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Inequalities in child welfare intervention rates

Researchers: Professor Paul Bywaters | Dr. Geraldine Brady ...

Project overview

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.

Latest on this project



  • Professor Paul Bywaters
    Coventry University
  • Dr. Geraldine Brady
    Coventry University
  • Dr. Lisa Bunting
    Queen's University, Belfast
  • Professor Brigid Daniel
    University of Stirling
  • Professor Brigid Featherstone
    Open University
  • Professor Kate Morris
    University of Nottingham

  • Ash Patel
    Programme Head, Justice
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Director, Justice
    Nuffield Foundation

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

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.