What Works for Children’s Social Care PhD Studentships in Quantitative Children’s Social Care

What Works for Children’s Social Care (WWCSC) has funded three PhD studentships in the field of quantitative children’s social care. The studentships will start in Oct 2021, with £19,285 per annum pro rata tax-free stipend for a duration of 3 years (full time) or 5 years (part time). 

The students will be based in Quantitative Social Science (QSS) within UCL Social Research Institute with some time spent at WWCSC. Studentships will be supervised by an interdisciplinary team from UCL and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), with input from WWCSC. Students will benefit from training and development opportunities and the critical mass of expertise in quantitative children’s social care at UCL, LSHTM and WWCSC.  As part of a cohort of three studentships, each student will also benefit from a shared journey and significant visibility within the field. 

Who should apply?

These studentships would be suitable for highly ambitious researchers who want to make a real impact in children’s social care policy, making use of newly linked, population-based data from across sectors. We are looking for candidates with excellent communication skills, who are motivated and proactive, who will be comfortable engaging with policy stakeholders, and who have a strong track record in quantitative methods. Candidates should also be willing to learn qualitative methods. 

We invite applications from outstanding and highly motivated candidates who have a Masters degree in epidemiology, quantitative social/geographical science, GIScience, data science, modelling or similar with a substantial quantitative component. An undergraduate degree (1st class honours or 2.1) in a relevant discipline with demonstrable strong quantitative component is desirable quantitative component is desirable or candidates who can demonstrate equivalent experience.

We particularly welcome applications from social workers and/or people with experience of children’s social care.

The studentship will cover fees for Home students at the UKRI rate for academic year 2021/22. A maximum of one of the three studentships may be awarded to an EU or International candidate. In this case, the difference between the Home and EU/International fee rate will be covered by the academic department at UCL. The candidate will not be expected to meet the fee difference.


Each student will work on a distinct project, applying quasi-experimental methods to administrative data from health, education, social care and family courts in order to evaluate the impact of an intervention in the social care sector on outcomes for children and young people. 

The interventions which will be evaluated are:

1. Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH) are an area-level intervention which usually involves co-locating staff from children’s social care, health agencies and the police to enable better decision making about children who have contact with children’s social care. The student would conduct a national survey and stakeholder consultations to establish if, when, and in what form MASH were introduced across all 152 local authorities in England. The student would evaluate the impact of MASH on rates of entry to care, educational outcomes and hospitalisations for adversity-related reasons for children referred to children’s social care. 

2. Virtual Schools are a team of education professionals who support Looked-After Children and children previously in care. An Ofsted study of 70 children in nine local authorities (2014) concluded that Virtual Schools were promising in terms of educational achievement and reducing absences and exclusions. The student would work with Ofsted and the supervisory team’s local authority networks to establish when and how Virtual Schools were implemented in each local authority and evaluate their impact on educational outcomes, family re-unification/re-entry to care and hospitalisations for adversity-related reasons.

3. Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDAC) are alternative courts for care proceedings, specially designed to work with parents who struggle with drug and alcohol misuse. There are currently nine specialist FDAC teams serving families in 20 local authorities. The student would work with the WWC-CSC to extend the on-going evaluation of FDAC, which will include analyses of differences in rates of entry to care, child educational outcomes, and parental hospitalisations for adversity-related reasons.

To evaluate the impact of interventions, students will gain access to data sources which provide linked, longitudinal data for children and their mothers, including: 

Each student will have the opportunity to incorporate qualitative methods. 

Supervisory Team

Each student will have a named principal and co-supervisor but will receive supervision from across the supervisory team and, where relevant, from wider networks. 

Lorraine Dearden, Professor of Economics and Social Statistics, UCL Social Research Institute 

Jenny Woodman, Associate Professor in Child and Family Policy, UCL Social Research Institute

Jan van der Meulen, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine 

Katie Harron, Associate Professor of Quantitative Methods, UCL GOS Institute of Child Health 

Louise Mc Grath-Lone, Research Fellow in Public Heath, UCL Institute of Health Informatics

How to Apply

To apply for this studentship, applicants will be asked to submit an application with a 2 page CV and a one-page cover document outlining why you are a suitable candidate for the PhD.

The deadline for applications is 4th May 23:59. Incomplete applications will not be considered for this studentship.

Interviews will be held virtually on Monday 24th May.

For any queries regarding the projects please contact:

Lorraine Dearden, l.dearden@ucl.ac.uk or 

Jenny Woodman j.woodman@ucl.ac.uk

For any queries regarding the application process please contact ubel-dtp@ucl.ac.uk