Outcomes for looked-after children in Northern Ireland

This project will investigate the relationship between childhood interactions with social services and risk of poor health and social outcomes in adulthood. It will use 30 years’ worth of Northern Ireland social services data from the Social Services Care Administrative and Records Environment (SOSCARE, 1985-2015) linked to Census returns, prescribed medication data, hospital data, the registry of self-harm and death records at an individual level.

This is the UK's first historical, population-wide cohort of individuals known to social services as children, identifying those who were a Child in Need, on the Child Protection Register and/or a Looked After Child. From this linked dataset the research team will be able to follow individuals over a 30-year period to examine a range of outcomes including: receipt of psychotropic medication; psychiatric hospital admission; self-harm; employment status; educational attainment; and death by suicide.

Key questions

Specifically, the project will address three main research questions investigating:   

  1. Changes in the profile of children known to social services over the last 30 years  

  2. The long-term outcomes of being a child known to social services including mental and physical health outcomes; suicide risk; self-harm; educational attainment; employment status; and variation within reason for contact with social services and social services intervention  

  3. The effect of critical periods and transitions.

Project lead

Dr Aideen Maguire, Queen’s University Belfast (ADR Northern Ireland).

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