With the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care in England due to report shortly, we have a unique opportunity to ensure children and young people have their voices heard, and their needs met. 

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 hopes to answer one simple question: How do we ensure that children grow up in loving, stable and safe families and, where that is not possible, how can the care system provide this?   

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.   

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 

Young person and Barnardo's Worker

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:  

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 

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How do we support children in the care system? 

We have a wealth of knowledge about the care system because, over the past 150 years, we have supported families when they needed it most.   

Today, we are the largest voluntary provider of adoption and fostering services in the UK, and we support care-experienced young people up to the age of 25. We also run residential services where we provide children and young people with safe and stable homes.   

In 2020/21, our services supported 7,136 children in care and 1,898 care experienced young people aged 18-25, so we understand the challenges they can face. 

Our recent reports on the care system in England  

We have written four recent reports that highlight the key changes we believe are necessary to improve the care system in England* ahead of the publication of the Independent Review of Children’s Social care, expected in spring 2022. These are: 

  • From pillar to post: A look at achieving greater stability within the care system (April, 2022) 

  • No place like home: A look at young peoples' experiences of leaving the care system (May, 2021).  

  • It takes a village: The case for family support in every community (September, 2021).  

  • A care system that cares: Lessons for the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care from young people with direct experience of it (October, 2021).  

*Here we have outlined our influencing work to change the children’s care system in England. 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 Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.​​​​

  • Young children sitting on a set of stairs

    From Pillar to Post: how to achieve greater stability for children in the care system

    Being in care can involve a lot of instability — but this is far from inevitable. With the Care Review underway, the Government needs to find more ways to provide greater stability for children in care.

  • 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.