Child welfare inequalities: new evidence, further questions

Bywaters, P. , Brady, G.M. , Sparks, T. and Bos, E. (2014) Child welfare inequalities: new evidence, further questions. Child & Family Social Work, volume 21 (3): 369–380

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Research internationally has identified large differences in rates of child safeguarding interventions, recently characterized as child welfare inequalities, markers of social inequalities in childhood with parallels to inequalities in health and education. This paper reports a Nuffield Foundation-funded study to examine the role of deprivation in explaining differences in key children's services interventions between and within local authorities (LAs). The study involved an analysis of descriptive data on over 10% of children on child protection plans or in out-of-home care in 14 English LAs at 31 March 2012. The data demonstrate very large inequalities in rates of child welfare interventions within and between LAs, systematically related to levels of deprivation. There is evidence of a gradient in child welfare inequalities across the whole of society. There also appears to be an equivalent of the inverse care law for health: For any given level of deprivation in local neighbourhoods, LAs with lower overall levels of deprivation were intervening more often. The findings raise fundamental questions for research, policy and practice including whether the allocation of children's service resources sufficiently recognize the impact of deprivation on demand and how we judge whether a safeguarding system is effective at the population level.


Item TypeArticle
TitleChild welfare inequalities: new evidence, further questions
Authors Bywaters, P. (profile-link for )
Brady, G.M. (profile-link for )
Sparks, T. (profile-link for )
Bos, E. (profile-link for )
Uncontrolled Keywordschild protection, child welfare, deprivation, health, inequality, looked-after children
Departments Business, Environment and Society
Business, Environment and Society/Applied Research Centre in Sustainable Regeneration (SURGE)
Centre for Communities and Social Justice
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Centre for Business in Society (CBiS)
Centre for Technology Enabled Health Research (CTEHR)
ISSN1356-7500 (print), 1365-2206 (online)
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Publisher statementThis is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Bywaters, P. , Brady, G.M. , Sparks, T. and Bos, E. (2014) Child welfare inequalities: new evidence, further questions. Child & Family Social Work, volume 21, issue 3, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving'.
Deposited on 26-Mar-2015 in Research - Coventry.
Last modified on 25-Oct-2016