Looked After Children is a dataset provided by the Welsh Government. It contains information on children on care orders and in placements. Data also covers adoption from care and the number of children and young people leaving care. The data includes demographic and episode level information. This data can be used to investigate educational outcomes for looked after children, to assess the mental health needs of children leaving care or to examine inconsistencies and inequalities across care system. This data will enable research to inform better policy making that supports timely interventions to improve looked after children’s outcomes and relieve pressures on social services.

Component datasets and linkage

In addition to the main Children Looked After dataset, the SAIL Databank holds the following subsets: Looked After Children: Adoption, Looked After Children: Care Leaver, Looked After Children: Birthday 19, Looked After Children: Education Qualifications.

Timeframe 1 April 2001 - 31 March 2021
Update Frequency Annual
Population Looked after children
Coverage Wales only
Size 310,550 recorded episodes for 37,775 unique children

Core documentation

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User guide

None available.

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Data dictionary

Information about the data is available on the Health Data Research Innovation Gateway.

Other supporting resources

Resource Description
Data Resource Profile: children looked after administrative records in Wales Allnatt, G., Lee, A., Scourfield, J., Elliott, M., Broadhurst, K., Griffiths, L (2022) Data Resource Profile: children looked after administrative records in Wales, International Journal of Population Data Science, 7:1 pp. 1-10.
Welsh Social Care Data Users Group A Welsh Social Care Data Users Group has been established (led by researchers at Swansea, Cardiff, and Lancaster Universities) to support use of Welsh administrative data. This group is affiliated with ADR Wales and the Children’s Social Care Data User Group based in England.
SAIL Databank: Data use register A register of approved projects using the data.
Data Explained: Children looked after datasets This Data Explained summarises the content and potential uses of the Children Looked After (CLA) Census dataset.

Published research using the data

  • Allnatt G, Elliot M, Scourfield J, Lee A, Griffiths L. Use of linked administrative children’s social care data for research: a scoping review of existing UK studies. British Journal of Social Work, 2022; 00, p.1-22.
  • Grimm, F., Alcock, B., Butler, J., Fernandez Crespo, R., Davies, A., Peytrignet, S., ... & Tallack, C. (2022). Improving children and young people’s mental health services.
  • Melis, G., Bedston, S., Schlüter, D., Taylor-Robinson, D., Akbari, A., Lowthian, E., & Bennett, D. (2022). OP22 Perinatal and early life risk factors for becoming a Looked-After Child. A population-based cohort study using routinely collected data in Wales.
  • SAIL Databank continues to receive and approve access to these new datasets from researchers across Wales and beyond, such as those based in the Family Justice Data Partnership and the Children’s Social Care Research and Developmental Centre.

Accessing the data

Containing billions of person-based records, SAIL Databank is a rich and trusted population databank. Following application and approval, it provides researchers with secure, fully linkable and anonymised data that can be accessed and analysed from anywhere in the world. SAIL can also anonymously link new data uploaded by users to existing routinely-collected data within SAIL (subject to approvals).

SAIL Databank has established a convenient and effective two stage application process for researchers who would like to access data via the SAIL Databank for high quality research projects.

Costs are dependent on support and infrastructure needs related to your project (such as time for data preparation and use of computing resources). In practice, this means that there is a cost for most projects. This varies based on the complexity of the project, the support you would like from us, and the type of funding. These costs are detailed during the scoping process. Find out more.

View further details and apply for access using the information on the ADR UK Data Catalogue.

View Looked After Children Wales

Information about policy research priorities

The number of children and young people in Wales who require state care has risen in recent years. Outcomes in various domains relating to education, health and wellbeing for these children are poor. The Welsh Government Programme for Government 2021-2026 sets out commitments relating to the care of looked after children.

In addition, The Wellbeing of Future Generation Act priorities underpin research in this area.

“The availability of children’s social care datasets in SAIL brings great potential for policy-relevant research. There are so many questions that can be answered from population-wide data, including what leads to children being in need, in care and on child protection plans, disaggregated by characteristics such as age and ethnicity; and what the longer-term outcomes are, not only for children looked after but all the other children who receive social services.”

J Scourfield, Professor of Social Work and former Welsh Government specialist policy adviser