Estimating the social care needs of looked after children and those at risk of being in care: Utilising anonymised linked data (Escalate)

Lead Research Organisation: Swansea University
Department Name: Institute of Life Science Medical School


Looked after children (LAC) have poorer social and health outcomes compared to those not in care. They underperform in educational assessments, are more likely to be unemployed, have higher rates of teenage pregnancies, illicit drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm and other mental health problems. The number of LAC continues to increase, as does the burden and costs placed on social and health care systems. Providing more targeted care whilst in the care system and designing appropriate care packages for leaving care have the potential to improve the long term social and health outcomes of LAC. The aim of this project is to increase knowledge and understanding of the needs of LAC and those at risk of being in care by exploring electronic anonymised data.

The key research questions are:
Does being looked after result in poorer health, educational and social care outcomes?
Can we determine when LAC may be most at risk?
We will use mixed methods (qualitative interviews and anonymised linked data) to provide a picture of the needs of LAC and when these needs occur. We will initially work with policy, social care and NHS partners to identify what are regarded as poor outcomes in LAC and the potential risk factors for being 'looked after'. We will then use the Welsh Electronic Cohort for Children (WECC) to examine social, health and educational outcomes of LAC and compare these to those matched controls who are not looked after and to try and identify periods of significant need. These outcomes will include: formal educational assessments; school absenteeism; Special Educational Needs status; frequency of school and residential moves; health outcomes (inpatient admissions, avoidable hospital admissions, length of inpatient stays); drug and substance misuse; mental health problems (self-harm, suicide, attempted suicide, anxiety, depression); teenage pregnancy rates; and contraceptive use.

It is envisaged that by identifying periods of risk and risk factors may make it possible to better target care, inform the design of appropriate care packages and identify key social priority areas.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2097815 Studentship ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2018 31/12/2021 Nicola Heady