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Discharge of Care Orders - a National Study

About the project

Research has examined the process, recurrence of, and orders made in, care proceedings (including regional variation), but little is known about how/when care orders are ended, or whether children become subject to subsequent care proceedings. This study would provide evidence on the length of care orders and legal histories prior to and following formal procedures. There are contradictory views of care orders both as short-term measures aimed at re-unifying children with families and as means of securing permanency for children who cannot be cared for by their families. Whether a care order remains in place has significant implications for children and their families, and for local authorities in terms of their responsibilities to monitor and provide services. Better understanding of the practical effects of care orders by the professionals involved will support improved decision-making, reduce unwarranted variation and provide the basis for high quality advice to parents and children.

Quantitative Study: Using databases on care proceedings, the researchers will identify the numbers of: care orders made annually from 2008 (2011 in Wales) to 2018; applications to discharge care orders; orders discharging care orders; and subsequent applications in these cases, to calculate national, regional and local authority rates for discharge of care orders and reapplications.

Qualitative Study: a) A detailed examination of a representative sample of 200 discharge applications from court casefiles to identify factors which lead to successful/unsuccessful applications for discharge and b) Interviews and/or focus groups with judiciary, children’s guardians, local authority solicitors, IROs and social workers to explore their experiences and views.

Research Team

University of Bristol: Jo Saines PI, Co-Is: Ludivine Garside, Jessica Roy and Judith Masson; Beth Stone; Cardiff University : Helen Hodges.


Nuffield Foundation (2020-2022) (£291,801)

Project website

Discharge of Care Orders