Children’s social services and care rates in Wales: A survey of the sector

Wales has seen a rise in both the number and rate of children looked after. The rate is now higher than any time since the 1980s. In addition, Wales has consistently had more children looked after per 10,000 of the population than the rest of the UK.

This trend is a cause for concern; particularly the impact on the outcomes of children who are taken into care in terms of educational attainment, health, unemployment, homelessness, and criminal justice. Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to have worsened the situation.

The First Minister Mark Drakeford has identified reducing care rates in Wales as a priority of the Welsh Government.

To understand better the factors influencing care rates, the Welsh Government commissioned the Wales Centre for Public Policy and the Centre for Children’s Social Care Research and Development (CASCADE) at Cardiff University to undertake a survey with the children’s social care (CSC) workforce.

The survey seeks to understand what those working in the sector believe may be driving care rates and to analyse some of the differences between local authorities (LAs) with increasing or reducing rates of children in care. We were also interested in the views of leaders in the sector.

To understand these views and their implications for differences in care rates, the survey aims to answer the following research questions:

  • What do those working within CSC see as the factors driving the increase in care rates?
  • What are the similarities and differences in the views, values and practice responses of leaders and workers?
  • What are the similarities and differences in the views, values or practices of workers and leaders in LAs with increasing care rates compared to those with decreasing care rates?

Findings show that many factors influence care rates, but there are key differences in LAs that have reduced rates, connected to the values of leaders and workers, how consistent those are, and how well they are reflected in LA practices. This suggests that influencing the values and practices of LAs could help address differences in care rates and ensure children and families in Wales receive consistent support.

The survey also asked questions about the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on practice. As these did not relate directly to care rates, this discussion is presented in a separate short report.

In total, 792 respondents completed the survey in November-December 2020.

The appendices, published in a separate accompanying document (Appendices: Children’s social services and care rates in Wales – A survey of the sector, Wales Centre for Public Policy), contain a link to the survey, the sample, methods and approach to data analysis, and response tables. These should be read alongside this report and are referred to throughout.


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