Child welfare inequalities: an unseen scandal

Paul Bywaters

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    This paper proposes the new concept of child welfare inequalities: unequal experiences of child welfare services, including unequal access to services and unequal treatment when receiving child welfare, and unequal chances of child welfare related outcomes that are systematically associated with social advantage/disadvantage. For example, official statistics show wide inequalities in a child’s chance of being in ’out-of-home’ care or subject to a child protection plan in England between different local authority areas. Analysis shows this is not a postcode lottery but is systematically related to the level of deprivation of the area in which they live. However, by comparison with inequalities in health, little theoretical, research, policy or practice attention has been paid to this issue over the past 25 years in England. There is no systematic evidence about the circumstances of parents whose children enter the care system or who are investigated because of child protection concerns. There is no equivalent discourse to that on the social determinants of health but, instead, the current policy focus on early intervention and child protection results in children having a greater chance of being removed from the families rather than receiving support. The intensification of neo-liberal economic and social policies in England in the context of the wider economic crisis is increasing inequalities between families. A culture of blame lies behind policies to target individual families, such as the Troubled Families initiative and payments by results approaches. These are likely to widen child welfare inequalities further with detrimental consequences for children and parents. The parallel with health inequalities creates a basis for new directions in research, policy and practice and these will be discussed in the conclusion to the paper. Comparisons with developments in other European countries will be invited.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2013
    Event3rd European Conference for Social Work Research - University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
    Duration: 20 Mar 201322 Mar 2013


    Conference3rd European Conference for Social Work Research
    Abbreviated titleECSWR 2013


    • inequalities
    • deprivation
    • neo-liberalism
    • child welfare


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