Community Homes – new clothes, old idea?

Another in the series of our blogs – written by one of our volunteers, Rod Cooper – that takes a look at the history of The Children’s Society’s former children’s homes and social work projects since 1881, this one featuring the charity’s work with the Community Homes System in the 1970s and 1980s.

By the late 1960s the longstanding structure of The Children’s Society, comprising numerous small homes and nurseries located throughout England and Wales, was coming under stress. The numbers of children entering the homes was falling and homes that had been established for many decades were becoming increasingly outmoded and expensive to maintain. On the one hand the number of younger children requiring nursery places was falling significantly; the consequence of a more liberal society’s acceptance of single-parenthood, the increasing availability of the contraceptive pill and the legalisation of abortion in 1967. Whilst on the other, the success of The Children’s Society’s own policy of BOWAVTA – boarding-out with a view to adoption – was impacting on the number of older children remaining in its homes.

It was at this time that the Labour-led government of the day, through the agency of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969, signalled the launch of a partnership between the state and the voluntary sector entitled the Community Homes System. The system was administered centrally by the recently created Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) and was co-ordinated via the establishment of twelve Regional planning Committees (RPCs), each overseeing the residential needs within their own area and providing residential resources within a network of both local authority and voluntary sector homes.

Donald Bowie discussing the idea of the Community Homes System in 1972; he was Deputy Director of The Children’s Society at the time.

Initial reaction within the voluntary sector was not welcoming and in some quarters there was a reluctance to work within a centralised system. Among long-standing and well-known charities such as The Children’s Society and Dr Barnado’s, there was the concern that the Community Homes System represented the’ nationalisation’ of residential care, and that that less independence would result in a loss of identity and diminution of voluntary donations, along with well-established fund-raising networks. For other charities this was perhaps a lesser concern. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, certainly didn’t fear for its status or standing; and for the National Children’s Homes, there was already an established working relationship with local authorities. Nonetheless, in the three years leading up to the launch of the Community Homes System in early 1973, each of these various bodies met together collectively and with the relevant government department to discuss and co-ordinate their approach.

Off-setting the concern of potentially being absorbed within an all-encompassing national system, was the fact that voluntary bodies were not compelled to join, nor were they penalised for opting out. Providing and nominating homes for inclusion within the Community Homes System was entirely voluntary and a decision left to the charities themselves. Hence, voluntary bodies were free to pick and choose which homes to propose to the local Regional Planning Committees. With this being apparent, it is not inappropriate to suggest that for The Children’s Society, the Community Homes System provided a means of extending the life of a number of its homes.

The process by which local authorities adopted The Children’s Society’s homes for inclusion in the Community Homes System was not straightforward and a number of homes were rejected by local authorities or were considered by The Children’s Society as unsuitable in the first place. By the end of 1971, for example, twenty homes had been accepted by Regional Planning Committees, a further eighteen were still being considered for inclusion, and thirty-one had either been rejected or considered unsuitable by The Children’s Society in the first case. By the time the scheme started in 1973, a total of twenty-two Children’s Society homes were included in the Community Homes System.

Inclusion within the Community Homes System impacted on the way a home was administered; significantly, a well-established feature of a Children’s Society home – the Home Committee – was replaced by new Boards of Management. These comprised nine individuals; six from The Children’s Society and three from the relevant local authority, and they operated within the remit of a home’s Instrument of Management – the contract between The Children’s Society and the RPC which governed such areas as staffing, admissions and finance. The contracts followed a standardised format, though there was scope for negotiation or variation of the terms, including such aspects as the rates a voluntary body could charge a local authority for accommodation.

Donald Bowie, the Deputy Director of The Children’s Society in 1972

For inclusion within the scheme, ‘Community Homes’ as they were now called, were required to ensure that a minimum of 50% their bed spaces were available for children admitted via local authority sources; a figure that would increase to 75% over time. The rates a voluntary body charged a local authority straddled a very fine line. In summarising the scheme at its outset, Donald Bowie – the then Deputy Director of The Children’s Society’s – referred to this potential dilemma; i.e., “[…] we want to be sure that voluntary funds are not used to subsidise the state”, whilst he recognised too that “[…] we also want to be sure we are not making a profit out of [local authorities] or getting an indirect subsidy from their treasuries.”

The initial balance struck established a weekly ‘bed rate’ of £21.77 for the Community Homes, and £30.52 for nurseries (approximately £240 and £335 at today’s values). Moreover, The Children’s Society also levied a fee – at a much reduced rate – for those beds that remained unoccupied whilst earmarked for local authority use. A practice that was not universal throughout the voluntary sector.

As a measure of the importance of local authority funding to The Children Society, the proportion of the charity’s income provided from this source rose dramatically during the 1970s; from 24% of revenue in 1974 (i.e., approximately £5 million) to around 40% throughout the early 1980s. The figure only fell to below 20% at the turn of the century, reflecting the long-term decline and closure of The Society’s residential homes during this period. Indeed, the last of these – Ryecroft – closed in 1997.

The Ryecroft Home, Worsley, in 1960

Of the legacies resulting from the Community Homes System, perhaps the most obvious was that it allowed The Children’s Society to maintain its residential homes for a longer period of time, many of which had been established before the end of the nineteenth century. Probably more important, however, was the short-term stability it provided The Children’s Society at a time when it was establishing its strategy for change and development throughout the 1970s and 1980s, particularly with respect the development of family centres and specialised services for young people. Complimenting this, the experience of working and co-operating with local authorities through involvement in the Community Homes System, arguably brought The Children’s Society into the new world of providing children and young people’s services for local authorities. By forging these new ties and working alongside and sharing expertise with other bodies, it was better placed to reach-out to local authorities and create new social work projects to assist children and young people into the 1980s and beyond.

Records relating to the Community Homes System featured in this blog are held at The Children’s Society Archive:

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website:

© The Children’s Society

The Children's Society - Key line logo - on white - RGB

‘The best of both worlds’ – Independent Living in the north-east, 1970s-1990s

Another in the series of our blogs – written by one of our volunteers, Rod Cooper – that takes a look at the history of The Children’s Society’s former children’s homes and social work projects since 1881, this one featuring the charity’s work in the North East Region and the creation of new ‘Independent Living’ Projects.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, The Children’s Society was in the midst of a marked transition in the provision of front-line care. The number of residential homes for younger children was diminishing (many being closed, whilst others passed into the control of local authorities), and The Society – which was actively pursuing greater professionalisation of its staff – was in the process of shifting its focus towards the family unit and older, teenage, children (i.e. “young people”).

Reflecting society as a whole, this was an era of experimentation and flux for The Society, and these changes had a marked impact on its activities in the North East Region.

In the 1970s The Society recognised that young people who were about to leave residential care needed help to bridge the gap between the sheltered surroundings of a children’s home and the self-reliance needed for living on their own. These young people needed a positive setting where they could gain direct experience of housekeeping skills such as budgeting, cooking and shopping. In response, The Society set up a number of community based ‘Independent Living’ schemes during the 1970s and 1980s. These consisted of ordinary flats and houses that could be used by young people leaving care, where they could also get advice and support in preparing for adult life. Several of these were created in the North-East Region.

Nicholas House, West Boldon

Of particular note was the establishment of The Society’s first venture into the provision of bedsitter accommodation at Nicholas House, West Boldon, near South Shields. Formerly known as St Nicholas’ Home for Boys, this had been a children’s home since 1906. However, by the early 1970s the home had closed and the decision was taken to refurbish the property with self-contained bedsitter facilities for up to seven boys. The project re-opened in late 1974 as Nicholas House, and plans were soon put in place to expand provision and admit girls too.

Nicholas House was considered The Society’s first venture in the provision of “half way house” accommodation, and was viewed as a step change from the earlier establishment of hostel accommodation developed in recent years at Nottingham and Kettering. With on-site provision of qualified Children’s Society social workers, the scheme was a deliberate attempt to promote ‘independent living’, and set out to encourage residents (who had all previously being in local authority care) to look after themselves. As such, the residents paid their own rent, provided and cooked their own food, and were free to re-decorate their own rooms. Furthermore, the residents had their own front door key and were free to come and go as they pleased “within limits”. The “object of the experiment [sic] is to bridge the gap between institutional care with complete independence with some built-in safeguards.” (Gateway Magazine, Summer 1976, pp. 4-5).


The majority of residents of Nicholas House Teenage Unit – as it was subsequently termed – were formerly in the care of the South Tyneside local authority. However, as residents came to leave the project at age 18, it became apparent to both The Society and local authority that there was a requirement for further after care and a need to ‘de-institutionalise’ residents. Hence, springing directly from the work at West Boldon, there developed a subsequent project in South Tyneside promoting independent living.


The project closed in May 1992.

Project for Independent Living and South Tyneside Independent Living Project

The Project for Independent Living (PIL) or South Tyneside Independent Living Project (STILP) was initially established in 1986, as a satellite project allied to the work undertaken nearby at West Boldon.

Having identified the difficulties of residents leaving Nicholas House, and local authority homes in general, The Society and South Tyneside local authority – with the additional support of local housing associations and Barnado’s – provided additional support for up to six young people leaving care in South Tyneside. Described as an ‘assisted lodging scheme’, the project sought to provide continued support for young people leaving care for up to 12 months. It assisted them to find suitable accommodation, and provided practical help with moving and decorating. The project also provided tenants with a drop-in centre for the provision with support and advice.


Financial provision for the project was mainly funded by the local authority, with local housing associations providing suitable flats for accommodation. At the outset, The Society’s input relied on the assistance and expertise of staff based at Nicholas House, though in time a dedicated office in South Shields with its own staff (which included a project leader and two social workers) were established for the project as it became independent. Perhaps as a reflection of the prior relationship with activities at Nicholas House and the sharing of staff and facilities, the project’s official opening wasn’t until October 1990.

The Children’s Society’s participation in the project continued until April 1998, after which time the project was taken in-house by South Tyneside social services.

Preparation for Independent Living On Tyneside

Mirroring the activities undertaken south of the River Tyne, a similar project was established to the north at Whitley Bay. Initially known as North Tyneside Flatlets, and subsequently termed PILOT (Preparation for Independent Living On Tyneside), the project was initiated during 1983/84 and as the fruition of an approach by North Tyneside social services to The Society to work in partnership to provide a ‘bridge’ for young people leaving residential care.

The project commenced on a relatively small-scale, starting with just four young people aged between 16 and 18, living in local housing association flatlets. However, with three full-time staff provided by The Society, the project soon developed to the point of providing accommodation for up to thirteen young people, located either in the PILOT hostel or in nearby flatlets.

By the early 1990s as many as six full-time staff were being provided by The Society, and the scheme was over-subscribed. Most referrals to the scheme came directly from North Tyneside (the local authority ‘purchased’ eleven of the thirteen places available) whilst others were sponsored by Durham and South Tyneside local authorities.

IMG_0747 (2)

With an anticipated residency of nine months, young people in the scheme were expected “to meet the pressures of unsheltered life”, and thus learn practical skills and “develop their full personal and emotional maturity”. However, the project clearly recognised the problems encountered in similar projects elsewhere and sought to provide aftercare “for as long as necessary”. By the early 1990s for example, whilst there were thirteen young people resident within the scheme, a further twenty were in receipt of further assistance following their participation. (All quotes sourced from North East Region Project Plans, 1988/89)

The Children’s Society continued to part-fund the project until March 1997. Thereafter, activities on Tyneside – in keeping with a general review of strategy – were redirected towards ‘floating support’ and attention towards a broader range of needs allied to The Society’s then operable strategic ‘Justice Objectives’.

Want to know more?

The growth and development of The Society’s new social work projects from the late 1970s onwards is discussed in the following blog ‘A New Reality’:

Records relating to all of the projects and homes featured in this blog are held at The Children’s Society Archive – see the Archive’s on-line catalogue:

For information about The Children’s Society Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site:

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website:

Helping Young Runaways Since 1881

Another in the series of our blogs that takes a look at the history of The Children’s Society’s former children’s homes and social work projects since 1881 – this one featuring the charity’s work with young runaways and their care and support.

Central London Teenage Project: a pioneering Project for young runaways

In 1985 The Society opened a pioneering new Project called the Central London Teenage Project (known as CLTP). This Project  accommodated young people who had runaway from home and were living on the streets of London.

The purpose of the Central London Teenage Project was to provide accommodation until the young person could be either returned to their parents or moved into suitable care, with the aim of achieving this as quickly as possible. This was an innovation providing a refuge for young people who had run away in the London area.

pamphlet for UK's first safe house - front page

One of the core functions of the Project was to address the reasons why children run away. The Project worked to gain the trust of the young person and resolve the problems before helping them to return home. In working with young runaways, this was a new direction.

The Project emerged as a key area of The Children’s Society’s work. CLTP intervened with children and young people who were at risk of exploitation or abuse and provided a safe refuge for them. In its first year the Project worked with over 200 young runaways – coming from places all over Britain to London.

In 1990 the Project established a Safe House to provide longer term accommodation for young runaways. This was known as CLTP 2. The extension of the Central London Teenage Project was due to recognition in The Children’s Society of the need for more work with young runaways.

Also in 1990 two similar Projects were opened by The Children’s Society elsewhere in the country to work with young runaways. These were Safe in the City in Manchester and Leeds Safe House. Like CLTP, these Projects provided a refuge for young runaways and worked with them to try and resolve the difficulties that had led to them running away.

'Safe in the City' pamphlet

Helping Runaways Since 1881 – the work of CLTP was founded on a century of working with young runaways.

In its early days The Children’s Society ran children’s Homes across the country, when it was known as the Waifs and Strays Society. These Homes looked after vulnerable children and young people, large numbers of whom had run away from their family homes.

Take the example of Lily, who came into the care of The Children’s Society in 1894. Lily’s mother had died, leaving Lily and two of her younger siblings in the care of her father, who was described as being a drunken and violent man. At the age of 14, Lily and her two younger siblings ran away from home to escape his ill treatment.


Lily was referred to The Children’s Society by the NSPCC and went to live in The Society’s home, St Chad’s, in Far Headingley near Leeds. Here she was taught a trade to help her find future employment and support herself financially once she was old enough. After two years in St Chad’s Home, Lily went to live with her aunt in Normanton, Yorkshire.

A girl who has completed her training and is ready, with her uniform, to go out to work in domestic service, 1910

The Present Day

Unfortunately, the conditions that force children to run away from home were not restricted to the 1890s or the 1980s. Children who run away from home today face the same pressures and need just as much help.

The Children’s Society’s work with young runaways continues to this day, with the Make Runaways Safe Campaign

The growth and development of The Society’s new social work projects from the late 1970s onwards is discussed in the following blog ‘A New Reality’:

Records relating to all of the projects and homes featured in this blog are held at The Children’s Society Archive.

For information about The Children’s Society Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site:

or you can consult the Archive’s on-line catalogue:

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website:

In the front line – social work projects in Gloucestershire, 1987-1993

Today we have the second part of a blog post written by one of our volunteers, Rod Cooper, that looks at The Children’s Society’s work in Gloucestershire in the 1980s and 1990s, when new types of community-based social work projects were being developed. This follows on from a previous overview of The Society’s work in the county between 1897-1954:

Annual review for The Children's Society, dated 1977/8, and a magazine sent to supporters of the charity, dated 1975, showing the change in emphasis in The Children's Society's work

The Society became very active in Gloucestershire over the period 1987-1993. This activity generated three important projects: the Gloucestershire Drugs Project in Cheltenham; the Gloucester Diocesan Team; and Deakin House.

Gloucestershire Drugs Project

The Society used this project to pioneer its work in this particular field. Based in Cheltenham, it provided information and counselling for young people involved in drug taking, their families and friends, and other agencies working with these young people. Training and education was also high on the project’s list of priorities as it sought to influence Social Services, Local Authorities and the local community about drug use and related issues such as the link with HIV/AIDS, and reinfection in general.


The project reached out to a large number of young people, and by the end of 1987 – its first full year of operation – the advice, information and counselling centre in Cheltenham had received over 100 referrals.

Throughout the life of the project, approximately half of the individuals seeking assistance were self-referrals, though a significant number were directed towards the project by the Probation Service and non-statutory and voluntary agencies; signifying the extent to which the project had established its presence and demonstrated its effectiveness.

The project team was not large, and at its outset comprised no more than three or four full-time staff. However, enhancing the effectiveness and breadth of the project’s impact, there were a significant number of volunteer helpers. Consequently the project was able to pilot such programmes as a needle and syringe exchange scheme, and undertake initiatives with the Prison Service and engage directly with soon-to-be-released prisoners.


From August 1990 the project became an independent company, though The Society’s presence was maintained thereafter through the secondment of one of its key staff. Subsequently, the expertise developed by the project saw it being absorbed within the county-wide drugs service, for which Local Health Authority funding was provided, in March 1992.

Gloucester Diocesan Team

The Gloucester Diocesan Team was launched in 1988, and as such was one of several diocesan teams created by The Society in the West and Wales Region during the late 1980s. The aim of the team was to co-ordinate work with the Church (through the Diocesan Board for Social Responsibility) and local community groups, and to help people improve the quality of life in their own neighbourhoods. In the process of doing this it sought to achieve two main things; firstly to build a sense of community, and secondly to help people plan strategies and find resources to overcome problems within their communities. Once established, it was anticipated that such initiatives would run autonomously or with relatively little intervention.

Leaflets from the Gloucestershire Diocesan Community Team, 1990 [The Children's Society Archive]

Leaflets from the Gloucestershire Diocesan Community Team, 1990 [The Children’s Society Archive]

The range of activities undertaken by the Diocesan Team was extensive, and included such initiatives as the Northleach Deanery Youth Project, the Cheltenham Parents Support Group, the Matson Neighbourhood project in Gloucester, and Winnie Mandela House – a multi-ethic project for homeless young people, again located in Gloucester. The Team’s activities were spread throughout the diocese, and reached beyond the larger urban areas of Cheltenham and Gloucester extending to locations such as Stroud, the Forest of Dean and rural locations such as Cromhall and Dursley.

The Society’s formal involvement ceased in March 1993, when activities were transferred to the full control of the Diocese. However, to smooth the transition, The Society continued to fund the presence of a Community Development worker for a further two years.

Leaflets from the Gloucestershire Diocesan Community Team, 1980s-1990 [The Children's Society Archive]

Leaflets from the Gloucestershire Diocesan Community Team, 1989-1990 [The Children’s Society Archive]

Deakin House

The third strand of The Society’s activities in the county was this short-term project started in 1989. ‘Independent Living’ schemes – whereby young people leaving care are provided with their own rooms, shared facilities, and the opportunity to manage their own lives – were pioneered by The Society in the late 1960s, and Deakin House was established in this vein. The project was developed in partnership with Gloucestershire Social Services and the Gloucestershire Churches Housing Association, and The Society’s main area of input was the provision of a non-resident project co-ordinator. The hostel provided a home for up to 6 tenants with limited supervision. The project worked to provide advice and support in preparing for adult life, and allowed the young people residing there to have direct experience of housekeeping skills such as budgeting, cooking and shopping.

The Society’s involvement with Deakin House – which continued to be a bedsit hostel – was short-lived, and its responsibilities were transferred to the management of local agencies 1990/91.

Records relating to all three projects are held at The Children’s Society Archive.

The growth and development of The Society’s new social work projects from the late 1970s onwards is discussed in the following blog ‘A New Reality’:

For information about The Children’s Society Archive’s ‘Hidden Lives Revealed’ web site:

or you can consult the Archive’s on-line catalogue:

If you would would like to know about how The Children’s Society continues to change children’s lives today, visit the charity’s website:

A New Reality in 1975

Today we have a blog post written by one of our volunteers, Rod Cooper.

Gateway Magazine, Winter 1975. During my researches into the development of The Children’s Society’s projects during the latter part of the Twentieth Century, one particular issue of Gateway – the quarterly supporters’ magazine published between 1953 and 1993 – was so strikingly different in both content and appearance that it was not misplaced to consider it as some sort of break from the past. When I first came across this issue I was astounded by the abrupt change in tone and content compared with previous issues.

Gateway magazine articles, Winter 1975

“Preventative work with families has been gathering impetus over the last few years and will continue to gain momentum. Keeping families together is the crux of the child care problem.”

Previously, successive editions of the magazine comprised a fairly consistent diet of supporters’ fund-raising efforts, stories from The Children’s Society homes, remembrances of former residents, and general news and competitions.

Whilst it would be quite unfair to label the magazine as “cosy and safe”, it wouldn’t be misplaced to say that by the 1970s the magazine was somewhat out of step both with the changes in society as a whole and the associated changes in the work of The Children’s Society. These changes had already been flagged-up and reported by The Children’s Society in various Annual Reports published during the early-seventies. Chief among these were the declining importance and emphasis of the twin pillars of nursery and children’s homes. The numbers of babies entering The Children’s Society’s nurseries was in steep decline (a combination of the contraceptive pill, the legalisation of abortion, and increasing numbers of “unsupported” mothers choosing to keep their babies). Ten such homes closed between 1966 and 1969, whilst in 1970, Amphlett House, Droitwich, closed as a trainee nursery nurse hostel. As for children’s homes, there was a steady decline in the number of these as the demand for places decreased and more and more House Parents retired. By the end of 1973, for example, there were fewer than 1,000 children residing in The Children’s Society’s homes, whereas as recently as 1968 there were almost 1,500.

Contemporaneous with these trends, there were significant and not-unrelated changes in the emphasis of The Children’s Society’s work. Most – but not all – of these fell within the scope of maintaining children within their families and emphasising the importance of the family unit. Among the consequences of this were the promotion and development of new forms of working with children and young people such as day-nurseries and day-care, and the movement towards family centres. Coupled with these moves The Children’s Society also embarked upon a programme of increased professionalisation of staff and engagement of qualified social workers.

Into this milieu, the Winter 1975 issue of Gateway should not perhaps be viewed as so surprising, and indeed some previous issues had reported on such matters as day-care and an emphasis towards the family unit. However, compared with preceding issues it marks a significant step-change and its impact at the time must have been extraordinary. Noted on the front cover as “Working with families – Special feature”, there are six thematically linked pages and six articles – most authored by qualified social workers – reporting on issues such as urban and rural deprivation, social isolation, child abuse, and the plight of recent immigrants. Furthermore, as a means of branding the feature, there is a banner across each of the six pages comprising a montage of ‘tabloid’ newspaper headlines. Among these, “A Daughter’s Cry for Help”, “Nightmares of Timid Toddler”, and “Wife Beaters Learn Young” provide a flavour. Taken together, these articles and the means by which they were presented, clearly mark a change in direction and a desire to portray the realities borne by some children and their families.

Successive issues continued to concentrate on these ‘new realities’ and throughout 1976, readers were presented with reports on such matters as depression, single-parent families, and problem teenagers.

The final edition of Gateway was issued in Spring 1993, and the themes brought into sharp focus almost twenty years previously, along with The Children’s Society’s stated avowal to provide “a comprehensive child care service” allied to its “privileged position to innovate,” continued to be reflected right through to the final issue, for example, featuring articles on the ‘New Poor’ and Child Prostitution. Allied to this, the necessity and desire to report professionally on events and circumstances – however, distressing or disturbing – was always to the forefront and never shied from.

The cover of the Spring edition of Gateway in 1993

The cover of the Spring edition of Gateway in 1993

All quotes are from Walter Horrocks, Working with Families, Gateway, Winter 1975, p.4

Never Standing Still

Today we have a blog post written by one of our volunteers, Rod Cooper.


Ever wondered about the activities of The Children’s Society and how these have evolved? I have been lucky enough to research a remarkable period in The Children’s Society’s history, and one that reflects significant changes in our society in general.

Annual review for The Children's Society, dated 1977/8, and a magazine sent to supporters of the charity, dated 1975, showing the change in emphasis in The Children's Society's work

Some time ago I was asked to help out with clarifying information in The Children’s Society Archive’s database, and to record the activities of The Children’s Society’s homes from the mid-1960s through to the latter part of the last century.

All very interesting I thought, and shouldn’t be too difficult. Just a few weeks work. But then just how wrong can you be?

Two years on, and after much scouring of The Children’s Society’s annual reports and supporters’ magazines (such as Gateway magazine and Children in Focus magazine), the consequence is a significantly more extensive than anticipated spreadsheet that records the year-by-year activities of The Children’s Society’s various homes and projects. In due course this will be compared against information already stored on the Archive’s database, and any amendments and revisions thus recorded.

Due to constraints in the availability of data, the greater part of the information relates to a period from the late-1960s through to the mid-1990s; the periods either side often lacking information of comparable depth and breadth. But this caveat aside, the period for which I have sourced data has – and I freely admit perhaps more by accident than design – resulted in a time-line charting broad-scale changes in The Children’s Society’s activities over a thirty year period. Changes that reflect significant shifts in the social, cultural and economic fabric of our society as a whole.

During the early part of this project, and as each snippet of information stood in relative isolation, there appeared to be little rhyme or reason behind The Children’s Society’s activities. However, it wasn’t long before developing themes and evolving strategies came much into focus.

Over the thirty year period, for example, I’ve traced declining activities such as the rapid closure of nurseries in the 1960s and the related fall in the number of infants for adoption (put rather succinctly in one article as a consequence of three things: more “unsupported” mothers wishing to keep their babies; the impact of the contraceptive pill; and changes in the abortion law). There was a significant change too in the number of children’s homes. More and more of these were either closed or transferred into local authority management whilst The Children’s Society chose to extend its focus towards the family unit and, more specifically, to help maintain family life and keep families together. Hence the rise of the Family Centre in the 1980s. The focus too shifted away from younger children to “young people” in their teenage years. In the face of rising unemployment and social stresses in the 1980s and beyond, this meant involvement in employment and training projects, hostels for homeless young people and provision of legal assistance. All a far cry from The Children’s Society’s activities of just few short years before, when the emphasis had been on nurseries and homes for younger children.

And this is just a taste of it. There is much more. But that can wait for another time. What started out as a relatively straightforward piece of house-keeping to help sort out a database has taken on a life of its own, and thrown up some revealing and fascinating insights into your organisation’s activities over the years.