Outcomes for looked-after children in Northern Ireland

The Background

Children known to social services have high levels of mental health need and children leaving care have poorer educational and employment outcomes. However, research focusing on the predictors of positive outcomes within this cohort is rare. 

The Aims & Key Questions

The aim of this project is to build a powerful retrospective cohort exploring the social trajectories of children leaving care to examine factors associated with both poor and positive outcomes. 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.

The Data

The project 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, homelessness data, criminal justice data, educational attainment data, prescribed medication data, hospital data, the registry of self-harm and death records at an individual level.

From these datasets, 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.

The Potential

This project will be the UK's first historical, population-wide cohort of individuals known to social services as children. The identification of factors that lead to both poor and positive outcomes will help to ensure that children and young people have the best start in life.

Project Details

Project Lead: Dr Aideen Maguire, Queen's University Belfast (ADR Northern Ireland)

Duration: Due to be completed by 2026

Funding: This project is funded by ADR Northern Ireland via its core grant from the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) as an ADR UK partner. 

Categories: Research using linked data, ADR Northern Ireland, Children & Young People, Health & Wellbeing


Categories: ADR Northern Ireland, Children & young people, Health & wellbeing

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