Linking routinely-collected data across health, education, social care, providing fresh insights.

There are serious challenges facing social care, education and health services for children and young people in England. Beyond high profile cases of avoidable child deaths, the social costs of poor outcomes of children in the care system are estimated to be £23 billion per year. From obesity to death rates, children’s health outcomes are worse than in many comparable European countries. Many children have missed extended periods of school and fallen behind on learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Across national and local Government, it is recognised that a joined-up strategy is needed to tackle these challenges. New research is needed to understand the links between sectors and identify the most effective interventions to improve children’s outcomes. While some research questions are best studied using national datasets, other questions benefit from the additional breadth and depth of Local Authority and health data held at local or regional level.

Our long term goal is to deliver research leading to more evidence-based local and national strategies to support children. This has the potential to deliver huge tangible benefits in reduced spending and improved outcomes, for example fewer children needing Local Authority care, missing school, or being admitted to hospital.

Our team have experience working with national administrative datasets, including data from hospitals, primary care and education settings. In North West London, we have demonstrated the value of the unique Discover Now dataset (with linked primary and secondary care data) to answer research questions of local and national importance.

Our work

Recent grants from Administrative Data Research UK, NIHR, the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and the Imperial College Healthcare Trust charity are supporting projects to investigate wider, multi-sectoral research questions:

  • Extend linkages and analysis of data relating to mental health of children and young people in North West London
  • Create a research ready dataset including data held on children by Local Authorities (including education & social care) and health services (including primary, secondary, mental health and community care).

A central strand of this work will be transparent communication with children, young people and families whose data will be included in the dataset, to explain the potential benefits, and the measures in place to protect confidentiality.
We also work closely with professional stakeholders to ensure that new data linkages support better clinical care and population health management decisions, as well as new research.

Linked Local Data on Children and Young People

Project aim:

In this project, the team aims to create a research-ready dataset linking data held on children by local authorities, including education and social care, with data held by health services. This new resource will enable researchers to build evidence to support local and national strategies that improve outcomes for children.

The data:

To achieve these goals the project involves linking:

  • local authority education data
  • local authority children’s social care data
  • primary care data
  • secondary uses service data (information used for reporting and analyses to support the delivery of healthcare services)
  • related healthcare data.

To find out more about this project, please visit the project page on the ADR UK website.


Theme lead

  • Dr Dougal Hargreaves

    Personal details

    Dr Dougal Hargreaves Houston Reader in Paediatrics and Population Health


    Dougal is an academic paediatrician with extensive experience in working with administrative health datasets. He was Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for Education 2020-21. He has experience in using social care and education data to inform policy decisions and is involved in cross Government initiatives to accessibility and use of children’s data.

    Dougal is passionate about involving the community and public in the ongoing activities of the Mohn Centre and has been working closely with schools and youth clubs in the White City area to inform research questions.

Theme members

Our partners