The proposed research aims to examine, over time, education and health outcomes of children who are looked after (CLA) by the local authority (i.e. in care). Existing studies that use only one point in time have shown that CLA have poorer educational and health outcomes than the general population. Pre-care experiences, such as physical abuse, parental mental health illness and parental alcohol misuse, are common reasons for becoming looked after. These experiences also predict poorer health, education and social outcomes in young people who are not in care. For these reasons, it is difficult to understand whether poorer health and educational outcomes for CLA are because of differences in pre-care experiences, or of care itself.
This research, for the first time, linked an existing Wales-wide dataset on education and health with routinely collected data on young people’s support from social services. The research is exploring three objectives. First, addresses the lack of large-scale studies in the UK that statistically examine the role of CLA status in predicting educational outcomes and health over time. Second, it will reduce uncertainty over the extent to which poor outcomes among CLA are because of pre-care experiences, or experiences of being in care. This will be achieved through comparison between CLA, and children who receive help from social services but are not CLA (Children In Need, but Not Looked After – NLA). There are likely to be differences between these two groups that predict why one group becomes CLA and the other does not, but NLA are likely to be more similar to CLA than children not known to services. To take account of some further differences between groups, we will adjust for physical abuse, parental mental health illness, parental alcohol misuse and domestic violence. Third, whilst CLA status is often based on the assumption that removing young people from adversity will move them toward better life trajectories, this study will be the first to examine over time the role of care in reducing the effects of pre-care experiences on education and health care outcomes.
The research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
Presenter: Dr Sara Long, DECIPHer, Cardiff University.