The aim of this project is to investigate the relationship between poverty and social inequality and child welfare interventions, such as children becoming ‘looked after’ or placed on the child protection register.


There is international evidence about the connection between poverty and child maltreatment but only recently has research on this topic been undertaken in the UK. This research shows, from analysis of administrative data, stark differences between child welfare intervention rates according to the relative deprivation of communities. Less is known about how this connection between deprivation and child protection plays out on the ground in local authority responses to children in need. A recent four nations UK study funded by the Nuffield Foundation included mixed-methods case studies of local authority social work teams, in all the UK nations except for Wales.

The intention is to undertake a similar study in Wales, where the social gradient of intervention is highest of all UK nations and overall intervention rates are higher than in England and Northern Ireland, despite the latter country being more deprived than Wales. Little is also known about what kinds of material help can contribute to preventing child maltreatment. The proposed study also focuses on this issue.

Activities and Methods

The study consists of two strands of activities:

Strand One

Mixed-methods case studies will be conducted in three Welsh local authorities to examine the relationship between neighbourhood deprivation and social work practice. Social work teams will be selected on the same criteria as comparable studies in the rest of the UK. Research methods used within the case studies will include: a review of existing demographic and deprivation data; mapping of resources analysis of policy and guidance; observation; quantitative analysis of throughput and outcomes; semi-structured interviews with front-line staff and decision makers; and focus groups with social workers. Framework analysis will compare case study data across the four nations.

Strand Two

Following an initial mapping of welfare advice services in Welsh local authorities, aggregate data will be accessed from two sources: (1) published statistics on children on child protection plans and ‘looked after’ in Welsh local authorities and (2) performance data from local authority welfare advice teams. Where local authorities routinely offer income maximisation to families, and where there is a known start date for providing this service, interrupted time series analysis will be used to analyse differences between observed and expected rates of child intervention.


This study is ongoing

Lead Person

Principal InvestigatorDr. Martin Elliott

Academic Staff

ResearcherDr. Philip Smith
ResearcherProf. Jonathan Scourfield
Related SchoolsDepartment of Sociological Studies, Sheffield University; Sheffield Methods Institute, Sheffield University
Related partnersProf. Kate Morris – Sheffield University
Dr. Will Mason – Sheffield University
Dr. Calum Webb – Sheffield University
FundersHealth and Care Research Wales
Related linksChild Welfare Inequalities Project – Coventry University