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The Children In Need (CIN) census and Children Looked After (CLA) census


As part of their research on the effectiveness of public policies, IFS researchers sometimes use the Children In Need (CIN) census and the Children Looked After (CLA) census.

The data

A Child In Need (CIN) is one who has been assessed by children’s social care to be in need of services. These services can include, for example, family support, leaving care support (to help young people who have left local authority care), adoption support, or disabled children’s service s(including social care, education and health provision). The Children in Need (CIN) census collects information at child level on any child referred to children’s social care services within the year; and any cases open at the beginning of the year for whom local authorities were providing a service.

The Child Looked After (CLA) census collects information at child level on any child looked after by a local authority, that is if he or she is provided with accommodation, for a continuous period of more than 24 hours, is subject to a care order, or is subject to a placement order.

In their entirety, the CIN and CLA censi include information on the child’s personal information (such as name, address, and date of birth); characteristics (such as gender, ethnicity and disability); episodes of being a child in need (such as referral and assessment information); episodes of being looked after (such as important dates, information on placements); outcomes for looked after children; adoptions and care leavers. The data are collected by the Department for Education, which uses the information to help it run children’s services in England.

The CIN and CLA censi have been matched to the National Pupil Database (NPD), a longitudinal database linking pupil/student characteristics to school and college learning aims and achievement information for children in state-funded schools in England. These datasets have been matched to understand characteristics, attainment and absence of children in need and looked-after children.

We use extracts from these data depending on which information we need to carry out our research. We do not receive any directly identifying information about you such as your name or address. We also never access personal information, such as names, full address and full date of birth. However, because the data we use is sometimes very detailed, there is a small risk that you could be identified which is why your data are protected by law. To reduce this risk, we carry out data minimisation. This means that is we only request and receive the information that we need to carry out our research. Different research questions use different extracts of data to ensure that we only access data that is strictly necessary for the purpose in question, and all access to the data is strictly limited to the named researchers working on that research project.

What we use the data for

Work using the CIN and CLA censi aims to investigate the effectiveness of interventions targeted at children and families on children’s need for children’s services. For example, we are conducting a project evaluating the impact of Sure Start Local Programmes and Children’s Centres on children’s contacts with social care services. We process the records of only a subset of children – those born in the early just before and during the Sure Start rollout who may have been exposed to Sure Start centres. To perform this research, these data are linked (by DfE) to other data we have collected, for example information on where Sure Start Local Programmes and Children’s Centres were located in order to measure children’s exposure to the programme.

Processing of CIN and CLA data includes:

  • Creating summary statistics
  • Using statistical techniques and modelling to answer research questions

How long will we keep the data?

CIN and CLA data that are made available via the ONS’s Secure Research Service are stored therefore the duration of a research project. This is typically two years but extensions are given when necessary in order to complete longer-term projects.

How do we take care of your data?

Access to these data is restricted and tightly controlled. Applications to use the data are strictly vetted by the Department for Education (DfE) and any researchers have to be approved via the ONS’s Approved Researcher Scheme . Individual researchers are also vetted by the DfE, which among other requirements conducts a criminal record check on all researchers using the NPD data.

We ensure that all our researchers who use these data receive training on how to use the data safely. Only approved researchers working on projects that have been deemed to have public benefit are able to use the data, and they can only use it to answer specific research questions that have been approved in advance. We will only ever publish non-disclosive outputs, which means that it will be impossible to identify you from anything that is published.

Access to any data that we store on our own servers (from projects that began before May 2018) is also very tightly controlled. All researchers are vetted and trained and access is restricted only to those researchers working on the project. In addition, IFS has external accreditation in data security – we are compliant with ISO27001:2013 and we are Cyber Essentials certified.

Legal bases for using the data

Our lawful basis for processing these data is: legitimate interest, section 6(1)(f). We have a legitimate interest in conducting non-commercial, robust social and economic research to inform research and policy.

Because these data sometimes contain information about your health and/or ethnicity, they are classed as Special Category data. Our lawful basis for processing this special category data is:

Article 9(2)j processing is necessary for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes

Your rights

This webpage is designed to inform you how we are using your data.

Because we cannot identify you and we do not have direct control over the data, it is not possible for us to process other requests in respect of your rights. If you would like to exercise any of your rights please contact the Department for Education  They will deal with your request and any outcome of your request will be passed on to us by them.

If you have complaint you can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office

Our contact details

If you wish to discuss the way that we use your data, please contact Sarah Cattan or you can write to her at

The Institute for Fiscal Studies
7 Ridgmount Street

If you have concerns over the way that we use your data please contact the data protection officer you should email or write to them at the above address.