Identifying and understanding the link between system conditions and welfare inequalities in children’s social care services

Children's social care systems and inequalities study logo

Children’s social care systems and inequalities study


Identifying and understanding the link between system conditions and welfare inequalities in children’s social care services

Nuffield Foundation


Project Team

  • Dr Rick Hood, Kingston and St Georges
  • Professor Paul Bywaters, University of Huddersfield
  • Mr Allie Goldacre, Kingston and St Georges
  • Dr Sarah Gorin, Kingston and St Georges

Project Objectives

  • To identify the characteristics of local authorities, neighbourhoods, and individuals that are associated with particular pathways of intervention for children receiving children’s social care services.
  • To understand from the perspective of practitioners and managers why there might be different patterns of demand and provision in their own services and in the sector as a whole.
  • To use the empirical findings to understand the link between system conditions and welfare inequalities in children’s social care.
  • To engage with professionals, policy makers, politicians and the public in order to disseminate the study’s findings and promote a holistic understanding of performance that takes into account the social context of intervention.

Outcomes and Impact

Expected outcomes from this study include theory-building, capacity-building, influence on systems design, and contribution to policy debates in children’s social care. Their overall impact should be to make child welfare services more flexible in the way they meet the needs of children and families, and make sure that new models of provision help to reduce welfare inequalities rather than exacerbating them.

  • Theory-building – this study will examine some of the potential causes of child welfare inequalities and contribute to theoretical knowledge in this field.
  • Capacity building – this study will build capacity in participating agencies, as well as in organisations involved in the dissemination and engagement process, in the use and interpretation of management data.
  • Influence on systems design – the findings will contribute towards innovation and new ways of delivering children’s social care by pointing to systemic changes that might help reduce inequalities in provision.
  • Contribution to policy debates – the findings will contribute to a specific strand in the debate on child welfare inequalities, namely the way in which policy prescriptions shape institutional priorities and organisational structures in children’s social care. This study will help to foreground a systems perspective for planning and implementing change.


Project Report

Further Information

For a brief overview of the project see the project summary. We would be very happy to talk to interested colleagues and groups about this research. The team also discuss the research on the Community Care blog: Why are children treated unequally by social care services? For more information, or to be added to our Stakeholders Mailing List, please contact Dr Rick Hood.


Related Projects

This project builds on the findings of two independently conducted studies. The first is the Child Welfare Inequalities Project.  Also funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the main objective of this project was to detail the relationship of deprivation, policy and other factors to inequalities in key child welfare intervention rates through separate and comparative studies in the four UK countries. The second study was an analysis of patterns of demand and provision in children’s social care, using a combination of aggregated datasets and performance indicators for all local authorities in England.