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System conditions and welfare inequalities in children’s services

Researchers: Dr Rick Hood | Professor Paul Bywaters

Project overview

This project will examine how the organisational and institutional context of statutory children’s social care (CSC) in England contributes to patterns of inequality in the delivery of services.

Professor Bywaters’ Nuffield-funded study found that there was strong evidence of welfare inequalities in CSC services, where a child’s chances of being subject of a child protection plan or being in public care differs greatly according to indicators of social disadvantage. Previous work undertaken by Dr Hood indicates that the increasing use of child protection interventions to address demand for child welfare services has intersected with deprivation-related differences in intervention rates as well as Ofsted inspection outcomes.

The research team will build on the findings of these studies and will examine the organisational and institutional context of statutory CSC to establish how system conditions in children’s social care are contributing to welfare inequalities.

In order to do this the research team will:

  • Investigate the current evidence for system conditions using a combination of national datasets
  • Gather and analyse information on individual pathways through the CSC system over a three year period, using case-level data from six English local authorities
  • Find out how senior practitioners and managers in statutory CSC services understand and interpret any patterns discovered in their statistics

The knowledge and awareness gained from this research will indicate the kind of system change needed in order to reduce welfare inequalities, it will also allow children’s social care agencies to organise themselves to provide the maximum benefit to the local communities that they serve.


  • Dr Rick Hood
    Kingston University
  • Professor Paul Bywaters
    Coventry University

  • 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.

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