Inequalities in child welfare: towards a new policy, research and action agenda

Paul Bywaters

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    Over many years, large differences have been observed between local authorities (LAs) in England in the proportion of children who are ‘looked after’ out of home, or the subjects of child protection plans, with deprivation being identified as the major explanatory factor. This article proposes that such differences be reconceptualised as ‘child welfare inequalities’ and suggests that drawing parallels with health inequalities would have value in a number of respects. Four aspects of child welfare inequalities are suggested. An analysis of officially published data provides new evidence of inequalities between LAs in two key markers of child welfare, and the relationship with deprivation, measured by the Index of Multiple Deprivation scores. Although this correlation is unsurprising, there has been a lack of recent research into the extent and the underlying causes of child welfare inequalities, a reluctance to describe differences as inequalities or to propose action on the underlying social determinants. Reading across from the field of health inequalities opens up new directions for child welfare policy, practice, theory and research internationally as well as creating the potential for alliances with others taking action to reduce health inequalities.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)6-23
    JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

    Bibliographical note

    This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in the British Journal of Social Work following peer review. The version of record: Bywaters, P. (2015) Inequalities in child welfare: towards a new policy, research and action agenda. British Journal of Social Work, volume 45 (1): 6-23 is available online at:


    • child protection
    • child welfare
    • deprivation
    • health
    • inequalities
    • looked after children


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