Joint Programming Initiative

More Years, Better Lives

The Potential and Challenges of Demographic Change

Families and Children Study (FACS)
Families and Children Study (FACS)

Social Systems and Welfare
Relevance for this Topic
Country United Kingdom
More Topics


Contact information

Department for Work and Pensions
Families and Children Study
Caxton House, 6 - 12 Tothill Street
SW1H 9NA London
United Kingdom
Phone: +44 (0)207 449 5770
Email: Robert.Lilly(at)

Timeliness, transparency

Data are available about 15-18 months after the end of fieldwork

Type of data


Type of Study

Longitude survey: long-term study of the same sample

Data gathering method

Face-to-face interview (CAPI, PAPI)

Self-administered questionnaire

Face-to-face interview; Self-completion

Access to data

Data are available from the UK Data Service (previously the Economic and Social Data Service, ESDS): The website contains detailed information on conditions of access, and it is also possible to contact the UK Data Service by phone: +44 (0)1206 872143, or by email:

Conditions of access

Registration is required and standard UK Data Service conditions of use apply. The depositor may be informed about usage. All users are required to agree to the terms and conditions pertaining to the use of data. These are described in the End User Licence (EUL) and agreed to when registering with the UK Data Service. Researchers based at a UK institution of higher or further education (UK HE/FE) can access the UK Data Service through their library. If you are outside the UK you will need to apply for a UK Data Archive username and password, and then register with the UK Data Service. In general, data required for non-commercial purposes can be downloaded at no cost. If data are requested on portable media, e.g. CD, handling and postage and packing fees will apply. See:
For more information, see:

This depends upon the user and conditions of use.

Anonymised microdata

Survey data from the UK Data Service are usually available to download in SPSS, Stata and tab-delimited (suitable for use in MS Excel) formats.



The Families and Children Study (FACS), formerly known as the Survey of Low Income Families (SOLIF), originally provided a new baseline survey of Britain's lone-parent families and low-income couples with dependent children. The survey was named SOLIF for Waves 1 and 2, and FACS from Wave 3 onwards. The FACS study has become a 'true panel', whereby 1999 respondents have been re-interviewed in subsequent annual waves in from 2000 to 2004, and new families added in each of these years, to allow representative cross-section as well as longitudinal comparisons. Starting with Wave 3 (2001) the survey was extended to include higher-income families, thereby yielding a complete sample of all British families (and the subsequent name change). From Wave 4 (2002) onwards, longitudinal comparisons can now be made. The original deposit of FACS data, released in December 2001, contained data and documentation from the first wave. Further waves have been added at subsequent editions in 2003, 2004 (twice), 2005, 2006 and 2007. For the eighth edition (October 2010), three major changes were made to the study: data and documentation for Waves 8-10 were deposited for the first time; updated and improved data and documentation for Waves 3-7 were deposited to replace previous materials; and updated documentation covering all waves was deposited. Details of improvements to the re-deposited Wave 3-7 data are included in the all waves user guide. For the ninth edition (January 2011), the Wave 10 technical report was added to the study. Sample sizes: • Wave 1: 4,659 cases • Wave 2: 4,720 cases • Wave 3: 8,057 cases • Wave 4: 7,878 cases • Wave 5: 7,740 cases • Wave 6: 7,469 cases • Wave 7: 7,656 cases • Wave 8: 7,461 cases • Wave 9: 5,818 cases • Wave 10: 5,888 cases


The data includes a variety of demographic variables, including age and sex. The sample is stratified.

Multi-stage stratified random sample

Countries (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland) Government Office Regions (NUTS1)

All ages

Representative of the (private) household population in Great Britain The data include weighting variables

The main objectives of the survey are to: • evaluate the effectiveness of the Government's work incentive measures in terms of helping people into work, improving living standards and improving child outcomes • compare the living standards and outcomes for children and for families across the income distribution • compare changes in the above across the waves since 1999 FACS also aims to provide commentary on longer-term objectives such as the Government's Public Service Agreement to eradicate child poverty within a generation. Further information, including links to reports and other publications, may be found on the DWP FACS web pages. (Users should note that, in addition to the survey name change noted above, some of the documentation for the early waves refers to the survey as the Study of Families with Children.) Key topics have included: • household characteristics, • health and well being, • employment activity, • receipt of benefits and tax credits, • use of childcare, • housing and material deprivation, • and, more recently, attitudes to work and childcare. The FACS interviews comprise: • one hour interview for the main respondent (typically the mother figure in the household) • a 20 minute partner interview Topics covered in the main interview include household characteristics, health and wellbeing, children's schooling, behaviour and childcare provision, use of local services, education and training, employment, family income, in-work support through the use of Working Families' Tax Credits (and its replacement tax credit system), receipt of benefits, child maintenance, money management and savings, housing, and material deprivation. The Wave 7 (2005) questionnaire included a new section on social capital for main respondents and partners. Partners in the household were also interviewed up to Wave 8. For Waves 9 and 10, a short proxy interview was completed with the main respondent. Waves 1-3 (1999-2001) also included a self-completion questionnaire for the main respondent and their partner, covering morale and various attitudinal questions. This was dropped for Wave 4. Waves 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10 (but not Wave 7) included a short self-completion questionnaire for all children aged 11 to 15 in the family. The children's questionnaire covered leisure time activities, computer access, social participation, sport and organised activities, use of local amenities and attitudes to neighbourhood, alcohol use, smoking, illegal drug use, self-esteem, health and happiness, attitudes to school and schoolwork, relationship with parents, and income. For Waves 5-7, SPSS syntax files detailing specifications for derived variables are also available with the dataset.

For more information on publications, see the UK Data Service website. • Lyon, N., Mangla, J., Tait, C. & Scholes, S. “Families and Children Study (FACS) 2005: Wave 7 technical report.” National Centre for Social Research, London, 2007. • Lyon, N., Scholes, S. & Tait, C. “Families and Children Study (FACS) 2003: Wave 5 technical report.” National Centre for Social Research, London, 2005. • Lyon, N., Scholes, S. & Tait, C. “Families and Children Study (FACS) 2004: Wave 6 technical report.” National Centre for Social Research, London, 2006. • Marsh, A., et al “Low-income families in Britain: work, welfare and social security in 1999, DSS Research Report No. 138.” Corporate Document Services, London, 2001. • Phillips, M., Miers, A. & Scholes, S. “Families and Children Study (FACS) 2002: Wave 4 technical report.” National Centre for Social Research, London, 2003. • Woodland, S. & Collins, D. “Study of Families with Children: technical report.” National Centre for Social Research, London, 2000. • Woodland, S. and Woodward, C. “Families and Children Study (FACS) 2000: Wave 2 technical report.” National Centre for Social Research, London, 2002. • Woodland, S., et al. “Families and Children Study (FACS) 2001: Wave 3 technical report.” National Centre for Social Research, London, 2003. • Other publications by the Principal Investigators include: • McKay, S. “Low/moderate-income families in Britain: work, Working Families' Tax Credit and childcare in 2000.” DWP Research Report No. 161, London: Corporate Document Services (2002). • Vegeris, S. and McKay, S. “Low/moderate income-families in Britain: changes in living standard” DWP Research Report No. 164, Corporate Document Services, London, 2002.


There is an ongoing cross-governmental programme of work in the UK which aims to develop and improve standardised inputs and outputs for use in official statistics. This is known as harmonisation, and is led by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). While this work primarily affects government-run surveys, the results have an impact on most national UK data sources. Furthermore, harmonisation has important benefits for all researchers using these surveys, and not just government statisticians. For more information, see:

Data are anonymised

Data quality

In addition to unit non-response, the data include item non-response and may be subject to other errors that are typical of surveys and censuses. For more information on data quality, see the survey documentation on the UK Data Service website.

There are no major breaks for this data source, although it remains unclear when (and whether) the next wave of data collection will occur. Further information is not readily available.

In general, the consistency of this data source is very good. For more information on data quality, see the survey documentation on the UK Data Service website.


  • The information about this dataset was compiled by the author:
  • Mike Murphy
  • (see Partners)