CLEARmark: Care Leavers Enhancing Access to Records

“I’m grateful to the Care Leavers Association for their great work supporting young people who are making the transition from care to independent living. Young people leaving care can be particularly vulnerable to exclusion which is why I am committed to making sure public services meet their needs. I hope that this year’s National Care Leavers Week will help raise awareness of the challenges that care leavers face and I welcome the Care Leavers Association new Access to Records Quality Mark as a positive step forward.”  Kevin Brennan, Minister for the Third Sector and Social Exclusion

On 31st October 2008, the Care Leavers’ Association launched CLEARmark, its new quality mark for access to records. The CLEARmark will be awarded to local authorities and voluntary agencies who display good practice in this area.

To achieve the quality mark a local authority or voluntary agency has to meet each of the following seven criteria:

  1. Advertise the right for care leavers to access their records in at least one type of media, which might be: a webpage; a flyer; a poster or an advert in a local newspaper.
  2. Have a statement of recognition that care leavers have a right to this information.
  3. Recognise the positive importance of accessing files
  4. Have an ATR policy that is publicly available.
  5. Have a monitoring system on requests received and responses made (or to be demonstrably working towards such a system).
  6. Provide a brief and accessible response letter and leaflet to encourage care leavers to see the process through
  7. Monitor the effectiveness of the service through use of an evaluation form

These criteria were put together by care leavers and represent the basic elements that we think a good access to records service should possess.

If you work for a local authority, or voluntary agency, and would like to apply for the CLEARmark you should follow the process below:

  1. Download the framework handbook and the framework checklist for your type of organisation from our CLEARmark below:

    How to Apply for the CLEARmark QM
    CLEARmark framework handbook updated
    ATR Quality Mark Framework Checklist
    CLEARmark criteria CLEARmark

  2. Complete the form and submit it along with your evidence to:The Care Leavers Association, Beehive Mill, Jersey street, Manchester, M4 6JG
    ( with the Title ‘CLEARmark Quality Mark Application
  3. Your application will then be reviewed by our panel of care leavers. We aim to review and respond to all applications within three months. Where possible we will endeavour to respond to your application more quickly.
  4. If you would like to discuss the quality mark or the application process further, please contact Darren Coyne


If you have any problems downloading the above documents, please contact the office and we will send you copies either electronically or through the post.

0161 236 5665 or via

History of the CLEARmark Quality Mark

In June 2007, the Care Leavers’ Association launched a new campaign on access to records: ‘It’s Our History, It’s Our Right: Reclaiming Our Past’.

The aims of the campaign were to:

  • Promote awareness of care leavers’ rights to access their files
  • Promote awareness of the importance of these personal records to care leavers
  • Promote best practice on accessing these vital documents amongst professionals working in this area.

In April 2007, the CLA wrote to 100 local authorities, under the Freedom of Information Act, to find out about their access to records practices. This revealed highly variable results. For instance, some local authorities received 100s of requests from care leavers wanting to access their childhood care files, whilst others received none. This raises questions about whether all local authorities are making people aware that they have a right to access this information about their time in care, if they want to. This survey has formed the basis for our campaign.

For many care leavers, accessing the records from their time in care can be a very positive experience. Sometimes, the information contained in those records can be difficult. However, accessing one’s file can often help a person to make sense of and piece together their past. Many care leavers are still unaware that they have a right to this information and even in some cases, unaware that it exists. We want to ensure, through our work, that more people are made aware of this right. We held meetings on this subject throughout 2007 and 2008.

In early 2007, the Care Leavers’ Association (CLA) surveyed around 150 local authorities, using the Freedom of Information Act, to find out more about how they were dealing with access to records requests.

The results revealed a very varied picture throughout England and Wales. Some local authorities reported receiving no requests for childhood care files during the period 2000-2004, whereas one reported over 800. The number of requests was not necessarily related to the size of the authority. For example, some smaller authorities reported a high number of access to records enquiries.

The results also revealed some gaps in practice. Around one quarter of local authorities had no monitoring system in place to record how many requests were received and how they were dealt with. Another quarter admitted that they did not publicise the fact that care leavers’ could access these records in anyway, despite it being a right.

There were also examples of good practice. Some local authorities genuinely recognised the importance of these files to post-care adults in enabling them to make sense of their past. Others, were prompted to make changes to their current practice by the survey itself.

Out of this research, the CLA launched the campaign, ‘It’s Our History, It’s Our Right: Reclaiming Our Past’, which has the following three aims:

  • Promote awareness of care leavers’ rights to access their files
  • Promote awareness of the importance of these personal records to care leavers
  • Promote best practice on accessing these vital documents amongst professionals working in this area.

We have taken this campaign around the UK, visiting London, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, Birmingham and Glasgow and speaking to care leavers, but also to the professionals who work in this area.

From the gaps in practice that we spotted through our research and from talking to care leavers across the UK about their experiences accessing their records, we put together the requirements for the quality mark. These are based on care leavers views about what the basics of a good access to records service should include.

In 2016 the Access to Care Records Campaign Group (ACRCG), whose members are the Care Leavers’ Association (CLA), CoramBAAF (formerly BAAF), Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL), The Post Care Forum and Barnardo’s, supported by Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey, OBE launched a report on the findings of research we carried out on Accessing Care Records. It is based on evidence collected through six roundtable events with care leavers and practitioners and managers which took place across England in mid-2015. It sets out some of the challenges and barriers to accessing care records and makes practical recommendations for
Government, local authorities and other agencies to improve care leavers’ access to records.
You can download the report below

CLA Access To Records Report