Inequalities in out-of-home care rates in England: Does local party politics matter?

Calum Webb, Paul Bywaters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Inequalities in the proportion of children experiencing abuse and neglect or a children's social care intervention have become a research focus in the last decade. One almost unexplored factor of growth in rates of children in out-of-home care is local party politics.

Objective: We assessed whether growth in rates of out-of-home care in England varied by local authority party political control.

Methods: We collated administrative data on the 152 local authorities in England between 2015 and 2021. We used Bayesian parallel process latent growth models to assess whether growth in rates of children in care in English local authorities has been equal across Labour, Conservative, No Overall Control, and no political majority councils before and after adjusting for trends in child poverty, household income from employment, and expenditure on preventative services.

Results: Prior to adjusting for trends in child poverty, average household income, and expenditure, we find little evidence for differences in trends; once adjusted, we find that trends in Labour authorities were lower (- 1.125 children looked after per 10,000 per year) than in Conservative authorities. Had growth in family and local authority economic factors remained constant, our findings suggested out-of-home care rates would have, on average, been stable or decreasing in Labour local authorities but would have continued to rise elsewhere.

Conclusions: The contribution of local party politics to growing rates of out-of-home care remains under-theorised and under-researched, but there are potentially substantial differences along party lines that are masked by unequal exposure to changes in poverty.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106590
Number of pages14
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Early online date13 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024

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