SafeCare - Evidence, impact and evaluation At a glance

We’ve tested SafeCare to see if it helps parents focus on their child’s needs and reduces levels of child neglect.

How neglect affects children

Neglect is the most common form of child abuse and the most common reason for taking child protection action in the UK. It can have long-lasting effects including mental health problems; poor physical, emotional and social development; behavioural problems; and low self-esteem.

It can be challenging for professionals to identify, measure and monitor neglect (Gardner, 2008). This can make it hard for decisions to be made about a child's future care.

How SafeCare is helping prevent child abuse and neglect

Babies and young children need a high level of care to keep them safe from harm. Parents who aren't able to meet the physical or emotional needs of their children are putting them at risk of serious and long-lasting damage.

Some parents don't have the necessary knowledge or skills to provide safe and loving care for their children. But if the parents are given the right support, they can learn how to improve their parenting, so they can keep their children safe.

By supporting families at risk of neglect SafeCare aims to:

  • help parents establish positive routines and problem-solving skills
  • stop, or prevent, child neglect.

SafeCare was developed at the National SafeCare Training and Research Center (NSTRC) at the University of Georgia, USA.

It has been rolled out across several states of North America in partnership with a variety of organisations. It has been tested with over 60 research studies which helped to develop SafeCare further and prove what works for parents in America.

How we evaluated this service

We've conducted an evaluation of the service to see how it impacts families in the UK.

SafeCare has a large existing evidence base, based outside of the UK, including randomised control trials which have found benefits of SafeCare relative to other services or to a no treatment group.

The focus of our evaluation is on the transferability of SafeCare to a UK context.

We've looked at which elements of the programme are most and least successful and what adaptations are required to enhance effectiveness in the UK. We've also looked at outcomes for parents and children and whether the programme provides benefits for practitioners in terms of their knowledge, skills and learning for practice more widely.

The evaluation has involved a range of data gathering activity, including:

  • interviews with a sample of practitioners who have delivered SafeCare
  • interviews with a sample of families who completed the programme
  • standardised measures to explore outcomes for families using a pre-post design. This provides an indication of the maximum effect the programme can have but, due to the design of the evaluation, it does not enable any change to be attributed to the programme
  • an on-line survey of referring agencies
  • analysis of case records for a sample of families who exited the programme prior to completion.

During the first year the level of quantitative data submitted for the evaluation was extremely low.

To help improve data collection we provided online and face-to-face refresher training for practitioners in addition to the initial training they received. We produced detailed evaluation guidance for both practitioners and administrators and worked closely with them to address any questions they had and to overcome any difficulties they faced. We also translated the parent self-complete measure into a number of different languages to maximise parents' opportunities to participate.

The evaluation was carried out internally by the NSPCC evaluation department using the following tools:

SafeCare Module Assessments:

  • The Home Accident Prevention Inventory-Revised (HAPI)
  • The Sick & Injured Child Checklist (SICC)
  • The Planned Activities Training - General and Infant (Pat-INF and PAT-GEN)

Independent Measures:

  • North Carolina Family Assessment Scale for General Services (NCFAS-G)
  • Parent Child Neglect Scale (PCNS)

Find out more about the tools used to measure outcomes

Contact Gill Churchill for more information.

What we've learned

Our findings support existing evidence that SafeCare can improve parenting skills. Of the families where neglect was a concern prior to SafeCare, two-thirds improved to a point where they were considered protected from neglect.

Parents liked receiving the service in their home and said it gave them a 'safe place' to practise their parenting skills. Parents said the positive feedback they received helped build their confidence in their parenting abilities.

SafeCare was valued by referrers - 91% of referrers who responded to the survey said they would refer similar families to SafeCare in the future. 

Read the evaluation report

What we're doing next

As well as analysis we've provided from the perspectives of parents and referral agencies, we'll also be reporting on findings from interviews with practitioners. 

Impact and evidence

Find out how we evaluate and research the impact we’re making in protecting children, get tips and tools for researchers and access resources.

Our impact and evidence

Donate now

Last year a third of all calls to our helpline were about neglect, a figure that's even higher at Christmas. Donate now and help shine a light on children left in the dark.

Donate now

Evidence Based Decisions

Evidence, impact and evaluation of our service

Find out more

Graded Care Profile 2

Evidence, impact and evaluation of our service

Find out more


Evidence, impact and evaluation of our service

Find out more

Improving parenting, improving practice

Evidence, impact and evaluation of our service

Find out more


  1. Gardner, R. (2008) Developing an effective response to neglect and emotional harm to children (PDF). London: University of East Anglia and NSPCC.