Children looked after: How practice drives variation in rates across Wales

Project status Active

The substantial and sustained increase in the rate of children in care in Wales has been a source of policy concern for some time: it has risen almost continuously for 25 years and is now higher than any time since the 1980s (Hodges & Bristow, 2019). In both Wales and England there are marked variations between local authorities (LAs) in rates of care. Even within the same LA, the rate often varies over time.

Evidence suggests that a significant proportion of this variation is the result of differences in practice (Hodges & Bristow, 2019), but there is little evidence about how practice varies nor which factors shape it.

The First Minister asked the Wales Centre for Public Policy (WCPP) to support the Welsh Government in understanding why there is variation in rates of children looked after among local authorities.

The Centre is working with CASCADE to survey the children’s social care workforce in Wales, including social workers, managers, heads of services and directors. The survey was developed in consultation with heads of children’s services, Social Care Wales and Welsh Government. It takes approximately 15 minutes to complete and covers the following topic areas:

  • What social workers and senior management think are the factors influencing care rates across Wales.
  • Whether there is variation in the values, decision making, views, and organisational and leadership practice in local authorities with different changes in rates (increasing, stable, decreasing), and between social workers and senior management in those local authorities.
  • The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on assessments of risk and practice.
  • How decision making and values in Wales compares to those in other countries.

Findings from the survey will be reported in Spring 2021.