Children and Families Policy Research Unit


NIHR Children and Families Policy Research Unit


NIHR Children and Families Policy Research Unit

Conducting high-quality research to support the development of evidence-based policy to improve the health of children and families.
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Our key research areas

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Our projects

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Meet the CPRU team

Latest News

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)

ACEs graph
New Lancet Digital study shows more than 1 in 3 children and mothers in England have adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) recorded in their electronic health records, according to clinically relevant indicators. 

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How I cope: a young person's guide


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How I cope: a young person's guide is a new resource created by young people for young people about how young people cope and like to receive support. It was developed by CPRU, with the HeadStart Learning Team, and the HeadStart National Young People's Group.

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Cost of child maltreatment

Picture of at a glance summary on cost of child maltreatment
We explored the association between exposure to child maltreatment and parental domestic violence and abuse and health, behaviours and labour market outcomes.


Exposure to child maltreatment and/or parental domestic vioelnce and abuse in childhood was associated with increased risks of poorer outcomes across a range of measures including physical and mental health, behaviours known to pose health risks, employment and earnings.

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New project on access to primary care

Picture of at a glance summary on access to primary care
We aim to understand the characteristics associated with unmet need in primary care use among children and young people, and why this unmet need occurs.

We hope to find out which groups experience difficulties in accessing primary care, and how primary care services could better address these difficulties.

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New project on promoting safe sleeping for babies in high risk groups in England

Image of at a glance summary of promoting safer sleeping for babies project
We will develop modifications to existing ways of working with parents who are involved with child protection services, to help parents put their babies to sleep more safely. Safer sleep practices such as putting a baby to sleep on their back in their own safe space reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. 

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CPRU explores programme implementers' perspectives on collecting and using cost data

CPRU conducting economic evaluations front cover image
The cost of mental illness to the UK economy is estimated at £70-100 billion each year. Mental disorders are rising among children and adolescents in the UK. Economic evaluations of prevention and early intervention programmes are important to ensure that public resources are spent on delivering cost-effective interventions, where costs are outweighed by benefits. Understanding barriers and facilitators for collecting and using cost data is needed to design robust economic evaluations.
What we found out
  • Programme sites varied in terms of how much cost data they had collected, the extent to which they had begun planning or implementing local cost data analysis, and the degree to which they ascribed importance to cost data analysis as compared to impact data analysis.
  • The relative importance of cost data collection, analysis, and presentation to programme implementors may be driven in part by their perceptions of audience priorities (such as those of schools, the community, or commissioners).
  • Barriers to collecting and using cost data include the difficulties of costing a complex programme, contextual constraints, missing data, and the limitations of economic evaluation tools.



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CPRU develops core outcome sets for family and child-focused interventions for child maltreatment and domestic abuse

We developed two core outcome sets that those who use, deliver and commission services agreed were the most important to measure.

Core outcome set list

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CPRU reports on changes in hospital contacts during the COVID-19 pandemic among vulnerable children and young people

We found that vulnerable children bore large and disproportionate deficits in hospital contacts during the first nine months of the pandemic. These deficits were greatest for children with multiple vulnerabilities.

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New data resource: Dashboard on Special Educational Needs in England

We have developed a resource that outlines data on the characteristics of SEN pupils and funding for SEN provision for local authorities in England.

Image of title sheet of dashboard

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Access Dashboard (for full functionality download copy to your computer)

Are infant mortality rates increasing in England?

Infant mortality (deaths in babies aged less than one year old) has been declining over past decades in England. Recently published data show that infant mortality appears to be going up since 2014, with some linking this trend to increases in child poverty. We used routinely published data from Office for National Statistics (openly available online) to explore why infant mortality might be going up.

infographic showing infant mortality rates

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Dyslexia and Mental Health

Higher levels of mental health problems in those with reading difficulties such as dyslexia are widely recognised. But the reasons for this are less clear. Our rapid review looked at existing evidence on the relationship between poor reading ability and/or reading disorders including dyslexia, and mental health problems.

We found three key pathways that explain the raised levels of prevalence.

Infographic showing three key pathways for dyslexia and mental health

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Using the community services dataset (CSDS) for research on health visiting

Health visiting is a national service focused on promoting the health and development of young children and reducing the impact of adversity and inequalities. Information about health visiting activity in England is collected in the Community Services Dataset (CSDS). The CSDS has not yet been used for research. We investigated the completeness and accuracy of dataset by looking specifically at the delivery of the 2-2.5 year review.

Infographic showing CSDS data completeness 2018-2019

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