Young girl in a pink hoodie smiling

Towards a better children’s social care system

Following the publication of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care in England, we have a unique opportunity to change the system and to transform the support provided to children who need it most.

Young boy with curly hair wearing a green polo short sat on the arm of a chair

Growing up in care can be challenging. For too many children, it can be a lonely and isolating experience that often involves moving home, moving school and changing key workers.  

Unfortunately, young people who have been in the care system often struggle when they reach adulthood.

19-21-year-olds leaving care are three times less likely to be in education, employment or training than other young people their age and nearly half (45%) of children in care have a mental health disorder.  

The review outlines the urgent need to transform the children’s social care system, to provide help to families who are struggling; to prioritise lifelong loving relationships; and to lay the foundations for a positive future after leaving care.   

To help answer this question, we’ve been working with care experienced young people, and gathering evidence from our services across the UK, to provide examples of what’s working well already, and what needs to change, to help make sure every child growing up in care has the best possible chance to thrive.   

Help care leavers to get the independence they need to build a brighter future. Add your name to our petition today. 

Leaving care can be a lonely and isolating experience.   

But, when you’re living on a tight budget, the cost of bus travel can feel like a luxury. For many care experienced young people, it’s not something they can afford, and it can stop them from connecting with friends and family.    

This is why we’re calling on the government to fund free bus travel for all care leavers aged 18-25 in England.    

​Want to play your part? Sign our petition today. Just one minute of your time could help make a real difference to care leavers across England. 

"I would use it to get out and about to see loved ones, I would use it to get to courses and appointments."

A care experienced young person we have worked with.

Care experienced young people, supported by Barnardo’s, have told us about the vital difference that free bus travel can make to their lives. To find out more, watch their video or read our new report, Transport for Freedom.

Young people meeting Josh MacAlister

What young people tell us about the care system 

We believe that there is no one better placed to talk about the care system than those who have experienced it first-hand. That's why we've been working with a group of care-experienced young people to ask them what they want from the care review.  

They told us that the current system doesn’t always meet their needs, as: 

  • They experience a lot of instability and often change home, school, and social worker.  

  • They often feel discriminated against and stigmatised because of being in care.   

  • They don’t always feel listened to by professionals.   

Young girl near peers
It might be called the care system, but it doesn’t seem that they always care.

Young person in care 

The change we'd like to see

We believe that the current system needs changing, so that we can better support children every step of the way — from when they enter the care system to when they leave and take their first steps into adulthood.  

We're calling for a care system that:  

Our recent reports on the care system in England  

Our recent reports highlight the key changes we believe are necessary to improve the care system in England. These are: 

Visit our Research Publications page to view all of our research reports. As part of our work across all four nations of the United Kingdom, we also have programmes of work aimed at improving the care system for children in ScotlandWales, and Northern Ireland.

Boy with baseball shirt and blue bag
I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere or that I didn’t have a real place I could call home

A child in care 

A group of 3 friends walking down the street

What needs to change in the care system according to young people

We spoke to Tia, 18, about her experiences in care and views on the Government’s approach to reforming the children’s social care system.

Seen and Not Heard podcast by Barnardo's

Heard Not Seen 

In the latest season of our podcast, Heard and Not Seen, we speak to a group of care-experienced young people in Plymouth about the challenges they face and what changes need to be made to the care system to make it better. 

young people cooking outdoors whilst being filmed


LifeLabs is an online hub for young people in or leaving care, to connect, share and learn together. Created in collaboration with care experienced young people, the site features a range of informative and helpful videos for care-experienced people.