Developing and Evaluating Policy and Services for Children and Young people

About this research and why it is a public health priority

In the past decade we have witnessed an unprecedented rise in infant mortality, alongside increases in children being taken into care, child mental health problems and widening inequalities in child obesity. LiLaC members undertake world-leading, interdisciplinary research on children and young people – a critical period in the life-course, when public health action can have the greatest impact. For example: 

  • Liverpool University’s Health Inequalities Policy Research group undertakes policy-relevant analysis focused on social inequalities in child health, using linked longitudinal data.
  • The European Children’s Rights Unit, an interdisciplinary research, training and campaign unit in Liverpool’s School of Law, focuses on a broad range of children’s rights areas.  
  • Sociologists at Lancaster University undertake research on the health of LGBT young people, young people leaving care, and young men, with a particular focus on mental health and sexual health.  
  • Lancaster University hosts the multi-disciplinary Centre for Child and Family Justice Research. 

COVID-19 has exacerbated existing social inequalities, and the needs of children must be central to the pandemic recovery. LiLaC members are actively contributing to research and policy engagement on the indirect impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and young people. 

Research Highlights and selected impacts

Our research demonstrating the impact of changes in child poverty on mental and physical health influenced the government’s decision to retain the UK income-based measurement of child poverty, and demonstrated recent impacts of child poverty on infant mortality and mortality in adulthood 

Our children’s rights-based approach, outlined in Due North, led to investments in Liverpool’s Children’s Services being protected and informed the City Council’s decision to join the UNICEF Child Friendly Cities programme.  

Our Making Brexit Work for Children report on children’s rights under EU law helped secure children’s legal status in post-Brexit UK.  

With Nuffield’s Family Justice Observatory, we analysed parent and child vulnerabilities and service outcomes for looked-after children and young people, using linked health, welfare and justice data. Our estimates of parents’ repeat involvement in UK family courts catalysed policy change and widespread service developments.  

We conducted research and delivered training to hundreds of nurses in the North West, enabling young people to independently consent to Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination.  

Our studies have shown the impact of food marketing on childhood obesity and the disproportionately adverse impact of COVID-19 on children with special educational needs and disabilities. 

Key publications

Wickham, S., Whitehead, M., Taylor-Robinson, D., Barr, B., 2017. The effect of a transition into poverty on child and maternal mental health: a longitudinal analysis of the UK Millennium Cohort Study. The Lancet Public Health 2, e141–e148. 

Taylor-Robinson, D., Lai, E.T.C., Wickham, S., Rose, T., Norman, P., Bambra, C., Whitehead, M., Barr, B., 2019. Assessing the impact of rising child poverty on the unprecedented rise in infant mortality in England, 2000–2017: time trend analysis. BMJ Open 9, e029424. 

Rod, N.H., Bengtsson, J., Budtz-Jørgensen, E., Clipet-Jensen, C., Taylor-Robinson, D., Andersen, A.-M.N., Dich, N., Rieckmann, A., 2020. Trajectories of childhood adversity and mortality in early adulthood: a population-based cohort study. The Lancet 396, 489–497. 

Whitehead, M., McInroy, N., Bambra, C., 2014. Due North: Report of the Inquiry on Health Equity for the North. University of Liverpool and the Centre for Economic Strategies. 

Broadhurst, K., Alrouh, B., Yeend, E., Harwin, J., Shaw, M., Pilling, M., Mason, C., Kershaw, S., 2015. Connecting Events in Time to Identify a Hidden Population: Birth Mothers and Their Children in Recurrent Care Proceedings in England. The British Journal of Social Work 45, 2241–2260. 

Griffiths, L.J., Johnson, R.D., Broadhurst, K., Bedston, S., Cusworth, L., Alrouh, B., Ford, D.V., John, A., 2020. Maternal health, pregnancy and birth outcomes for women involved in care proceedings in Wales: a linked data study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 20, 697. 

Garde, A., Curtis, J., Schutter, O.D. (Eds.), 2020. Ending Childhood Obesity. Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, UK.