Pioneering project links data to understand pathway of children in care in Scotland

31 May 2018 17:45
Lone girl on a swing

Each year thousands of children become looked after – placed in the care of a local authority - in Scotland.

Dr Linda Cusworth, from the Centre for Child and Family Justice Research at Lancaster University, is part of a team, led by Stirling University, that have, for the first time, secured agreement to link national datasets to build an in-depth picture of these children’s pathways over time.

This is a major step forward in data intensive work on a high priority topic for the Scottish Government.

The project has been given clearance to link and analyse data on looked-after children collected by the Scottish Government.

The project team will follow up children using data from the Children Looked After Statistics (CLAS) and Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA).

The team have worked with the Administrative Data Centre in Scotland to support this project and secure access to anonymised data.

The Children’s Hearing System was established in Scotland in 1971. Within children’s hearings pivotal decisions are made about children’s futures.

By linking Children’s Hearings data with their ‘looked after’ records, the research team will be able to provide Scottish Government and relevant social care agencies with vital insights into factors such as the timing of decisions, any delay in decision making and factors associated with children achieving a permanent placement.

Securing stable and timely placements, or supporting children’s safe reunification home, is critical for children’s longer- term wellbeing and life chances.

The research – a collaboration between the Universities of Stirling, York and Lancaster, together with the Adoption and Fostering Alliance Scotland – is being carried out as part of the ‘Permanently Progressing? Building secure futures for children in Scotland’ study.

A Senior Research Associate at Lancaster University Law School, Dr Cusworth, who brings a wealth of experience in quantitative data analysis to this project, said: “We are very excited to have secured permission to link important national data. The Children’s Hearing system plays a vital role in securing children’s futures - we need to know far more about the outcomes of decisions taken on children’s pathways to permanence.”

“There are very few examples of studies using large-scale linked datasets in both law and social science; we are pleased to demonstrate the feasibility of this kind of data-intensive work for research concerning children’s lives.”

The research team will report the findings from the first phase of this project which has involved tracking over 1,800 children from all 32 local authorities in Scotland, together with the new findings from the linked dataset at a day conference on the 19th of September 2018 at Stirling University.


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