Children in Children's Homes

What kinds of children's homes work well for which children? A mixed methods study of stability and outcomes using national administrative data

The National Institute for Health and Social Care Research has awarded a grant of £355,539 to Kingston University and National Children's Bureau, to produce new knowledge about what works well for children in children's homes and use this evidence to set out a needs-led approach to commissioning and provision. The project will be led by Professor Rick Hood at Kingston University and will run from April 2024 to March 2026.


There are about 7,000 children living in children's homes in England. They include some of the most vulnerable children in the care system, most of whom require extra support for their educational, social, emotional and mental health needs. Despite longstanding concerns about outcomes for these children, vital knowledge is missing about how best to match children's needs to the right kinds of care. We know little about how local authorities make decisions in relation to commissioning and the placement of children, or how these decisions connect to the wider children's social care system. We also do not know how outcomes for children relate to the type of provision they receive and why some placements in children's homes work better than others. In order to address these questions, our team has designed a mixed methods study in partnership with Ofsted, the regulator for children's homes and children's social care, and in consultation with experts-by-experience, practitioners, managers and policymakers.

Aims and Objectives

The aim of the study is to produce new knowledge about what works well for CICH and use this evidence to set out a needs-led approach to commissioning and provision. Our specific objectives are to:

  1. Investigate the factors affecting placement stability, placement change and different exit routes from care.
  2. Identify the outcomes of provision for CICH at ages 16 and 18, using a range of measures.
  3. Examine stakeholders' views and experiences and ensure that the voices of care-experienced children and young people's shape policy and practice in this area


The design is a convergent mixed methods study, which will combine the quantitative analysis of linked administrative data on children's social care (CSC) and educational attainment, with qualitative analysis of stakeholder views and experiences. The project is supported by the DfE and Ofsted and will be undertaken in partnership with the Ofsted children's social care data team. The study has three interrelated work packages (WPs): 

  • WP1: Quantitative analysis of linked national administrative data on children's homes and children looked after, using a unique dataset accessed through the DfE and Ofsted to investigate the factors affecting placement stability, placement change and exit routes from care. 
  • WP2: Quantitative analysis of outcomes for CICH at ages 16 and 18, using additional data from the National Pupil Database to examine a range of outcomes, including educational attainment and emotional and behavioural wellbeing. 
  • WP3: Qualitative analysis of stakeholders' perceptions and experiences, including those of care-experienced young people. 


The project will have a strong emphasis on engaging policymakers and senior leaders, as well as service managers and frontline practitioners, in order to ensure that the results of the study contribute to better planning, resourcing and design of services for children in children's homes. We will publish a report setting out key recommendations, as well as accessible summaries for all our stakeholders. In describing and evaluating a range of outcomes for children's home placements, the study will also establish a foundation for future evaluations and inform the government's implementation of reforms following the 2022 Care Review.

Ethical approval

All work packages are submitted for ethical review to the Kingston University Research Ethics Committee. Research governance approval has been obtained from Ofsted and the Department for Education.

Research team

  • Rick Hood (Professor of Social Work, Kingston University) – Project lead
  • Allie Goldacre (Research Associate, Kingston University) – Quantitative work
  • Caroline Coady (Assistant Director, NCB) – Co-production and public involvement lead
  • Keith Clements (Senior Researcher, NCB) – Qualitative work
  • Dustin Hutchinson (Policy and Public Affairs Manager, NCB) – Policy and impact lead
  • Ava Berry (Policy and Research Manager, NCB) – impact and engagement
  • Chao Wang (Associate Professor, Kingston University) – statistician

The research will also be supported by colleagues in the Ofsted Data & Insight team for children's social care: Emma Martin, Ed Jones and Hannah Tempest. 

Advisory group

An expert Advisory Group has been recruited from across the UK. The group will support engagement with national governments and other key players, advise on the interpretation of emerging findings and assist the impact strategy. A wider community of interest including governmental and non-governmental organisations, professional groups and service users will be kept informed and consulted throughout to maximise the impact on policy and practice.

For further information please contact:

Faculty of Health, Science, Social Care and Education