Developing definitions of local authority services and guidance for future development of the Children in Need Census

The Children in Need (CIN) Census aims to collect data on all children receiving support from Children’s Social Care Services, including children looked after (CLA), those supported in their families or independently (CSF/I) and children subject to a Child Protection Plan. The Census provides evidence on which the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) can develop policy, make Spending Review bids, allocate resources to Local Authorities, understand the growth in spending on children’s services and measure their output in the National Accounts. The CIN Census was suspended after 2005 but is being reintroduced in 2008-09. The present research was commissioned to discover whether the scope of the Census could be extended after 2009 to include some of the numerous additional services used by Children in Need, including those provided by or in partnership with education, youth justice, Connexions, health services and the voluntary sector. This study therefore explored whether data on the delivery and use of such services is available, is recorded, can be accessed and could feasibly be systematically collected for the CIN Census. It examined not only the likely quality and completeness of such data, but the practical difficulties of extracting it from various management information systems (MIS) and the constraints of consent, confidentiality and data protection.