Residential care is a form of care for children who, for a multitude of reasons, are unable to live with their birth family. Instead, they are cared for by paid professionals in a residential setting, such as a children’s home, usually under a voluntary care agreement or care order. Residential care is the third most commonly used placement type for children who are looked after (after foster and kinship care). This analysis aims to provide a quantitative national overview of the characteristics and experiences of children living in residential care, their journeys into and out of residential care placements and their outcomes compared to children in other types of care. The availability of administrative data means that large scale analysis of children’s experiences and outcomes can be carried out and important questions can be answered.
The project will use individual-level data requested from the ONS’ Secure Research Service (SRS) to understand kinship care in England. The data requested includes national administrative data on looked after children provided by local authorities to the Department for Education (known as the SSDA903 collection) for the years 1998/1999 – 2019/20, as well as data from the children in need and annual school census.
When considering experiences of, and outcomes associated with residential care, children with some specific demographic characteristics will be considered separately. This is because children’s experiences of and journeys through residential care may differ strongly, so exploring pathways through residential care separately for a number of different groups will likely improve our understanding of how or why residential care is used. These groups will be: unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, children whose main need for services arises because of their disability, illness or intrinsic condition, early entrants to residential care (aged 10 and younger), adolescent entrants to care (aged 11-15) and late entrants to care (aged 16 and older).
After establishing the characteristics of children who experience residential care and the factors that predict entry into residential care, we will use regressions to analyse whether certain groups of children are disproportionately placed into specific types of residential care homes. This will use publicly available information on the characteristics of residential care placements such as Ofsted ratings and the size and type of the home.