Children and Families

Our Children and Families programme funds projects to help ensure that social policy and the institutions governing family life in the UK are best adapted to meet the needs of children and families. 

We have two substantive areas of interest under this programme: child welfare and development and child protection.

We have a separate programme for Early Years Education and Childcare

We also fund work in family law under our Law in Society Programme.

We fund several different types of project

Child welfare and development

We are interested in:

  • Exploration of the factors affecting children’s welfare and cognitive and social development, and the institutional responses that may be appropriate.
  • Child development beyond the early years through to adolescence, particularly adolescent mental health and social and behavioural development, and the factors promoting or delaying successful transitions from formal education to work and productive adult life.
  • Family structures and approaches to parenting – including parental working patterns – and the implications of these for family life and children’s wellbeing.  This includes the formation of new family types, the contribution of inter-parental relationships, the different roles played by biological and social parents, kinship care, and the well-being of children growing up in adverse family conditions.  We are particularly interested in the factors that contribute to effective parenting and the outcomes of children who experience different types of parenting. 
  • Partnership formation and dissolution and the consequences for childhood outcomes, for example   the impact on family resources or the arrangements for child maintenance and parenting. We are particularly keen to ensure there is better information about the contribution that fathers and other co-parents make to parenting, given that they are missing from, or under-represented in, most of the relevant surveys (such as Understanding Society and the birth cohort studies). 
Child protection

We are interested in:

  • Exploration of issues relating to the child protection system, including adoption, fostering and kinship care. We want to know how well the needs of children growing up in adverse conditions are met by the social services designed to help them, and to identify areas for improvement to protection and placement services for adoption and fostering.
  • Better understanding of the underlying drivers (social, structural and institutional) which affect the numbers of children in, and on the margins, of the looked-after system.
  • The quality and role of scientific evidence in the practice of children’s social work and opportunities for intervention to improve the use of evidence.
  • The operation and design of the wider system, including the configuration of children’s services; the quality and professional development of the children’s services workforce; and how effective interventions can become embedded or scaled up. 
Types of project

To be considered, projects must help set an agenda in the short or medium term, or have the potential to lead to policy or institutional change. They may draw on a range of research and development approaches.

Many of the projects we fund make use of existing data infrastructure - for example the birth cohort studies and longitudinal household studies such as Understanding Society – to answer questions about social causation. Increasingly these studies are being linked to administrative data, for example data on educational outcomes, or tax and benefit records, and this provides new opportunities for analysis. We are interested in projects that may improve the data infrastructure, including in relation to the outcomes for children in contact with different aspects of children’s services.

We are especially interested in the development and evaluation of interventions to improve child outcomes. Successful applications will follow guidelines for the optimal design of intervention research or implementation research. Applications should consider the pathway from the initial proof of principle study to eventual implementation and dissemination.

We do not make grants for the running costs of voluntary bodies but will consider making a contribution to voluntary sector overheads on funded projects. 

Emerging themes

In addition to our existing funding priorities, we are calling for applications that examine:

  • Significant structural shifts in British society – demography, social geography, family structures, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, mental health, disability and other vulnerability.
  • The impact of technology on social and economic outcomes, on skills necessary for the modern labour market, and on the wider issue of social relationships and personal identity in a data-driven economy and digital culture.
  • The relationship between trust in data, evidence and institutional authority, and popular values and beliefs.
  • The balance between the protection of individuals and personal responsibility in fostering individual and collective well-being in civic society.
  • Inequalities within and between different generations.

Interested in applying?

For information about submitting an application see our how to apply page.