In 2002 we launched a campaign to improve access to files for children in care and for care leavers. We decided that we would:
- Set up an Access to Files information database on this website.
- Form an Access to Files campaign group. Members of this group would provide advice and help to other care leavers seeking their files.
- Develop a database on expertise and professional help with tracing records and personal background (e.g. tracing families) as well as files access.
- Develop links with organisations that might provide support to care leavers who need it once they’ve accessed their files.
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.
Since that time, we have built up a good deal of expertise within the CLA. In 2013 we established the campaign group ACRCG Access to Records Campaign Group working with BAAF, ACAL and Barnardos. This resulted in a successful change to the 2014 Children and Families Bill to produce statutory guidance on improving the process of accessing files for young people leaving care aged up to 25. We are still working to ensure that this guidance is made applicable to care leavers of all ages. We are holding an event at the House of Lords and will be carrying out regional round table events with the Department of Education to ensure that the message reaches local authorities.
In 2016 with the ACRCG campaign group we published a report on our findings on the process of accessing care records. This can be downloaded below.
If you would like information on how to access your files follow the link below