New report: High rates of infants in care proceedings in deprived areas of Wales
22nd July 2021
A new report has been published by the Centre for Child and Family Justice research (CFJ) which seeks to unpack the impact of area-level deprivation on the numbers of infants taken into care in Wales. Led by Dr Stefanie Doebler, and part of a series by the Family Justice Data Partnership (a collaboration between the universities of Lancaster and Swansea), this report uses population-level administrative data supplied by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service Wales (Cafcass Cymru) combined with local authority-level deprivation domain data, using the highly secure systems for linkage and anonymisation established by the SAIL Databank. The study includes all children (N=7,381) who were subject to care proceedings in Wales between calendar years 2014 to 2018, differentiating between incidence rates for infants (those less than one-year old) and older children. The report sheds new light on the differential effects of domains of deprivation on the rates of infants and children subject to care proceedings in Wales.
Key research findings
- Infants are far more at risk of appearing in care proceedings in Wales than older children.
- Infants and children living in areas characterised by high levels of socio-economic deprivation are at heightened risk of becoming subjects in care proceedings.
- The association between area deprivation and care proceedings holds for: income, employment, health and educational deprivation, but not for community safety, housing and physical environment deprivation. In addition, these associations are much stronger for infants than for older children. Over time, the most consistent association between rates of care proceedings and deprivation is evident for employment.
- Public law cases involving children cluster particularly in deprived fringe and urban areas of South Wales and some areas in North Wales, but far less in rural areas.
- A considerable part of the statistical association between incidence rates of children in care proceedings and deprivation is affected by outliers, - a small number of areas with extremely high incidence rates of children. But we also see a very small number of areas showing high deprivation rates but lower incidence rates of children, which may reflect variations at the level of local policymaking.
- Whilst this report is focused on deprivation and indicates that deprivation, especially the employment domain are important in explaining rates of care proceedings, other policy and practice factors will most likely play a part, but are beyond the scope of this study.
This study demonstrates the feasibility, but also importance of, unpacking different domains of area-level deprivation and their associations with care proceedings. Socio-economic deprivation is a broad descriptor, but policy makers and practitioners need more precision if interventions that target deprivation are to be effective. Given the likelihood of continued pressure on public finances, this study suggests that tackling area-level income, employment, health and educational deprivation may be effective in reducing children’s risk of appearing in care proceedings. Further research which examines the impact of the different domains of deprivation at the household level is needed, to build on these findings. In addition, qualitative research would shed light on the mechanisms involved, for example, in the impact of unemployment on communities and families.
The report is available here.
For further details, contact Dr Stefanie Doebler (firstname.lastname@example.org).