MIRRA stands for “Memory, Identity, Rights in Records, Access”, and has been conducting research into the process of Care Leavers applying for records, sometimes later in life. Today at the University of Central London was a symposium and conference, at which many fascinating speakers gave presentations.
After an introduction by Professor Elizabeth Shepherd, the opening address was given by Keynote Speaker Elizabeth Denham CBE, the UK Information Commissioner, who emphasised the role of the Information Commissioner’s Office in relation to record keeping, and preservation of personal data. She is the visiting Professor to the UCL where the conference was held. She explained that her history stems from being an archivist in Canada dealing with children from Residential Schools in British Columbia.
After coffee, various contributors to the project gave heart felt speeches about their experiences of applying for their records as care leavers. Victoria Hoyle over-viewed the project and what had been discovered from the research. Quotes from those who had gained access to their records were displayed on screen. The rawness of the various addresses from care leavers were very powerful, amusing, and passionate in equal measure. We also learned from academics and records officers about the practical process of the research and what lessons can be learned.
Victoria also played a very inspiring short film consisting of short quotes from the participants to the project and the research. It highlighted the major points such as how long and irksome the experience of applying for records was for care leavers, how it could be improved. Below you can replay the film.
After lunch we heard from campaigners, and researchers from the UK, Australia, and New Zealand who discussed the role of records in gaining justice for victims and survivors of abuse and neglect. Justine Rainbow from IICSA (Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse) gave us a summary of the experience of the lack of records in many of the modules currently being conducted as well as the experiences of those giving evidence to the Truth Project. Time and time again the institutions had destroyed useful evidence which IICSA would have liked to examine in order to prove the veracity of none recent allegations
Finally we heard about how a caring approach to records and record keeping could assist care leavers. Representatives from professional bodies, voluntary organisations and service providers talked about what they are doing to support care-experienced people’s rights to records. In particular we heard from the Darren Coyne of the Access to Records Campaign Group, who explained what legislation they are lobbying for to help care leavers over 25 who are looking for records. The Archives and Records Association fielded questions, The representative from British Association of Social Workers explained the desire to help by practitioners but the effect that austerity has upon the wish for improvements and developement. A representative of Family Action outlined a project to set up a website Family Connect in conjunction with Julia Feast, the purpose of which is to help put people in touch with their family from whom they have lost contact. We also heard from the Rees Foundation.
The Committee met today at the London Office of Simpson Millar solicitors to discuss where we were up to, and how we had progressed since the meeting with the Department of Education and Rob McPherson on 26th February 2019.
We were given the green light to draft some national standards which will apply to not only the under 25 year olds but to older care leavers as well. This was a useful concession because most of our beneficiaries are over 25.
Thanks go to Leonie Jordan and Julie Feast for drawing up some excellent draft standards, which are still a work in progress. We plan to send them to Rob McPherson at the DFE and Mathew Brazier from OFSTED, who, hopefully will approve them in outline with a view to making them National Standards. The plan is that they will become the hallmark against which any Local Authority being inspected by OFSTED will be judged against.
Once we have agreement on the Standards we will submit them to the DFE with a view to having them agreed in workshop format and translated into National Standards.
Also of interest is a plan by OFSTED to produce a PODCAST with the co-operation and involvement of Careleavers from the Care Leavers’ Association, which will be filmed in Manchester. It will include the experiences of the Adult Care Leavers of their route to access their own records, and an overview from OFSTED. This will then take the form of training and guidance for OFSTED inspectors. Watch this space.
We have achieved a lot in the last 12 months. The ACRCG moves from strength to strength thanks to the boundless energy and enthusiasm of our committee
Baroness Young of Hornsey OBE led a meeting between Rob Macpherson MBE, the lead for children looked after, and ACRCG on 26 February 2019 to follow up the work done by participants at the Seminar at the House of Lords.
The DfE agreed in principle to the concept of Standards to mark a threshold of quality of services for all adult care leavers who ask to see their case records and they will support work we do to devise these. The Department’s remit is for care leavers up to 25 years and they agreed to support us in making links with other relevant government departments to achieve across government support for standards.
The DfE is due to revisit the Transition to Adulthood statutory guidance [which includes the guidance on access to records] and will see how to strengthen this and to improve links between the Ofsted inspection process of LA services and the guidance, particularly looking at the quality of the process to support care leavers now and the quality of care records for future care leavers.
This will link to the work the DfE is doing on the Care Leavers’ Covenant and the new duty on local authorities to set out their offer of services available to care leavers. We believe this was a successful recognition of the work done by participants in November and we are now working on draft standards to circulate for consideration.
n 2017 we teamed up with University College London who are carrying out a 2 year research project properly funded into the accessing of records with particular emphasis on care records and care leavers experiences.
MIRRA is a research project that aims to support the rights of care leavers by exploring how child social care records have been created, kept and used in public and voluntary organisations in England from the mid-20th century to the present day. The acronym stands for Memory – Identity – Rights in Records – Access. It is a participatory action research project co-produced with care leavers in partnership with the Care Leavers Association. Ultimately it aims to make positive changes to social care record keeping and through those changes improve the care leavers’ experiences.
A history of the research can be seen on the MIRRA Blog here
We have been very fortunate as a group to have had the support of the MIRRA project, which appears in more detail in the Research Section of the site, where there is a fuller explanation of the 2 year research project being carried out by the University of Central London in close co-operation with several organisations such as the Care Leavers Association and ACRCG.
In this latest blog, Victoria Hoyle describes how she has discovered the issue that children in care feel unloved owing the bureaucratic process of record keeping, the form filling needed to obtain, for example, pocket money, and feeling that they are a statistic rather than a real human being.
To read the blog, click here
CHAIRED BY THE BARONESS YOUNG OF HORNSEY, OBE
Some 30 participants from voluntary agencies, local authorities, the Local Government Association, Ofsted, Spectra First, ACAL lawyers and others joined a lively by invitation ‘round table’ discussion to explore producing National Standards as a ‘stepping stone’ to achieving a legislative framework that will be fit for purpose for all adult care leavers wanting to access their records about their time in care.
MMU academic, Becky Clarke, who undertook research commissioned by The Care Leavers’ Association, presented her findings about the experience of 20 adult care leavers, the majority of whom were aged over 40 when they asked to see their care records. For most, this was a challenging and distressing process.
To read the report find click here
The ultimate aim of ACRCG is to achieve a legislative framework specifically for adult care leavers. We believe that legal duties including support services if they wish to use these and clarity about 3rd party information will significantly improve the process and the services adult care leavers receive.
ACRCG will now begin drafting the National Standards for wider consultation including with the Department for Education.
Group calls for national support framework for adults looking to access their childhood care records
Research exploring experiences of adult care leavers discussed at House of Lords roundtable event
Session chaired by Baroness Young of Hornsey OBE
Access to Care Records Campaign Group calls on Government to do more in their role of ‘corporate parent’
TUESDAY 27TH NOVEMBER 2018 – LONDON, UK – A leading campaign group has called for a national framework that guides local authorities and voluntary organisations to support adults who were in care as children and are now looking to access their care files.
The Access to Care Records Campaign Group is calling on the government to introduce a number of standardised measures to ensure those who access their care records are given sufficient support as they process their contents.
Today the campaign group reveals three strands of research which will be discussed at the House of Lords in a session to be chaired by the cross bench peer Baroness Young of Hornsey OBE.
The first report, published by The Care Leavers’ Association is the result of roundtable discussions across England led by Darren Coyne of CLA and Peter Garsden, President of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, which has given invaluable support to the campaign group.
The second report, ‘Battling with a Care-less Process’ was commissioned by The Care Leavers’ Association from Becky Clarke, Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University who interviewed 20 adult care leavers, the majority of whom were aged over 40, about their experiences of asking to see all their care records.
A Freedom of Information Analysis Report has also revealed that local authorities generally do not keep records of how many adult care leavers ask to see their care records and appear to have no systems in place to support them.
Each strand of research makes key recommendations as to how the government should be doing more to ensure a standardised approach for adult care leavers asking to see their care records.
These recommendations include:
- An effective process that makes it easier for data governance officers and professionals to share with adult care leavers more information from the records, including information about family members,.
- Avoiding redaction of files wherever possible, keeping accurate records whenever redaction is made and an explanation of the rationale.
- Offer support to all adult care leavers of any age across their life-span and keep open communication throughout the process.
- Provide detailed government guidance for data governance officers in relation to access to care records.
- Information for adult care leavers through diverse media sources about their right to see their care records and the support available to them to do so.
ACRCG believes that current data protection legislation, whilst allowing adult care leavers to access their personal information on their care records, is not designed to deal with requests for family history, information and decisions relating to a person’s time in care. Government did not use the opportunity during the passage through Parliament of the Data Protection Act 2018 to address the serious disadvantages adult care leavers experience.
ACRCG’s ambition is first to ensure the creation of National Standards applying across all sectors to support those adult care leavers making a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act 2018.
Ultimately, the Group, working alongside adult care leavers, want to achieve ‘fit for purpose’ legislation which properly recognises the right of all people who grew up in the care of the State to have knowledge of their whole family history and to know what decisions and events have shaped their adult life.
Available for interview
- Darren Coyne, The Care Leavers’ Association
- Peter Garsden, President of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers
- Becky Clarke, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Manchester Metropolitan University
For more information or to set up an interview, please contact:
Following on from the research we commissioned Manchester Metropolitan University to write, Senior Lecturer Becky Clarke, who conducted the research, tried to interest the wider community in the research. She has written a very good blog on the subject entitled “Adult Care Leavers” Battling with a Care-Less Process which we link to here. It starts off:-
“Being removed from your family as a child and taken into the care of the state is inconceivable for many of us. Often the context is traumatic and, in 99% of cases, this intervention has nothing to do with the child’s behaviour. Yet the evidence reveals that down the line, when that child becomes an adult and seeks information about their family background and time in care, they experience a battle with a care-less process. Later this month the Access to Care Records Campaign Group (ACRCG) will hold an event in the House of Lords, with the aim of re-igniting action to address the legislative, policy and practice issues”…Read more
We are, of course, holding an event in the House of Lords for which see here
You can read another blog generated by Darren Coyne of the Care Leavers Association here
Key findings of the Freedom of Information request to all local authorities in England
- 1 in 6 councils had no records of the number of Subject Access Requests [SARs] made in a 12 month period by adult care leavers.
- Where councils did have records, there was wide variation as to the number of SARs made in any one year. The average was a fifth of all SARs received, and three councils reported SARs from adult care leavers were just over 50% of the total number of applications.
- The pattern of significant variation across England resonates with findings from other enquiries by the Access to Care Records Campaign Group [ACRCG] that despite statutory guidance on the need to have skilled staff to deal with these SARs and supports tailored to the individual’s needs, this is not evident