Deprivation and Children’s Services Outcomes: a mapping study

This study will complement the work of the Care Inquiry and other children’s services related initiatives by examining the role of deprivation in explaining differences in key children’s services’ outcomes between and within local authorities (LAs).

There is extensive and intensive concern about the focus, quality and sustainability of systems in England for safeguarding children and for looked-after children. A central issue is: how can increasingly constrained resources best be allocated between and within LAs?  

Research objectives

  • to relate core markers of safeguarding processes (the rates of children looked after, subject to a child protection plan and in need) to Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) scores for small areas (Lower Super Output Areas) within LAs by re-analysing routinely collected data;
  • to begin to explore the implications of the analysis for the allocation of resources, workforce skills and intervention strategies; and
  • to design a programme of subsequent studies to explore these issues further.

Specific questions include:

  • To what extent are children’s services ‘clients’ clustered in areas of greatest deprivation?
  • How do gender, age, ethnicity and care status add to our understanding of this relationship?
  • Do patterns of deprivation within LAs explain more of the differences between LAs in children’s services’ outcomes than overall IMD scores?
  • Is deprivation a more powerful factor in explaining inequalities in LAC rates than inequalities in rates for children in need or on child protection plans?

Research approach

Information will be collected from 15 West Midland local authorities, covering more than 10% of all children in contact with children’s services in England. The team will use this data to explore links between children who are subject to safeguarding processes and Index of Multiple Deprivation scores. Information about local deprivation scores will be added to the data on postcodes collected by local authorities. Data will be analysed using a range of multi-variate techniques to provide information about the geographical concentration of looked-after children and those on child protection plans. The power of deprivation in explaining the observed variation will be tested, controlling – as far as possible – for age, gender and ethnicity, as well as for difference between the participating local authorities and England as a whole.

The study also includes in-depth interviews with local authority key staff in order to understand the role that local policies and practices may play in explaining (or mitigating) some of the differences. The findings are likely to have relevance for Local Authorities in terms of intervention strategies, allocation of resources and workforce skills and development. The research will fill a gap in published information about children in contact with Children’s Services.

Project details



Professor Paul Bywaters, Dr Geraldine Brady, Professor Tim Sparks and Lizzi Bos

Applied Research Centre in Sustainable Regeneration, Coventry University

Funding programme

Children and Families

Grant amount and duration


February 2013 - April 2014



Child welfare inequalities: new evidence, further questions, Paul Bywaters, Geraldine Brady, Tim Sparks and Elizabeth Bos, May 2014

Inequalities in chld welfare intervention rates: the intersection of deprivation and identity, Paul Bywaters, Geraldine Brady, Tim Sparks and Elizabeth Box, June 2014 in Child & Family Social Work