benefits for them because they will be above the two-child maximum. With the rising costs in childcare he is unlikely to be able to afford to go back to work. Imagine taking more financial support away from him and his family when all he is trying to do is do the right thing by his sister and his sister’s children.

These are just two experiences I have heard within a small sample of seven men. I write this piece to highlight the very real human costs that the tax credit changes have the potential to inflict, particularly on kinship care families. We must encourage the government to assess the impacts of their cuts on all families, especially those that are just trying to stay together and to do the right thing by their children.

See the Family Rights Group website for further information.

Mentoring Series Post Two: How the mentee/mentor relationship works (Anna’s perspective)

AnnaIn this post, Anna describes the mentee/mentor relationship at a very practical level, providing her perspective of how the relationship works and supports her as the research lead on an Early Career Fellowship. In Part 3, Kahryn provides her perspective.

The relationship Kahryn and I developed began at the research proposal stage. I met Kahryn at an academic conference in Prague and we made a connection over her research about mid-life grandparents living in low-income localities. At the time, I was also working on a project that involved understanding the concerns of grandparents who were kinship carers or seeking to be recognized as such, so we identified at an early stage that we had shared research interests. We also got on well with each other. I had already applied to the Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow scheme twice (unsuccessfully) and for each of those bids I had chosen to remain at my current institution and to continue working with the same colleagues. My meeting with Kahryn felt like a good opportunity to really strengthen the bid by changing institutions and developing a project out of our shared expertise and close academic match. Kahryn aided me in developing the bid that I had already written and this enhanced the proposal hugely. Her knowledge of the department and the resources that were available elevated the project from one of academic interest to one that was much better situated and stronger methodologically. This collaborative work was essential to the success of the bid.

When we found out that the funding had been secured and following discussion of practical matters, one of our first questions was; how is the mentoring going to work? At the proposal stage we made a solid case that Kahryn would be the best placed person to mentor but we have had little guidance from the funders about how this should work in practice. In the first few months we both committed to a regular weekly phone call that we continue to have every Monday even now. We also have face-to-face meetings when we are both in the department. Most importantly, during these calls and meetings, we talk about a range of different issues and concerns relating to the project itself, to work/life balance and career development and opportunities.

In summary, the following has really helped me:

  • Having regular, weekly phone calls with Kahryn, where I update her on progress and discuss various aspects of the research design and development,
  • Getting advice and guidance on the processes of conducting a large research project,
  • Making plans for publications and collaborative work,
  • Keeping an academic diary as a record of the advice I have been receiving from Kahryn and of substantive areas of interest that I have been developing over time,
  • Having a supportive relationship that is respectful of my own developing ideas but that also pushes me to learn more and think about things in a different way,
  • Being introduced to colleagues known to Kahryn who might be interested in my work, both academic and non-academic,
  • Having someone to listen and provide support who is also an academic and a mum and is respectful of work/life balance and the challenges that sometimes arise in academic life.

Each of these help to ensure that I meet my funders requirements and fulfil the aims of the project within time and funding constraints. Kahryn has also been very clear about how she is supporting my career development and in turn, I have worked hard to ensure that I make the most of these opportunities. The relationship has kept me accountable and on track and I value the time and effort Kahryn puts in on a regular basis to ensure that both the project and I are developing according to our shared understanding of how academic success might be achieved.

Mentoring Series Post one: An introduction

Welcome to the first post of our new series of blogs called ‘Mentoring’. In this series we will explore the mentor/mentee relationship that Kahryn and I have been developing since the beginning of the research project.

We have decided to write these posts because we have come to recognize just how important our working relationship has been to the development of the research, impacting on it in various ways as it unfolds. Throughout the series we will focus on a number of dimensions that we consider significant. This includes the ethical dimensions of the mentor/mentee relationship: funder requirements and departmental expectations: the role of mentorship in facilitating the career progression of early career researchers and the role of the mentor in mediating and framing the research project itself. We consider this series to be an important public form of dialogue and want to share our experiences as a working example for several reasons. First, mentors receive very little guidance about what their role should entail or how much time they need to dedicate to supporting their mentee. The majority of guidance, literature and training is aimed at doctoral students and their supervisors, so the conditions of mentoring an early career researcher remains un-documented. Relative exceptions are advice blogs such as ‘Finding an academic mentor’ where it is argued that finding a mentor is one of the best things to do to achieve academic success. and ‘How to be a positive academic leader’ for potential mentors, on Wiley’s Exchanges blog. Second, the mentor/mentee relationship at early career stage is an arguably unusual example of altruism in a highly competitive and increasingly individualized academic environment. Third and perhaps most importantly, the relative success of the research so far has been predicated on a positive and supportive relationship that has had a direct influence and impact on its development.

We expand upon these themes further across the series and we hope you find them of interest.

Happy Grandparents Day 2015 – let us make this year a year of rights for kinship carers

Today is Grandparents Day in the UK; a wonderful opportunity to celebrate those amazing people in our lives. Pictured below are my granddads (paternal and maternal) and I at my wedding in 2009. Both of my grandmothers have sadly passed away now but they are never forgotten. My granddads continue to be an important part of my life and have been there for me as I was growing up, providing support to my parents, babysitting and taking an interest in my life.

grandads

My situation is a lucky one. I see my granddads when I can and we have positive relationships. Some grandparents however, go above and beyond for their grandchildren and it is to them, that I dedicate this post. Nearly 200, 000 children are looked after by kinship carers in England (The Independent 2015), the majority of whom are grandparents and who live in poor and deprived circumstances (Nandy and Selwyn, 2013). These are grandparents who provide care to their grandchildren when their parents cannot. At present, there are a number of legal arrangements that kinship carers can apply for to become formally recognised as a kinship carer, including a Residence Order, Special Guardianship Order or Adoption Adoption Order (*see definitions below). These offer varying degrees of parental responsibility and varying degrees of financial support. More recently the number of Special Guardianship Orders has been rising (Community Care, 2015a, b) but this has raised concerns across the care sector  because the role of kinship carers is often overlooked. A key issue is that many of these orders are being placed without an attached support package or any guarantee that existing support from local authorities will continue for longer than a number of years (Wade et al, 2014). In a climate of continued austerity and tightening local authority budgets, families are paying the greater price. The need for improved rights and support for those taking on full-time custody of family members has only recently being recognised (Community Care, 2015c).

This study aims to understand the experiences of men’s care responsibilities in low-income localities and men who provide kinship care have been included in the sampling strategy in order to find out more about how different family members might step in to provide care when parents are unable to do so. I have already interviewed three men of four (two grandfathers and an uncle) who are providing this kind of care and who are seeking to be formally recognised. It is a difficult thing for them to do and in low-income localities means men are having to stretch already limited resources to do what they think is right by their families and by their children.

On this day, please let us remember those grandparents and make this the year to fight for their rights – see the Family Rights Group for more up to date information about kinship care.

Legal orders for kinship carers

* A Residence Order is a court order that decides where a child shall live. It gives holders shared parental responsibility with the parents and can be revoked (Hunt and Waterhouse 2012).

A Special Guardianship Order, introduced in December 2005, is more legally secure because a parent cannot revoke it unless they have permission of the court. Carers have more power with an SGO because they can exercise greater parental responsibility for the child (Hunt and Waterhouse 2012).