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Describing the needs of children presenting to children’s services: issues or reliability and validity

Fairtlough, Anna; Forrester, Donald and Bennet, Yommi. 2007. Describing the needs of children presenting to children’s services: issues or reliability and validity. Journal of Children's Services, 2(2), pp. 48-59. ISSN 1746-6660 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Children's social services in England and Wales deal with a wide range of referrals of children who are or may be ‘in need’. Finding ways of describing the issues that present in such referrals is important if we wish to understand the nature of the work of children's services and explore different interventions and outcomes. Yet there have been few attempts to describe the full range of needs presenting to social services, and no studies of the reliability or validity of attempts to define the types of need. In this article the legal definitions of need, a typology developed by Sinclair et al, a related one used by the Department of Health and one developed within the current study were compared for reliability and construct validity. There were two main findings. First, it was found that while the presence of needs could generally be agreed on in all the schemes, ascriptions of a ‘main’ need were not made reliably. This is important because a ‘main’ need has been used in both research and statistical returns to government. Second, while existing schemes appeared well suited to describing allocated cases, they were less able to describe the range of needs presenting in all referrals to social services.

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Social, Therapeutic & Community Engagement (STaCS)



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Date Deposited:

17 Nov 2015 13:45

Last Modified:

10 Jul 2017 08:43

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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