Social work contact in four UK cohort studies

This project will use four major UK cohort studies, spanning two decades and children of different ages, to study patterns, outcomes and changes associated with social work contact.

The studies are the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, the Millennium Cohort Study, The Longitudinal Study of Young People in England and the British Household Panel Study. Collectively, these four studies allow unique potential for examining comparative outcomes for children who have contact with a social worker, without retrospective bias and over a longer period of time than previously studied.

The outcomes examined will include well-being over time and the occurrence or absence of any subsequent reports of abuse, neglect or entry to care. The researchers are also interested in how the use of social workers changes as children grow older and as their policy shifts. They will compare the children, young people and families who have social work contact both with the general population and with others who have similar (or worse) difficulties but without social work contact, to see what makes the social work group and their outcomes distinctive.

Given current policy emphasis on multi-professional and 'early intervention', they will also compare those with similar problems who have social workers with those who do not but have contact with other professionals.

Project details



Professor Jonathan Scourfield, Cardiff School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University

Funding Programme

Children and Families

Grant amount and dates


October 2013 - March 2015



Final Summary Report to the Nuffield Foundation, Scourfield et al, September 2016

Henderson, M., Scourfield, J., Cheung, S.Y. and Sharland, E. (2015a) Predictors of social service contact among teenagers in England. British Journal of Social Work. online advance access. 
Henderson, M., Cheung, S.Y., Sharland, E. and Scourfield, J. (2015b) The effect of social work on the mental health outcomes of parents and the wellbeing of children in Britain. Children and Youth Services Review 58: 71-81.
Henderson, M., Scourfield, J., Cheung, S.Y., Sharland, E. and Sloan, L. (2016a) The effects of social service contact on teenagers in England. Research on Social Work Practice, 26(4): 386-398.
Henderson, M., Cheung, S.Y., Sharland, E. and Scourfield, J. (2016b) The outcomes of educational welfare officer contact in England. British Educational Research Journal, 42(3): 399-416.
Zhang, M.L., Henderson, M., Cheung, S.Y., Scourfield, J. and Sharland, E. (2016) Predicting the receipt of social work support, and its impact on emotional and behavioural problems in early childhood. Child and Family Social Work. online advance access