Children’s social care data in Wales
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 recent years this data has become available for researchers. In Wales this data can be accessed as anonymised individual level administrative data. This can then be linked to other datasets so that a wide variety of research questions can be answered. When these datasets are linked to other datasets they are data linkage projects. These pages summarise what data is available and how to access the data.
In addition to the accessing individual level data aggregate data is also made available as part of a statistical publication or as local authority and national level tables on the Stats Wales website. Additionally, this data has been summarised by Social Care Wales as part of their National Social Care Data Portal for Wales and features in the UK Catalogue of Social Care Data compiled by the LSE and the Care Policy and Evaluation Centre.
What is administrative / routine 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.
What is collected?
In Wales, there are two key annual data collections which are submitted to the Welsh Government and shared with the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank.
Children Looked After Census (LACW)
This return comprises of individual level episode and demographic data for every child looked after by Welsh local authorities during the year to 31st March.
For further information about this dataset, associated sub-sets of data and the metadata available, click on the links below:
Children in Need (CINW) / Children Receiving Care and Support (CRCS)
The Children Receiving Care and Support Census and its predecessor the Children in Need Census represent a snapshot of those receiving care and support from their local authority who have had an open case for 3 months prior to 31st March. This is a wider collection than the LACW, and also includes those on the child protection register and others who are neither on the register or looked after, who receive care and support.
For further information about these datasets and the metadata available, click on the link below:
How do I access the data?
There are two routes for accessing the individual-level anonymized data. The preferred route will depend upon whether the research question can be answered using just the social services data – in which case applications should be made initially to the Welsh Government, or whether it is going to be necessary to link to other datasets – in which case applications should be directed to SAIL Databank. For further information about the application process, click on the respective links.
When these datasets are accessed through the SAIL Databank then can potentially be linked to other data about Welsh children and their families held in SAIL Databank. Datasets include family justice data from Cafcass Cymru and the courts; education; health and criminal justice.
Further information about the range of datasets held in SAIL can be found here.
How can I find out about existing research?
There are a number of data linkage projects, led by researchers who are part of the CASCADE – Swansea Partnership which have been either completed or are in progress. Further information can be found here.
As the use of the social services datasets increases, we anticipate that other researchers will publish their findings. A list of relevant publications can be found here.
If you are aware of further projects, please feel free to get in touch.
There are currently a number of funders who fund data linkage projects where there is an emphasis on addressing gaps in the evidence base around children’s social care. These include:
- Health and Care Research Wales
- ESRC responsive mode: Secondary Data Analysis
- ADR UK Research Fellowships
- Nuffield Foundation
- National Institute for Health and Care Research (NHIR)
Eligibility criteria and levels of funding vary, so we would encourage researchers to check the details carefully. Similarly, depending on the focus of the research, there may be other funding opportunities which are worth exploring.
CASCADE’s mission is to improve the well-being, safety and rights of children and their families. We do this by generating new knowledge about children’s social care and sharing new and existing knowledge in ways that help services.