Hooper J, Shapira M & Daniel B (2017) Identifying and Understanding Inequalities in Child Welfare Intervention Rates: Comparative studies in four UK countries. Single country quantitative study report: Scotland. Project Report on findings from the Child Welfare Intervention project. The Nuffield Foundation.
This report is about the connection between social inequality and child welfare interventions. We analysed routine administrative data from 10 Scottish Local Authorities for all children on the child protection register and ‘looked after’ on 31 July 2015. These are the key findings:
There is a clear social gradient in the rates of children on the child protection register and looked after by Local Authorities - rates of intervention increase with increasing levels of local area deprivation.
Children from the most deprived neighbourhoods in our sample were around 20 times more likely to be subject to child welfare interventions in the form of child protection registration or becoming looked after, than those in the least deprived neighbourhoods. This relationship remained consistent even when excluding those looked after at home or with friends and relatives.
There is no statistically significant difference between boys and girls in terms of child protection and looked after children rates at each level of deprivation.
The patterns of relationship between age and child welfare intervention rates are different for children on the child protection register and those looked after, although the social gradient remains for all. The youngest age group (0-4 years) have the highest rates on the child protection register at every level of deprivation. Rates decrease with increasing age. For children looked after, across all levels of deprivation the age group with the highest rates are 10-15 year-olds. Rates decrease below this age.
For those recorded as White, there is a clear social gradient in child welfare intervention rates. However, due to small numbers of ethnic minorities in the Scottish sample we have not been able to establish whether the relationship between deprivation and child welfare intervention rates is the same or different for other ethnic categories.
For abuse concerns identified at most recent child protection case conference, for all with the exception of two (where numbers were too small – ‘child placing themselves at risk’ and ‘child exploitation’), there was a clear social gradient. However, the social gradient was smaller for sexual abuse concerns than for other categories of abuse.
For all legal reason categories, the highest proportion of looked after children were from the most deprived quintile. For those subject to compulsory supervision orders and ‘other’ legal reasons (including permanence orders without authority to adopt), a relatively linear, positive pattern is observed in the step by step change in proportion by deprivation. For child protection measures, adoption, voluntary accommodation and youth justice, this pattern is not clearly observed.
Similar to findings in England, evidence was found to support the presence of the Inverse Intervention Law – where despite the finding that more deprived Local Authorities have higher child welfare intervention rates overall, a general trend was found for intervention rates within small areas of similar deprivation across all Local Authorities to be higher when they are contained within Local Authorities of lower deprivation. Support for the Inverse Intervention Law was found for rates of all types of child welfare intervention – child protection registrations, all looked after children and looked after children not placed at home or with friends or relatives. However, in Scotland, this pattern is not observed for small areas in the most and least deprived deciles for all looked after children and looked after children not placed at home or with friends or relatives. This is despite the statistically significant trend across deciles in general.
Local Authorities in Scotland which are more deprived overall, spent more on Children and Families’ Services.