Newcastle City Council

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Newcastle City Council was concerned that high numbers of people under the age of 21 were failing in their tenancies. It commissioned research to examine the effects that different forms of disadvantage had on the likelihood of young people succeeding or failing in independent living. This report discusses those findings.

Methodology

In order to carry out this research, an initial sample had to be identified. This was done using a simple random sampling method, which gave a sample of 200 individuals, from the 800 potential respondents, as identified by Newcastle Council. Of those 200 people, 94 people agreed to take part in the research. These 94 individuals would form the base of the research.

The method used to carry out the research a form of structured interview. This involved the respondent being asked a series of questions regarding the subject matter. Those questions did not require lengthy or opinionated answers. The interviewer first noted the respondent’s gender and then continued to ask four questions. The questions were:

* What would you say is your average weekly income?

* Do you regularly borrow money?

* Do you take drugs at present?

* Have you been in trouble with the police in the past?

One year later, this data, along with records from Newcastle Council, was used to establish which of the respondents had ‘succeeded’ with their tenancy. A failed tenancy was identified if any of the following factors applied to the individual.

* They decided to leave their property within six months of moving in.

* They had to leave their property during the period of six months to one year as they had been evicted.

* They returned to the Council’s Housing Department reporting homelessness within a year of moving in.

Weaknesses in the methodology can be identified, however. Firstly, as the interviewer did not ask gender and simply used their own judgement, this had the possibility of producing inaccuracies. Respondents may have been involved in a sex-change operation or may have been transvestites, therefore altering their name and appearance. There are of course other factors which may lead to mistakes in recording gender. This could produce inaccuracies, as the researcher may record an incorrect gender. Secondly, the questions could have been better worded or indeed made more specific.

For example, question one, “what would you say is your average weekly income?” could have been changed so as the respondent would know to include all incomes, including benefits, loans, grants, wages and support from parents, friends or charities. The question could have been reworded to include these factors. The questions themselves may lead people to respond in a way not all together truthful. The question regarding drugs may often lead to the answer ‘no’ as people might not be comfortable telling the truth about a drug habit. Perhaps this question could have been avoided or perhaps put more tactfully. Also, question four, “have you been in trouble with the police in the past?”, might lead to similar problems, as people might not wish to admit to breaking the law to a stranger. This question creates further problems also. Its wording is somewhat ambiguous, and people might take it to mean convictions only, whereas some might take it to mean any involvement with the law.

Some might see this question as patronising also, as the use of the word ‘trouble’ seems a little childish. Often people find questions regarding income somewhat embarrassing, and answering this question with a face-to-face interviewer may cause discomfort. The wording and content of the questions perhaps lead to the possibility of an anonymous written questionnaire instead of face-to-face interviews. This would ensure the problem of offending when asking gender is avoided and that people may respond more truthfully, when they don’t have to look someone in the face. This method might also have proved more economical, as the cost of employing someone to carry out the survey would have been eliminated. Finally, the sample used to gain the data was perhaps a little small, as so few people agreed to be interviewed. Had the sample have been larger, perhaps a more varied and reliable data set could have been created.

As far as can be seen, only one study was carried out and no pilot undertaken, therefore, there are problems with calling the findings reliable. No real conclusions can be brought if this study was completely independent, as the finding may be a one off or some respondents may have been experiencing freak circumstances. To fully counter this problem a further study should be taken, at a different stage, using different respondents to create a more reliable study. Perhaps a group in a different area of the country would also prove to be helpful in understanding why young people might fail their tenancy.

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