Gayle Rice Masters in Research

Job Title:

PhD Research Student


School of Design



Leaving care service pathways overview
Gayle Rice

Leaving care service pathways overview


Gayle Rice

A practical exploration into the use and affect of visual communication tools in social work practice

Supervisors: Professor Alastair Macdonald, Professor Paul Flowers

Designers have increasingly been conducting research into how people make decisions related to their health, well-being and surrounding environment. Some of these studies have developed visual tools to support people when they are talking to people about choices, tools such as decks of cards, process maps, computerised 3D representations and models. Literature in the design community talks about the transformational power of design, implicitly citing design as a means by which people are empowered, however there has been a limited appraisal within this community of this belief. This study will examine the hypothesis that the inclusion of visual communication in conversations between care leavers and their social workers will empower young people discuss decision about where to live when leaving care.

Between 1st August 2009 - 31st July 2010, 1,448 young people (16+ years old) left care in Scotland. Care leavers are prevalent in statistics attributed to socially excluded youth, even though they account for less than 1% of the population. In 2004 the leaving care service was created in Scotland to enable and empower young people make decisions about their future. However limited research into this service reports that the majority of care leavers do not feel empowered by this experience.

A co-design approach has been used to design and develop visual communication tools appropriate for conversations in the leaving care service. This study will observe 5 care leavers discuss with their social workers where they would like to live when they leave care using these visual tools and analyse their use and effect using data from the observations triangulated with young people and social workers reports of the experience of using the tools. The extent to which the use of the visual tools support better conversations will be explored and the role of visuals in empowering people in this conversations will be examined.