A new study commissioned by the Big Lottery Fund today aims to explore and develop new ways of positively transforming the life chances of children and young people in care in Wales over the next 10 years. The study could also pave the way for a new £5 million investment which could dramatically improve the outcomes of children in care in Wales.

The latest figures show that there are nearly 6,000 children in care in Wales, an increase of 24% over the last five years. Working in partnership with experts in the field from Cardiff Universities’ School of Social Sciences and Swansea University, Children in Wales, a charity which aims to promote the interests of children, young people and their families in Wales, has been announced as the lead partner by the Big Lottery Fund (The Fund) to deliver an innovative new study.

The latest research indicates that children in care are more likely than the average child to have poor outcomes including poor educational achievement, an increased likelihood of having mental health problems and of becoming involved in crime and substance misuse and of becoming unemployed or homeless.  A high proportion of the prison population has also experienced or been through the care system. Despite these grim statistics, some looked after children do very well and this project will play part in ensuring that all looked after children in Wales have vital support to overcome the challenges that life has presented to them.

From the study, The Fund is asking researchers to develop two options for a potential pilot project worth up to £5 million over 10 years which could dramatically improve the outcomes and associated life chances of children in care in Wales. The project will work with a range of stakeholders and have a strong learning element attached to it.

The study, which will be submitted to the Big Lottery Fund at the end of the year, will gather robust evidence from across the UK and overseas to understand need and identify effective interventions and support. In addition to working with key representatives from the statutory sector, Children in Wales and its partners will also engage with a range of stakeholders including currently looked after and former looked after children and young people.

Highlighting the importance of the study and its potential to have a lasting impact on the lives of children and young people in care in Wales, Big Lottery Fund Wales Chair, Sir Adrian Webb, said: “This is an important study and we want to make sure that we take on board existing learning whilst building on good practices and embracing innovation where it is based on sound evidence.”

“Children and young people in care are an especially vulnerable group as they often experience multiple and complex transitions. For example, they may change foster carers or care home frequently, particularly if they have complex emotional and psychological needs that are not being addressed properly.”

He added: “This is a golden opportunity for organisations out there on the ground to work together to tackle this issue. They have a real opportunity here to potentially make a real positive difference to the lives of children and young people in care in Wales.”

Sean O’Neill, Policy Director for Children in Wales, said: “We are delighted to be the lead partner working with the Big Lottery Fund and our colleagues at Cardiff University and Swansea University to undertake this scoping study to identify effective ways to improve the well being of looked after children in Wales. There are many success stories to celebrate with some young people with experience of being in care achieving positive outcomes and moving on to achieve so much more in later life. Yet the figures show that many children in care do not succeed as well as we would wish.  By identifying interventions that have been seen to work, we hope that any future funds made available will be spent on solutions which help looked after children reach their full potential.”


Children and young people in care - The Facts for Wales:

  • In the year ending 31 March 2013, 5,743 children were classified as ‘looked after’ in Wales, an increase of 0.3% over the previous year and a 24% increase over the previous five years.  The majority (4,440) were in foster care placements and 10% of children had three or more placements during the year.
  • The most common reason (60%) for children to enter care in 2012 was neglect or abuse.
  • Whilst overall educational attainments improved over the previous year, only 9% of care leavers aged 16 or over obtained 5 or more GCSEs at grade A* to C.  1*
  • The local authority areas with the highest number of looked after children are Swansea (588), Rhondda Cynon Taf (621), Cardiff (557) and Neath Port Talbot (492). Lowest numbers  are in Isle of Anglesey (80), Monmouthshire (75) and Ceredigion (75).
  • In 2009/10, looked after children counselled by ChildLine across the UK were five times more likely than children counselled by Childline overall to discuss running away and were twice as likely to discuss self-harm. 2*


For information on Swansea University's Centre for Children and Young People's Health and Well Being (CCYPHW) please refer to the following page on our website: Centre for Children and Young People. Dr Rees can be contacted via email: or telephone +44 (0)1792 602948.

Further information about our research is available on the Research and Learning pages of our website at:

For further information about Children in Wales and their research work, visit


Sources / Bibliography:

  1. Source:
  2. NSPCC report on the views and experiences of children in care who contacted Childline.