Child welfare inequalities in the four nations of the UK

Paul Bywaters, Jonathan Scourfield, Chantel Jones, Tim Sparks, Martin Elliott, Jade Hooper, Claire McCartan, Marina Shapira, Lisa Bunting, Brigid Daniel

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    67 Citations (Scopus)
    53 Downloads (Pure)

    Abstract

    Comparative international data on patterns of inequality in child welfare interventions, for example, the proportion of children about whom there are substantiated child protection concerns or who are in out-of-home care, are far less developed than data about inequalities in health. Few countries collect reliable, comprehensive information and definitions, methods of data collection and analysis are rarely consistent. The four UK countries (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) provide a potential ‘natural experiment’ for comparing intervention patterns. This study reports on a large quantitative, descriptive study focusing on children in contact with children’s services on a single date in 2015. It found that children’s chances of receiving a child protection intervention were related to family socio-economic circumstances, measured by neighbourhood deprivation, within all four countries. There was a strong social gradient which was significantly steeper in some countries than others. Ethnicity was another important factor underlying inequalities. While inequalities in patterns of intervention between the four countries were considerable, they did not mirror relative levels of deprivation in the child population. Inequalities in intervention rates result from a combination of demand and supply factors. The level and extent of inequity raise profound ethical, economic and practical challenges to those involved in child protection, the wider society and the state.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)193-215
    Number of pages23
    JournalJournal of Social Work
    Volume20
    Issue number2
    Early online date11 Sept 2018
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020

    Bibliographical note

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    Funder

    Nuffield Foundation

    Keywords

    • Child protection
    • Child welfare
    • Ethnicity
    • Inequalities
    • Looked after children
    • Out-of-home care
    • Social gradient
    • Social work

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Health(social science)
    • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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