In 2019 the world around the UK’s children was already changing faster than ever before.

From climate change, to the increasing use of technology, to the looming implications of Brexit. One in eight children had a mental health condition, more than 4 million were growing up in poverty, almost 100,000 were in the care system, and exploitation and violence had affected too many young lives. It was against this backdrop that the global COVID-19 crisis struck.

Barnardo's impact infographic

The need to support the UK’s vulnerable children and young people is greater and more urgent now than ever. In 2019–20, Barnardo’s supported work with 358,800 children, young people, parents and carers, across more than 800 services and partnerships throughout the UK, thanks to our 7,822 paid colleagues and around 14,000 volunteers.

Of our service users, 94% said they always felt respected, 92% said they always felt listened to, 88% said that the support was always helpful, and 85% said that they had a say in the decisions made about their support.

Young Person's Foreword

Hello, My name is Kells, I’m about to turn 20 but as a non-verbal quadriplegic, my life really began when I was 6, joined the Barnardo’s community and was introduced to assistive technology. My eye gaze activated computer enables me to communicate, have an opinion and have my say on issues of the day – issues that impact upon my life. Various groups at Barnardo’s have built up my confidence and taught me to be assertive.

It was at Barnardo’s that I first felt that someone wanted to hear my views, to listen to them and to take them on board. For the first time I could see a future for myself. In Barnardo’s I feel very much part of a team moving forward together.

See, Hear, Respond

See Hear Respond

See, Hear, Respond England was a consortium of national and community-based charities and other partners, working together to assist vulnerable children, young people, and their families, that were adversely and disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown measures that were been implemented in response to the crisis.  

Since launch on the 15th June 2020, and up until 31st March 2021;  See, Hear, Respond engaged with and offered Support to more than 100,000 children and their families, providing over 200,000 hour’s worth of support. 

Click below to read, watch, and hear about the achievements of the programme; from us, our partners, and children, young people, and families themselves.

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Stronger Families

Family happily sitting on the couch watching tv

During 2019-20, we supported 55,000 people through our mental health services including 45,100 in school-based programmes and 9,900 in our other mental health services. We also supported 88,600 people through our early support services and 179,000 through our family support services. In total, our children’s centres and family hubs were accessed by 41,400 children and 48,200 parents.

Our partnership with Essex County Council also supported a further 131,800 through our Child and Family Wellbeing Service.

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Safer Childhoods

Group of teenagers sitting under a tree

We're increasingly working with children who are experiencing other harms and adversity - such as criminal exploitation, sexual exploitation and online harm. 

In 2019-20, we supported 6,400 people through our child abuse and exploitation services. This included 2,900 in our child sexual exploitation services, 2,000 in our missing services, 350 in our female genital mutilation services, 700 in our counter-trafficking services and 400 in our harmful sexual behaviour services. 

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Positive Futures

Teenage boy smiling

We want all young people to achieve their full potential in life, but know that care leavers and young people in care may need extra support to help them do this. Our ambition is to ensure care leavers have the same opportunities to achieve their goals as other young people, who haven’t had experience of the care system. 

In 2019-20 we supported 3,700 people in our leaving care/accommodation support services. This included 2,300 in our leaving care services and 1,400 in our housing and homelessness services. We also support children and young people in care through our fostering and adoption services, advocacy and network of National Independent Visitors. In 2019-20 our adoption services placed 117 children with adoptive families and our fostering services cared for 822 children.

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Case Study

Looking ahead

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic it was clear that the world was changing faster than ever before, especially for children and young people, and that we needed to change with it.

Three teenagers walking through a garden

During the year we’ve developed our digital capability to drive innovation in children’s services. We’ve developed new products and services for vulnerable children and young people, worked in collaboration with practitioners, commissioners, and other external partners, and given young people themselves a central role in the design process. 

Looking to the future, we want to develop services that always have digital participation as an option for those who choose it, while recognising that face-to-face services also remain essential. ​​​​​

Our plan through to 2025 is to build stronger families, safer childhoods and positive futures for young people. Find out more about our priorities in our Corporate Strategy.

Our Corporate Strategy Refresh in 2019 was to ensure we remain a constant force for good in the lives of the children, young people, parents and carers who depend on us.

Across the UK, children continue to face complex challenges, including a growing crisis in children’s mental health, rising numbers going into the care system in England, and an increase in serious youth violence.

How we’re responding to COVID-19

The pandemic is undoubtedly one of the most profound events in our 154 year history. 

At times of crisis it’s always the most vulnerable who suffer most and sadly, many more newly vulnerable families are likely to reach breaking point. The children and families we support have already experienced significant additional challenges, with those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities particularly affected. 

At the same time, Barnardo’s – like many charities and organisations across the country – has experienced an immediate and significant reduction in income. In spite of that, as well as being able to adapt our services quickly to make sure we could continue to support children, young people and families, we’re pleased to be leading the new See Hear Respond programme, funded by the Department for Education and National Emergencies Trust, and the BAME Helpline, a resource for Black, Asian and dual heritage children, young people and families.

This consortium of charities large and small, from across the UK, will identify and support children who were ‘hidden’ from schools and services during the lockdown. 

Our aim now is to be ready to support every child who needs us as this happens. 

We will keep our promise to believe in every child and to help them not just to recover, but to thrive.