Policy in Practice and partners receive a Nuffield Foundation grant to study the links between financial precarity and child welfare. In this blog Magdalena Rossetti, Policy in Practice, and Professor Rick Hood, Kingston University, outline the project’s aims and call for local authorities to get involved. 

One in five children under the age of 16 in the UK live below the poverty line. These children are more likely to experience difficulties in their home life, education and mental wellbeing.

In recent years, a sharp rise in the cost of living has put yet more pressure on family finances. This is likely to have a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of children, particularly those living in deprived areas and from minoritised groups.

Poverty and deprivation play a significant role in driving demand for social care, including child protection interventions. Recent government reports and an independent review of children’s social care have accepted the importance of these socio-economic factors.

Yet children’s services do not routinely collect information about the financial situation of the families they support.

While we have data on the number of children receiving assessments and interventions, and about the primary needs and risks identified by social workers, we do not know how many of these children live in low-income households, experience persistent poverty, or face acute financial strain.

Role of poverty in child welfare explored using data analysis

The project, that will run for two years,  will link anonymised financial and benefits data with children’s services data to understand the role of poverty in children’s social care for six local authorities.

The project follows a successful feasibility study with one London local authority, through which we found nearly 50% of children referred to children’s social care live in households receiving means tested benefits, in deprived areas, and in poor housing conditions.

The research team will use linked operational data, informed by stakeholder voices, to analyse the extent to which financial precarity is associated with a higher likelihood of referral to child social care services and subsequent interventions.

This research will be completed in three stages:

  1. Examining the dynamic effects of changes in household income and the cost of living on financial precarity and child welfare provision
  2. Analysing the impact of the 2020-21 Universal Credit uplift on financial precarity, referrals to children’s social care, and subsequent interventions
  3. Investigating stakeholders’ experiences of the relationship between financial precarity and child welfare, and their views about the ethical use of data to improve policy and service response

The findings will inform the development of joined-up social policies that improve families’ financial circumstances and child welfare, as well as recommendations for the use of data to drive policy implementation.

Find out more and get involved

The project will run from September 2023 to September 2025. We know this work will be of particular interest to colleagues in children’s social care, charities and third sector organisations as well as the wider welfare and social policy sector.

To learn more about the research project contact hello@policyinpractice.co.uk.

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