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Department of Education

Research projects

Data and voice to improve children’s lives

This research project funded by the Nuffield Foundation is an innovative collaboration between local authorities and universities to transform how information about and from children and families is gathered, interpreted and used in child and family social policy at both local and national level.

The project will focus on children and families who need additional support from local authority children’s services, who are often the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society. For example, this will include children and families referred to children’s social care services; younger children who need help to have a good start at school; and children in care and young people leaving care.

Statistical or ‘administrative’ information about children and families – commonly known as data – can improve practice and policy, but there are gaps and complexities in how this information is used. Other types of information, particularly the views and expertise of children and families, are vitally important. This project aims to ensure children’s and families’ voices, and the views of practitioners, are heard and used to improve practice, services and policy.

The project includes four Local Sites. Oldham, Rochdale, North Yorkshire and Hampshire local authorities will work with academics from Oxford University, University of Sussex and London School of Economics and Political Science, University College London and Manchester Metropolitan University to build capacity and understanding about how to better use administrative data, children and families’ voices and information from practitioners to improve services.

Researchers will collaborate with children, young people, parents, carers, professionals and policymakers to understand and shape how information can be used ethically and effectively. Local Sites will also explore how the use of these different types of information can be co-designed with children and families, and how to support sustainable learning and change. The project has not yet been named, as the intention is to include children and families and practitioners in deciding the name.

A series of workshops, webinars and podcasts will share learning with all those working with children and families, including researchers, practitioners and managers, or policymakers. Academic thinking in this field will also be shaped by a range of research outputs. A Learning Network, run by Research in Practice, will bring together up to 20 local authorities to test out the findings from the five Local Sites and to develop learning materials to support better information use across England. If you would like to apply for the Learning Network, you can find the EOI form here.


Professor Leon Feinstein – Director of Rees Centre, Professor of Education and Children’s Social Care
Dr Lisa Holmes – Professor in Applied Social Science (Social Work and Social Care)
School of Education and Social Work at University of Sussex
Dez Holmes – Director of Research in Practice
Professor Elaine Sharland – Professor of Social Work Research (Social Work and Social Care)
School of Education and Social Work at University of Sussex
Dr Polly Vizard – Associate Director and Associate Professorial Research Fellow, CASE at LSE

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