Child Poverty and Children Entering Care: A Natural Experiment Using Longitudinal Area-Level Data in England, 2015-2020

Davara Bennett, Daniela Schlüter, Gabriella Melis, Paul Bywaters, Ben Barr, Sophie Wickham, David Taylor-Robinson

Research output: Working paperPreprint


Background: Children in care face adverse health outcomes through the life-course, relative to their peers. In England, over the past decade, the stark rise in their number has coincided with rising child poverty, a key risk factor for children entering care. Our aim in this study was to assess the contribution of recent trends in child poverty to trends in care entry.

Methods: In this longitudinal ecological study of 147 local authorities between 2015 and 2020, we linked data from the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue & Customs on the proportion of children under 16 living in families with income less than 60% median income, with Department for Education data on rates of children under 16 entering care. Using within-between regression models, and controlling for employment trends, we estimated the contribution of changing child poverty rates to changing care entry rates within areas.

Findings: Between 2015 and 2020 and controlling for employment rates, a 1% increase in child poverty was associated with 5 additional children entering care per 100,000 (95% CI 2–8). We estimate that, over the study period, 8.1% (5.0%–11.3%) of care entries were linked to rising child poverty, equivalent to 10,356 (95% CI 6,443–14,579) additional children.

Interpretation: This study offers evidence that rising child poverty rates are contributing to an increase in children entering care. Children’s exposure to poverty creates and compounds adversity, driving poor health and social outcomes in later life. National anti-poverty policies are key to tackling adverse trends in care entry in England.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2021


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