[United Kingdom] Children’s voices largely absent from care records, causing significant distress, study finds

03 Oct 2019
Community Care (UK)

The recent MIRRA (Memory – Identity – Rights in records – Access) study reveals that children and young people’s voices are mainly missing from their records, effective record-keeping by local authorities are not valued and people received often their records censored to remove any “third party information”.

Professor Elizabeth Shepherd, leader of the research, said: “We must ensure care records put the experiences of the child at the heart of them, from what is written down in the first place, to how records are kept and stored, to how decisions are made about access.”

The study interviewed more than 80 social workers and care leavers to explore their views of accessing records later in life. “Gaps in someone’s personal narrative can be deeply traumatic, leaving them with feelings of blame and a lack of self-worth.” said Professor Elizabeth Shepherd. The records are vital for ‘memory-making and identity’ for children in care later in their life.

Care leavers pay attention to their records, but local authorities do not recognise the importance and value of effective recordkeeping.  One care leaver said: “I think we have organisations that just don’t understand why older care leavers come back to access their files because there’s no culture of recognition of the life experiences of someone in the care system. There’s a cultural deficit.”

MIRRA project findings:

  • Records should be created by all those involved in a child’s care
  • Best practice guidance for records creation and management should be established
  • New standards for access to records for all care-experienced persons should be developed

The MIRRA project was led by UCL’s department of information studies and carried out with the Care Leaver’s Association and the charity Family Action. For more information:

This project is funded by: