Exploring demand and provision in English child protection services

Hood, Rick, Goldacre, Allie, Grant, Robert and Jones, Ray (2016) Exploring demand and provision in English child protection services. British Journal of Social Work, 46(4), pp. 923-941. ISSN (print) 0045-3102


This paper presents the results of an exploratory study linking the national data-sets for all children in need and child protection services in England. The study was informed by an emerging literature on systems thinking in public services, and aimed to examine variations and patterns of response in local authorities to demand for child welfare services in their area. One hundred and fifty-two local authority census returns and other statistical indicators covering up to a thirteen-year period were combined into a single data-set. Statistical analysis was undertaken to explore the characteristics of demand, workload and workforce, trends over time and variations between local authorities. The results showed that the overall system has become increasingly geared towards protective interventions, especially since the Baby P scandal of 2008. Deprivation levels continue to be the key driver of referrals and other categories of demand, and are strongly associated with variations in service response, particularly in the initial stages of referral and assessment. Implications are considered for the current organisation of child welfare services in light of recent reviews and reforms.

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