Inequalities in child welfare intervention rates

This is a mixed-methods comparative study across the four UK countries, aimed at mapping and understanding inequalities in child welfare intervention rates. It extends and tests findings of a recent Nuffield-funded pilot study in the English midlands, which indicated that, not only were children living in deprived areas more likely to be on a child protection plan or looked after by the state, but also that a child living in a more affluent locality was more likely to get help from social services than a similar child living in a less affluent locality. It is not yet known whether this is because the ‘threshold for care’ is lower in affluent areas, or because those services have greater capacity to make (and resource) appropriate decisions, or both. Gaining insight on this question is a key aim of this work.

The project’s quantitative element involves analysing data on child welfare cases and interventions in a representative sample of UK local authorities. This will be complemented by  qualitative case studies in sixteen localities, focused on testing possible explanations for the observed patterns in intervention rates.

In addition to producing substantive findings to inform future policy, practice and research development, the project will establish a methodology for comparing social care data in the four UK countries and build capacity for further work in this area.

Coventry University's project page


Bywaters, P., Scoufield, J., Webb, C., Morris, K., Featherstone, B., Brady, G., Jones, C., Sparks, T., (2018) Paradoxical evidence on ethnic inequalities in child welfare: Towards a research agenda, Children and Youth Services Review.

Coventry University Child Welfare Intervention Project Outputs Page (includes blogs for the Family Potential Research Centre, an evidence review and the quantitative reports for each UK country as well as the papers below).

Webb, C., & Bywaters (2018) Austerity, rationing and inequity: trends in children’s and young peoples’ services expenditure in England between 2010 and 2015. Local Government Studies.

Bywaters, P., Brady,G., Bunting, L., Daniel, B., Featherston, B., Jones, C., Morris, K., Scourfield, J., & Webb, C. (2017) Inequalities in English child protection practice under austerity: A universal challenge? Wiley

Identifying and understanding inequalities in child welfare intervention rates: comparative studies in four UK countries:

Briefing Paper 1: England   Professor Paul Bywaters (lead) 2017

Briefing Paper 2: UK Four Country Quantitative Comparison. Professor Paul Bywaters (lead) 2017

Briefing Paper 3: Case Study Findings. Professor Paul Bywaters (lead) 2017

Briefing Paper 4: Scotland. Professor Paul Bywaters (lead) 2017

Bywaters, P. (2017) What the looked-after children statistics don't tell us. Community Care.

Buntin, L., McCartan, C., McGhee., Bywaters, P., Daniel, B., Featherstone, B., & Slater, T. (2017) Trends in child protection across the UK: a comparative analysis. British Journal of Social Work.

McGhee, J., Bunting, L., McCartan, C., Elliott, M., Bywaters, P., & Featherstone, B. (2017) Looking after children in the UK: convergence or divergence? British Journal of Social Work.

Bywaters, P., & Sparks, T. (2017) Child protection in England, an emerging inequalities perspective. Journal of Children's Services 12:2/3, pp.107-112.

Featherson, B., Morris, K., Daniel, B., Bywaters, P., Brady, G., Buntin, L., Mason, W., Mirsa, N. (2017) Poverty, inequality, child abuse and neglect: changing the conversation across the UK in child protection? Children and Youth Services Review.

Bywaters, B., Bunting, L., Davidson, G., Hanratty, J., Mason, W., McCartan, C., & Steils, N. (2016) The relationship between poverty, child abuse and neglect: an evidence review. JRF.

Bywaters, P., Brady,G., Sparks, T., Bos, E., Bunting, L., Daniel, B., Featherstone, B., Morris, K., & Scourfield, J. (2015) Exploring inequities in child welfare and child protection services: Explaining the ‘inverse intervention law’, Children and Youth Services Review