Repeated referrals to children's services in England

Internal description

KTA / IAA (Research) [KTA / IAA R]

Description

This project was carried out in 2016 and is a collaboration between the University of Manchester and the Department for Education.

This study sought to disentangle the phenomenon of repeated referrals to Children's Services in England. More specifically, we analised the characteristics and factors underlying the propensity of children who were referred to Local Authorities' Children’s Services in the financial year 2010/11 to have multiple referrals until the end of the financial year 2015/16. This was achieved by constructing a bespoke longitudinal database from the datasets of 6 years of the Children in Need (CiN) annual census collected by the Department for Education.

This longitudinal study is the first of its kind. This was the first time that a longitudinal CiN dataset was built and the first time that children in need were individually followed up for such a long period.

It was found that after 6 years, over half (55%) the children who were referred to Children’s Services returned to the system at least once, controlling for children who became ineligible by turning 18 by the end of each CiN Census period (financial years). This re-referral rate varies widely across local authorities, between 7% and 63%.

The analysis of a series of individual characteristics determined that an increased
likelihood of re-referral is associated with younger children; females; disabled children; children initially stepped down as needing no further action; children referred initially for abuse or neglect, parental disability or illness, family in acute distress, family dysfunction or socially unacceptable behaviour. Meanwhile, at the area level, an increased likelihood of re-referral was found in local authorities with more than 10 children in need per social worker and a referral rate per 10,000 children above average (national median of 550).

This ground-breaking work was continued by the Department for Education and forms part of the "Review of children in need" which was completed in June 2019.

Key findings

- Over half (55%) the children who were referred to Children’s Services returned to the system at least once within a period of 6 years.

- Re-referral rates vary widely across local authorities, between 7% and 63%.

- Increased re-referral rates for: younger children; females; disabled children; children initially stepped down as needing no further action; children referred initially for abuse or neglect, parental disability or illness, family in acute distress, family dysfunction, socially unacceptable behaviour.

- Increased re-referral rates in local authorities with more than 10 children in need per social worker and a referral rate per 10,000 children above the national median of 550.

Short titleR:HSZ JCarter2016 IAA
Effective start/end date1/07/1631/12/16

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