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A Pro Bono Economics report for Therapeutic Residential Care (TRC) charity Mulberry Bush has shown that there are multiple evidence gaps in this area in the UK, and that much of the existing research has limitations regarding selection bias and the lack of a standardised outcomes framework for organisations delivering TRC.

The Department for Education has previously noted the relative scarcity of UK-based research in this field[1], though the body of evidence has expanded over recent years and includes significant work on measuring the immediate outputs of TRC. These findings are used within the report to recommend that Mulberry Bush clearly defines its treatment aims, including the short, medium and long-term outcomes that would denote success, as well as defining the methodology by which these outcomes would be measured. In addition, it is suggested that Mulberry Bush builds a specific framework which would enable the charity to systematically and regularly measure outcomes for children leaving the facility.

The recommendations in the report aim to help Mulberry Bush further understand feasible approaches through which the charity can measure the impacts of TRC. Despite recognising the difficulties in doing so for the cohort of children that Mulberry Bush works with, this publication seeks to provide practical advice on the means through which this may be achieved.

Mulberry Bush is a TRC school providing children aged 5 to 13 with 3-year placements, offering therapeutic care, treatment and education aimed at best preparing the individual for re-integration into an appropriate school, as well as family and community life. Mulberry Bush School’s children have usually suffered from chronic and severe neglect, trauma, sexual, physical and emotional abuse, and family breakdown. The report itself highlights that, across the 2000 residential homes in the UK, 1 in 10 looked after children has complex needs requiring specialist care and support, and as such this area of research is of key importance to better appreciate how best to support them.

Pro Bono Economics volunteers Thomas Dooner and Richard James, from the Cabinet Office, worked on this literature review with the aim of understanding whether there are identified best practices on how to measure the long-term impact of TRC on young people.

They first broke down the key characteristics of Mulberry Bush School, the features of which were considered to assess the relevance of any given study. The features considered were: size of school, age of children treated, cause of requiring treatment, and existence of residential treatment. From this, specific keywords were used to search the EBSCO Information Service, a leading provider of academic resources, following which the volunteers selected databases thought to give the widest breadth of results while avoiding clutter.

We would like to thank Thomas and Richard for all their work on this report, which is available to download by clicking the link below and completing the survey.

[1] Department for Education (2015), “The place of residential care in the English child welfare system”, available:

25th February 2019