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Barnardo’s History: Frequently asked questions

Dr Thomas Barnardo reading

1. How long has Barnardo’s been running?

Thomas Barnardo began his work in London in 1867 when he set up a ragged school in the East End, where poor children could get a basic education. One evening a boy at the mission, Jim Jarvis took Thomas Barnardo around the East End showing him children sleeping on roofs and in gutters. The encounter so affected him he decided to devote himself to helping destitute children.

In 1870, Barnardo opened his first home for boys in Stepney Causeway. He regularly went out at night into the slum district to find destitute boys. One evening, an 11-year old boy, John Somers (nicknamed 'Carrots') was turned away because the shelter was full. He was found dead two days later from malnutrition and exposure and from then on the home bore the sign 'No Destitute Child Ever Refused Admission'

Barnardo later opened the Girls' Village Home in Barkingside, a collection of cottages around a green, which housed 1,500 girls.

2. Has your work changed since Barnardo’s began?

Barnardo's stopped running homes for orphans over 30 years ago, but our work today is based on the same set of values that Barnardo's was founded on.

Since 1867 the services we provide have changed and they will continue to do so to continue to meet the needs of children and young people today. However, our aim to help children and young people in the greatest need stays the same.

3. Do you still run orphanages?

No, we stopped running traditional orphanages and residential homes in the 1960’s.

The last traditional style home closed in 1989 however, we do run three residential schools .

4. Where are all the homes you used to run and what happened to them?

There used to be Barnardo’s homes across the UK, however we no longer run orphanages and so these are not used any more. Read about and see photos of the old Barnardo's homes.

5. When did you change your name to Barnardo’s

In the 1960’s changes in legislation meant that the number of children received by Barnardo's was decreasing and so a commitment was made to cut down on residential services and develop new work with disabled children and those with emotional and behavioural problems.

To reflect this, the charity changed its name in 1966 from Dr Barnardo's Homes to Dr Barnardo's.

In 1988 the organisation changed its name from Dr Barnardo's to Barnardo's to reflect the contrast with its Victorian past and the last traditional style home closed in 1989.

6. How does Barnardo’s help children today?

As one of the UK's leading children's charities, Barnardo's works directly with over 200,000 children, young people and their families every year.

We run vital projects across the UK, including counselling for children who have been abused, fostering and adoption services, vocational training and disability inclusion groups.

Read about our work with children and watch videos exploring how we turn children's lives around.

7. How is Barnardo’s funded?

While some of our income is provided from local authorities, Barnardo’s relies on fundraising to support as many children as possible.

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