Out of sight, out of mind: ethnic inequalities in child protection and out-of-home care intervention rates

Paul Bywaters, Josephine Kwhali, Geraldine Brady, Tim Sparks, Elizabeth Bos

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This paper examines the interlocking roles of ethnicity and deprivation in producing inequities in the proportion of children who are subject to state child protection interventions. In contrast to the USA, ethnic inequities have had little attention in research or policy in the UK and across Europe, and administrative data is limited and methodologically weak. A study of over 10% of all children on child protection plans or who were looked after in out-of-home care in England in March 2012 is reported. Children from ethnic minority categories were much more likely than ‘White’ children to be living in disadvantaged areas and this has to be taken into account when examining intervention rates. Controlling for deprivation and examining small sub-groups of the broad ethnic categories radically alters the simple understanding that ‘Black’ children are over-represented compared to White amongst children in out-of-home care, while ‘Asian’ children are under-represented. While this study could not explain these patterns it reinforces the importance of both socio-economic circumstances and ethnicity for understanding inequities in intervention rates. The evidence underlines the powerful moral and economic case for action to reduce inequities in powerful state interventions in family life, not only in England but internationally.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1884–1902
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2016

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 Paul Bywaters Josephine Kwhali Geraldine Brady Tim Sparks Elizabeth Bos (2016) Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Ethnic Inequalities in Child Protection and Out-of-Home Care Intervention Rates in The British Journal of Social Work, Volume 47, Issue 7, 1 October 2017, Pages 1884–1902 is available online at: https://academic.oup.com/bjsw/article/47/7/1884/2629134


  • Child protection
  • inequalities
  • ethnicity
  • deprivation
  • out-of-home care


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