account arrow-down-linearrow-down-small arrow-downarrow-download arrow-left-small arrow-leftarrow-link arrow-rightarrow-upaudio-less-volume audio-not-playing audio-plus-volume audio awarded books calendar close-modal closedate delete document education emailevent Facebookhamburger impact instagramjustice linkedin location-outline location opinion page phonepinterestplay pluspost preview project reports search-bigsearch-old search share star-full star-open startime twitterwelfare youtube zoom-in zoom-out

Extreme ethnic inequalities in the care system

By Nuffield Foundation

There are extreme inequalities between ethnic groups in the proportions of children being looked after in care in England, according to new Nuffield-funded research.

‘White British’ children are ten times more likely to be in care than ‘Asian Indian’ children. ‘Black Caribbean’ children are 20 times more likely.

These inequalities are poorly understood and little attention is paid to them in children’s services policy. The implications for social justice are profound. So are the implications for the funding of services.

Carried out by a team from seven universities, led by Professor Paul Bywaters of University of Huddersfield, the Child Welfare Inequalities Project studied 6,000 children in England on child protection plans and 8,000 children in care, across a representative sample of 18 local authorities.

A number of headline findings came out of the work:

  • Disproportionate numbers of children from Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Caribbean and African backgrounds live in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Around three quarters of all children from these groups live in the most deprived 40% of small neighbourhoods in England, while ‘White British’ and ‘Asian Indian’ children are distributed more evenly.
  • ‘Asian’ children overall are almost three times less likely to be in care than ‘White’ children and almost four times less likely than ‘Black’ children.
  • But there are also big differences between ‘Indian’, ‘Pakistani’ and ‘Bangladeshi’ children, with ‘Indian’ children rarely the subject of children’s services involvement.
  • Black African’ children in higher deprivation neighbourhoods are much less likely than ‘White British’ children to be in care or on a protection plan. But in low deprivation areas where they are few in number they are more likely than ‘White’ children to be in care.
  • ‘Black Caribbean’ children at all levels of neighbourhood deprivation are more likely than ‘White British’ children to be in care. Amongst 16 and 17 year olds, 1 ‘Black Caribbean’ child in 30 was in care, compared to 1 in 100 ‘White British’ children.
  • The proportion of children from minority ethnic groups in different local authorities varied from almost none to around four in five leading to large differences in demands on services.

The study highlighted various areas for concern, which included:

  • Policy makers and researchers appear to have paid little attention to ethnic inequalities in children’s services over the past twenty years. We do not have the evidence we need to explain these differences in care rates.
  • We do not know enough about the factors behind the large inequalities in family economic circumstances. And we do not know enough about the differential rates of children in care.
  • Simplistic assumptions about strong extended families cannot explain why there are large differences between ‘Indian’, ‘Pakistani’ and ‘Bangladeshi’ sub-groups.
  • Simplistic assumptions about ‘Black’ families cannot explain the large differences between ‘Caribbean’ and ‘African’ children.
  • Low rates in care may mean some children in need are being missed or that some communities are more effective in supporting children’s development than others. But we need better information.
  • High rates bring high costs, both personal and economic.

Professor Bywaters said: 

“Gaps in educational attainment have been significantly reduced over the last twenty years. Reducing inequalities in care rates should become a central government policy objective for the Department for Education.

“The scale of the inequalities has considerable implications for the direction of children’s services and for how scarce funding is spent. If the proportion of children in care in all other groups was reduced to that for ‘Asian Indian’ children, spending would be reduced by 90%”

Related


Explore our projects

New

Welfare | 2020 - 2023

Public expenditure planning and control in complex times

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

How UK welfare reform affects larger families

View project
New

Education | Welfare | 2020 - 2020

Measuring the disadvantage attainment gap in 16-19 education

View project
Two teenage male pupils study a science lesson as part of their post-16 options
In progress

Education | 2019 - 2021

Post-16 pathways: the role of peers, family background and expectations

View project
In progress

Welfare | 2019 - 2022

Ethnic inequalities in later life

View project
In progress

Education | 2019 - 2022

The SWAN game-based approach to learning foundational number language

View project
In progress

Justice | 2019 - 2022

Understanding criminogenic influences on youth offending

View project
In progress

Welfare | 2019 - 2022

Children living with domestic violence: effects on children’s well-being

View project
In progress

Education | 2019 - 2020

Education priorities in a forthcoming general election

View project
In progress

Welfare | 2019 - 2022

The effect of Community Mental Health Services in England

View project
In progress

Welfare | 2019 - 2022

Caregiving dads, breadwinning mums: Transforming gender in work and childcare?

View project
In progress

Welfare | 2019 - 2021

Living with data: knowledge, experiences and perceptions of data practices

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2023

Public expenditure planning and control in complex times

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

How UK welfare reform affects larger families

View project
New

Education | Welfare | 2020 - 2020

Measuring the disadvantage attainment gap in 16-19 education

View project
Two teenage male pupils study a science lesson as part of their post-16 options
In progress

Education | 2019 - 2021

Post-16 pathways: the role of peers, family background and expectations

View project
In progress

Education | 2019 - 2020

Education priorities in a forthcoming general election

View project
In progress

Welfare | 2019 - 2022

Children living with domestic violence: effects on children’s well-being

View project
In progress

Justice | 2019 - 2022

Understanding criminogenic influences on youth offending

View project
In progress

Education | 2019 - 2022

The SWAN game-based approach to learning foundational number language

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2013 - 2017

IFS Green Budget 2013 – 2016

View project
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2018

Growing up digital

View project
In progress

Justice | 2019 - 2021

The Edinburgh Study: causes and impacts of criminal justice pathways

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2013 - 2016

Data about fathers in birth cohort studies (Life Study)

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2023

Public expenditure planning and control in complex times

View project
New

Welfare | 2020 - 2022

How UK welfare reform affects larger families

View project
New

Education | Welfare | 2020 - 2020

Measuring the disadvantage attainment gap in 16-19 education

View project
Two teenage male pupils study a science lesson as part of their post-16 options
In progress

Education | 2019 - 2021

Post-16 pathways: the role of peers, family background and expectations

View project
In progress

Education | 2019 - 2020

Education priorities in a forthcoming general election

View project
In progress

Welfare | 2019 - 2022

Ethnic inequalities in later life

View project
In progress

Education | 2019 - 2022

The SWAN game-based approach to learning foundational number language

View project
In progress

Justice | 2019 - 2022

Understanding criminogenic influences on youth offending

View project
In progress

Welfare | 2019 - 2022

Children living with domestic violence: effects on children’s well-being

View project
In progress

Welfare | 2019 - 2022

The effect of Community Mental Health Services in England

View project
In progress

Welfare | 2019 - 2022

Caregiving dads, breadwinning mums: Transforming gender in work and childcare?

View project
In progress

Welfare | 2019 - 2021

Living with data: knowledge, experiences and perceptions of data practices

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2018 - 2018

Interdisciplinary conference on evidence use in policy

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2018 - 2018

Council tax support schemes’ impact on claimants & local authorities

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2018 - 2018

Improving survey representation of non-resident parents

View project
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2018

Growing up digital

View project
Reported

Justice | Welfare | 2017 - 2018

Addressing the ‘care cases’ crisis: a sector-led review

View project
Reported

Justice | 2017 - 2019

Immigration judicial reviews

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2017 - 2018

Vulnerable migrants and well-being: A pilot study

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2017 - 2018

Benchmarking transparency in government’s use of evidence

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2017 - 2017

General Election 2017

View project
Siblings play ball in a playground - Siblings Contact and the Law
Reported

Justice | Welfare | 2017 - 2019

Siblings, contact and the law: an overlooked relationship?

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2017 - 2019

Asylum policies in Europe and the refugee crisis

View project
Reported

Justice | Welfare | 2017 - 2019

Measuring outcomes for children’s social care services

View project
Search projects

We improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in EducationWelfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We offer our grant-holders the freedom to frame questions and enable new thinking. Our research must stand up to rigorous academic scrutiny, but we understand that to be successful in effecting change, it also needs to be relevant to people’s experience.

Profile