Catalogue description Department of Health and Social Security: Children's Division: Children in Care Datasets

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Details of BN 98
Reference: BN 98
Title: Department of Health and Social Security: Children's Division: Children in Care Datasets

The Children in Care (CIC) datasets provide information about children in the care of local authorities, who are currently referred to as being 'looked after'. The element 'looked after' is a term which is defined in the Children Act 1989, and replaces the former designation of 'children in care'. The records are in the form of individual anonymised, coded care histories of each individual child, organised in the format of 'care episodes'. A new 'care episode' is initiated whenever there is a change in the placement or legal status of a child. The data in the CIC database covers the 15 statistical years from 1977 to 1991 inclusive, and covers both England and Wales. A 'statistical year', in the CIC database, is defined as a financial year, running from 1 April to 31 March inclusive (i.e. the 1977 statistical year runs from 1 April 1976 to 31 March 1977). Data for the years from 1 April 1991 are not stored in this database.

The Department of Health produced annual statistical reports on children in care each financial year, which are available in the dataset documentation catalogue. However it is important to note that the data had not fully accrued by the time these reports were printed, and so as a result the statistics in the published reports cannot be reproduced from the data. In 1997, statistics for the years 1979 - 1991 were generated and output. These statistics are unpublished and are presently held by the Department of Health. They contain estimated data for those local authorities which had returns missing from the final version of the data after full accrual. The origin of these estimates is unknown, and the Department of Health have been unable to provide us with further information regarding this. The Department have stated in their report that:

'it is known that the published statistics for a number of years were based on early estimates and had been superseded on the main frame by more accurate and complete data, as reflected in the reports run off in 1991. These reports, rather than the contemporary publications, should therefore be regarded as the most accurate source of data'.

The datasets in this series are available to download. Links to individual datasets can be found at piece level.

Date: 1977-1991

Hardware: The data in the Children in Care (CIC) database was originally stored and processed on mainframe system operated by the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) at Norcross near Blackpool. When the Departments of Health and Social Security were split, in 1987, ownership of the mainframe was transferred to the Department of Social Security (DSS), which continued to process the CIC data under contract to the Department of Health. When the 1989 Children Act came into force (during the 1991/92 statistical year) the CIC data was archived. It was retained by DSS at Norcross, however, as they were continuing to provide a service to the Department of Health, processing the new style 'Children Looked After' dataset using a re-designed 'CLA' database. In 1997 the processing of data on looked after children was transferred to a Client Server system based in the Department of Health at Skipton House in London. At the same time the archived CIC data was transferred to the Department of Health on an optical disk for storage and future use. This data has since been transferred to a CD-ROM.

Operating System: Various, including - George 3, DME and VME.

Application Software: Migrated from its original mainframe format to Microsoft Access format in 1997.

Logical structure and schema: The dataset consists of two tables: CHILD (Data Relating to the Child) and EPISODE (Data Relating to the Care Episode) which are linked by LA (Local Authority) and Child_ID fields.

How data was originally captured and validated: The data was supplied on an annual basis by English local authorities, on magnetic media or paper submissions. Inputs by tape were received in ICL VME, ICL George, IBM EBCDIC or ISO standard formats. The paper inputs were keyed using a PCK process. The processing of the data was done by a COBOL validation system. All validation was performed on ICL 1900 (1970's), 2900, and ICL 3900 (1990's) mainframes.

Validation performed after transfer: For all years from 1977 to 1991 the numbers of children in care at 31 March, as derived from the electronic database, have been compared with the printed reports and the published statistics. The NDAD produced the following information, which incorporates the table produced by the Department of Health documenting these discrepancies. Several further discrepancies were discovered when validation checks were carried out on the transferred data. The following list details:

  • 1) The year,
  • 2) The authorities for which data is missing,
  • 3) Authorities with figures that differ by 1,
  • 4) Further discrepancies (where applicable).

  • 1977 - 2) 906* - 3) 606 724 708 (no figure published)
  • 1978 - 2) 906* - 3) 212
  • 1979 - 2) 906* - 3) 002
  • 1980 - 2) 721, 732, 906*, 999** - 3) 002, 725, 9031 - 4) LAs 109, 706 also missing.
  • 1981 - 2) 107, 109, 706, 771, 906*, 907**
  • 1982 - 2) 702, 706, 711, 712, 804, 906*
  • 1983 - 2) 310, 706, 711, 712, 906*
  • 1984 - 2) 311, 706, 711, 906* - 3) 319
  • 1985 - 2) 207, 706, 709, 711, 804, 903, 906*
  • 1986 - 2) 207, 706, 709, 711, 804, 903, 906*
  • 1987 - 2) 706, 709, 906* - 4) LAs 804, 903 also missing
  • 1988 - 2) 308, 704, 706, 709, 719, 729, 804, 906*
  • 1989 - 2) 309, 702, 704, 706, 709, 710, 719, 729, 906* - 4) LA 804 is also missing
  • 1990 - 2) 906* - 4) 801 and 808 have no records in the Child table, but do in the Episode table. 501 has +72 children; 502 has -35; 503 has -37; 504 has +34; 505 has -54. LAs 907 and 908 are unknown extra codes**
  • 1991 - 2) 906* 4) 407 has +7 children and 709 has -40.

*Isles of Scilly - in published tables this authority is either omitted, or figures are zero, or figures are included with those for Cornwall.

**These are non-existent authorities.

When the data is compared with the annual published Statistical Reports it can be seen that the local authorities for which there is no data are dealt with as follows:

  • For 1977-1984 the published reports contain zeros in place of data from missing local authorities.
  • For 1985-1986 the published reports contain blanks in place of data from missing local authorities.
  • For 1987-1991 the published reports appear to have replaced missing data with data from a previous year (the same local authority). In most cases (but not all), the year is stated in brackets after the name of the local authority.
  • It is stated in the published reports, for years 1985-1991, that the data for the Isles of Scilly has been included with the Cornwall local authority data. However, for years 1977-1985 this is not stated, so it is not clear whether the figures for the Isles of Scilly are actually zero, or whether they have been omitted.
Held by: The National Archives
Former reference in The National Archives: CRDA/38
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Department of Health, 1988-

Department of Health and Social Security, 1968-1988

Physical description: 16 datasets and documentation
Restrictions on use: Subject to access exemption under the Data Protection Act
Access conditions: Subject to 30 year closure unless otherwise stated
Immediate source of acquisition:

Department of Health

Accumulation dates: From 1976
Selection and destruction information: Selected under sections (formulation and delivery of social policies) and (social and demographic condition of UK as documented in the state's dealings with individuals) of the PRO Acquisition Policy.
Accruals: No further accruals are expected.
Unpublished finding aids:

Extent of documentation: 19 documents, Dates of creation of documentation: 1996

Administrative / biographical background:

The Department of Health (DOH) collects data relating to children in the care of social services, from all local authorities with social service responsibilities. The Children in Care database provides information about children in the care of local authorities, who are currently referred to as being 'looked after'. From this data the Department of Health produced annual statistical reports on children in care each financial year. For the period up to 31 March 1991, the Department collected this data from all local authorities in England and Wales.

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