The increasing number of children and young people entering statutory care in the UK is a significant social, health and educational priority. Development of effective approaches to safely reduce this number remains a complex but critical issue. Despite an increase in interventions, evidence summaries are limited. This study is a scoping review; using systematic searching methods to map published evidence in the area of what works in safely reducing the number of children and young people, under the age of 18 years, entering statutory social care. Including exploring the clusters and gaps of research evidence in this area.

Download the report, apendixes and summary:

Mapping the evidence about what works to safely reduce the entry of children and young people into statutory care: A systematic scoping review

Reducing Care Executive summary

Appendix 1a- Reducing Care Entry

Reducing Care Appendix 1b- Reunification and care re-entry

Reducing Care: Appendix 2

Reducing care: Appendix 3


This scoping review identifies key evidence clusters, gaps and uncertainties on what works in safely reducing the need for children and young people to enter into statutory care. The review scopes the evidence across three areas:

  • The safe reduction of the need for children and young people to enter statutory care;
  • The safe reduction of the need for children and young people to re-enter care;
  • The safe increase in children and young people’s re-unification with their family following a period in out-of-home care. The review focuses on the ‘safe’ reduction of the number of individuals in care rather than the absolute reduction, while ensuring the correct identification and support of those requiring statutory intervention.

How we went about it

There are six stages to designing the scoping review process:

  • identification of the research question
  • identification of relevant studies
  • study selection
  • charting of the data
  • collation, summary and reporting of results
  • consultation with relevant stakeholders. This scoping review adopts a realist approach to evidence mapping. Realist approaches consider the question of what works, for whom, in which circumstances, and in what way. Evidence reviewed can then be considered in relation to the EMMIE framework. This framework has primarily been employed with systematic reviews which use defined search terms to search for all published research on a subject and analyse the findings, or appraisals of existing reviews and we understand this to be the first example of its use within a scoping review.

Key findings

The main finding from the scoping review is the spread of evidence across eight intervention types. The interventions were reviewed to assess gaps and clusters of EMMIE evidence in the literature. These eight interventions were:

  • family/child skills training
  • service integration/coordination around the needs of families
  • changes to what workers do (practice change)
  • changes in or new therapeutic approach
  • structure change to the social care system
  • meetings that include the family and relevant workers meeting in one place and discussing and planning together around a child’s safety
  • interventions that directly or indirectly act to increase or decrease a family’s finances
  • mentoring interventions.

Clusters and gaps are mapped for each of these eight intervention types within the full report. We highlight the numbers of papers that test whether the type of intervention works to reduce the numbers in care (Effect) and how these interventions work, for whom, and under which circumstances (Mechanisms and Moderators), as well as evidence around implementation (Implementation) and eEconomic (Economic) issues.
Narrative summaries describe the key clusters and gaps in the evidence base in relation to what works to reduce the numbers in care.

What next

The What Works Centre will consult on the review findings with the children’s social care sector in England via policy and practitioner panels and continued knowledge translation events. Stakeholders will be invited to assist in the appropriate interpretation, presentation and accessibility and usability dissemination of review findings to a diverse range of policy and practitioner audiences. The scoping review will be used by the review team to identity a range of potential research questions and future systematic reviews. The findings, subsequent systematic reviews and engagement with the sector will also inform the research agenda for the Centre.