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Administrative data

The term ’administrative data’ refers to information about persons or organizational activity, which is collected routinely by government, statutory or other agencies for organizational purposes. Administrative data collected, or produced, by local and central government departments, the courts and other public sector agencies, is typically captured at the level of entire service populations, enabling research at a pace and scale, which would be very difficult to achieve through other methods.

Children’s social care data

When children and young people come to the attention of children’s social services a significant amount of information about their social care experience is routinely collected by local authorities. In Wales, routine data are captured in the ‘Children Looked After’ Census and Children Receiving Care and Support Census which are submitted annually to the Welsh Government and shared with the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank.

Overview of SAIL

Administrative data collected and maintained by Welsh Government are acquired by the privacy-protecting Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank. This Databank, hosted by the Medical School at Swansea University, contains a wealth of anonymised administrative data about the population of Wales (Ford et al., 2009; Lyons et al., 2009; Jones et al., 2016).

The databank does not receive or handle identifiable data. Anonymised data are available for genuine research purposes only where there is a potential for benefit. Each individual record is assigned an Anonymous Linking Field (ALF) or a Residential Anonymous Linking Field (RALF) for places of residence. These fields enable linkage of the information about individuals, i.e. the children’s social care records can be linked to health, education and family justice records. 

All data within the SAIL Gateway are treated in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018 and are compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation.

Details of data held by the databank and processes for accessing can be found here.

[List of current projects using social care data sets is forthcoming on this site]

Data Linkage

The SAIL databank also allows for linkage to other datasets to provide a holistic picture of the experiences of children and young people receiving care and support and their onward trajectories. Welsh Government have shared individual-level children’s social care data from 2001 onwards with SAIL, including a handful of superseded data collections. We highlight these no longer collected datasets and illustrate their relationship to the equivalent replacements.

All proposals to use this data are subject to review and approval by the SAIL Information Governance Review Panel (IGRP). When access has been granted, it is gained through a privacy-protecting safe-haven and remote access system, referred to as the SAIL Gateway. Anyone wishing to access data should follow the application process guidelines available at:

Child level data contained in single datasets are also available directly from Welsh Government.

Available datasets

CIN Census-2002-2016

The Children in Need (CIN) dataset includes information relating to needs of children and social care support. Before the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 came into force in April 2016, this data collection was named the Children in Need census, changing to Children Receiving Care and Support (CRCS) after this date to reflect better the children eligible for inclusion.

Children in Receipt of Care and Support (CRCS) -2016-present

CRCS data held within the SAIL Databank comprises 25972 records, 81% of the total number of records reported by the Welsh Government. The missing 19% are the children under 5, Welsh Government do not provide those records as they are unable to  assign an ALF as there are no unique personal number.

LAC Return- Looked After Children Census- Data from April 1st 2001

The Children Looked After dataset available inside the SAIL Databank from April 2001 and will continue to be updated each year, offering a minimum of two decades of individual-level data about children who have been looked after at any point during this period. The data available inside SAIL currently (June 2022) consist of approximately 310550 recorded episodes, reflecting data for 37775 unique children.

Care Leavers Age 16 and over- 1st April 2016

This dataset currently covers 1st April 2016 – 31st March 2021 and includes all children who ceased to be looked after during a collection year if they were aged 16 years or older at the time of care ending. Only the last occasion that care ceased is included. There are 3315 records reflecting 3240 individual children.

Educational qualifications of care leavers- 1st April 2002- 31st March 2016

This dataset currently covers 1st April 2002 – 31st March 2016 and includes all children who ceased to be looked after during a collection year if they were aged 16 years or older at the time of care ending. There are approximately 7150 records reflecting 7080 individual children. It must be linked to the primary Children Looked After collection to retrieve child characteristic information.

Care Leavers at 19th birthday- 2002-2016- This dataset includes care leavers who turned 19 years old between 1st April 2002 – 31st March 2016. It is no longer updated. There are 4940 records for 4890 children.

Adoptions- April 1st 2001

This dataset reports information about all children who cease to be looked after in a collection year upon the granting of an adoption order. It contains information about approximately 5240 individual children and 5255 individual adoptions. It includes details of all adoptions of children looked after in Wales from 1st April 2002 – 31st March 2021 and is continuously updated each year

Core documentation

Children Looked After Census guidance notes, Children Receiving Care and Support, disability register (contains information on children who are looked after and have a disability.




Digital Health and Care Wales – Click Here

 Social Care Wales data portal – Click Here

Public Law Applications to Orders tool (PLATO) – Click Here

StatsWales – Click Here

Lee et al 2022- CRCS Data Resource Wales – Click Here

Allnatt et al 2022- LAC data resource Wales – Click Here

News area

Collaborative partners

The Swansea University/ CASCADE Cardiff university collaboration received infrastructure funding from Health and Care Research Wales.

Children’s Social Care Data User Group (CSCDUG) (primary focuess on English data but the Welsh group is linked in) https://cscdug.co.uk/

Family Justice Data Partnership (FJDP) https://popdatasci.swan.ac.uk/centres-of-excellence/family-justice-data-partnership/

Education and Health Insights from Linked Data (ECHILD)


Administrative Data Research UK (ADR) https://www.adruk.org/

PDF’S- journal articles

Lyons, R., Jones, K., John,G., Brooks, C., Verplancke, J., Ford, D., Brown, G., Leake, K., (2009) The SAIL databank: linking multiple health and social care datasets BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 9:1 p.p 1-8.

Jones, K., Ford, D., Thompson, S., Lyons, R., (2019) A profile of the SAIL Databank on the UK Secure Research Platform International Journal of Population Data Science 4:2 (3) p.p 1-12.

Allnatt, G., Elliott, M., Scourfield, J., Lee, A., Griffiths, L (2022) Use of Looked Administrative Children’s Social Care Data for Research: A scoping Review of Existing UK Studies British Journal of Social Work 00, p.p. 1-22.

Lee, A., Elliott, M., Scourfield, J., Bedston, S., Griffiths, L (2022) Data Resource: Children Receiving Care and Support, and Children in Need, administrative records in Wales International Journal of Population Data Science 7:1 (8) p.p. 1-19.


A list here to add to which end up using the data

Blogs/podcasts/youtube videos

Helen Hodges-

Sophie Wood

Nell Warner

Alex Lee

Lucy Griffiths

Laura North

Laura Cowley

Overview of main funding