PIs: Professor David Taylor-Robinson and Professor Dame Margaret Whitehead, University of Liverpool
The number of children taken into local authority care (LAC) in England has risen dramatically over recent years. Furthermore, our analyses have shown that the biggest increases have occurred in the most disadvantaged areas, increasing inequalities. In terms of the “funnel” of the children’s social care system, we can identify children from initial referral, onwards through the different stages of risk assessment: so-called “children in need” (CIN), CIN who are in receipt of a child protection plan, and at the most extreme end of need, CIN who are looked after. In this project we will focus on the broadest group of CIN, making use of the novel data linkage in Wales. Where possible we will also undertake analyses relevant to subgroups of children within the children’s social care system.
According to the latest official statistics there are 389,430 children in need (CIN) in England. Long term health, social and educational outcomes for children classified as being in need are poor and supporting these children represents a major expenditure at local authority level. There are also stark socio-economic and ethnic inequalities in the risk of children being placed on a child protection plan or taken into care. While the association of social disadvantage and CIN status is clear, we lack understanding of the complex pathways linking adverse social conditions to CIN status and subsequent adverse social and educational outcomes. In order to improve outcomes for these vulnerable children we need a better understanding of the drivers of inequalities in children being classified as “in need” and subsequently being taken into care; and a better understanding of the consequences of different child welfare outcomes and how these vary by childhood socio-economic conditions (SECs).
The findings from this project will thus deliver new evidence on pathways to inequalities in children in need, and will identify policy entry points, allowing the development of better policies to tackle inequalities in social care. We will work with policymakers to consider how this evidence can be used to strengthen the public health perspective to local authority responses.
In order to improve outcomes for “Children in Need” (CiN) this study aims to develop a better understanding of the drivers of inequalities in child welfare outcomes; and the subsequent consequences for health and education.
Professor David Taylor-Robinson
Professor Dame Margaret Whitehead