On SAGE Insight: Child welfare inequalities in the four nations of the UK

From Journal of Social Work

In the public health field, much attention has been paid to measuring and analysing differences in mortality and morbidity between and within countries. While recognising problems in ensuring that data are genuinely comparable between and within different countries, sufficient convergence is managed through the WHO Global Health Observatory for data on over 1000 indicators of population health to be gathered from 194 countries. 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.

The UK offered the possibility of a kind of natural experiment in comparing policies and services for CP although only these two types of state intervention within the wider range of provision were examined. The UK countries share a common language, government and history. However, a number of significant differences also apply. The study combined administrative data of three kinds: about individual children subject to state children’s services interventions, about the deprivation level of the neighbourhood and the area in which the children lived and about the child population of neighbourhoods and areas which enabled the calculation of rates of intervention. Because the child populations in the four countries are of very different sizes a mixed sampling approach was adopted to ensure sufficient numbers to allow for meaningful comparison and statistical analysis.

Children’s chances of state intervention are patterned by their family or household circumstances measured by neighbourhood deprivation. This has a major impact on service demand. This is true at different ages and for both boys and girls. These inequalities are very large: children in the most deprived 10% of neighbourhoods in the UK are over 10 times more likely to be subject to an intervention than children in the least deprived 10%. Inequalities in intervention rates result from a combination of demand and sup. ly 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.

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 countries (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) provide a potential ‘natural experiment’ for comparing intervention patterns. This study reportson a large quantitative, descriptive study focusing on children in contact with children’sservices 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 mrates 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.

Read the article in full here

Article details
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, Corresponding Author: Jonathan Scourfield,
First Published September 11, 2018 Research Article  
DOI: 10.1177/1468017318793479
From Journal of Social Work


     
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