Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Barnardo's


1. IntroductionThis section describes Barnardo's current services to children and young people and those formerly in the Association's care including former child migrants. It emphasises that Barnardo's was in the main involved with pre-war migration to Canada.

2. Details of Scheme/Numbers and DestinationsThis section provides a history of Barnardo's involvement in child migration in:

  • Canada, with 30,000 children and young people migrating between 1882 and 1939, and
  • Australia, with 2,784 children and young people migrating between 1921 and 1967

3. Contact about the Schemes with GovernmentThis section describes how Barnardo's involvement with child migration schemes has historically been both driven by Government policy and attentive to specific legislative requirements.

4. ReasoningContexton ChildrenThis section provides historical context to child migration, notes a parallel with current social policy in respect of inter-country adoption, and acknowledges that for some former children the experience of migration would have been an abusive one.

5. Current Responsibility towards Former Child Migrants and their DescendantsThis section details the work of Barnardo's After Care service.

6. IssuesThis section emphasises four issues which seem to be core to an inquiry into the welfare of former child migrants: resources, quality service, historical abuse, apology and related compensation

1. INTRODUCTION1.1 Barnardo's today offers over 250 services across the United Kingdom to 30,000 children, young people and families in greatest need, and through the work of the Association's After Care section responds to hundreds of requests per year for personal information from former children, their relatives and descendants. Thus Barnardo's has substantial experience on which to base the Association's views about the current challenges and priorities in the field of child welfare, the historical development of child care policy since 1866 and the service needs of former child migrants.1.2 Barnardo's was one of several Agencies, Charities and Local Government bodies involved with child migration from the late 19th century to the mid 1960s, responsive to policies and protocols of successive Governments. Barnardo's was in the main involved with migration to Canada 30,000 (91 per cent) children migrated to Canada, and 2,784 (9 per cent) emigrated to Australia.

2. DETAILS OF SCHEMES/NUMBERS AND DESTINATIONS2.1 Barnardo's came late to child migration which, while there is evidence of the practice as early as the 17th century with "vagabond" children being shipped to the then colonies of America, received its first Government endorsement in 1850 when legislation was passed encouraging Boards of Guardians to send children from the workhouses to Canada. Barnardo's first sent children just over thirty years later when, in 1882. Samuel Smith MP for Liverpool, who shared Barnardo's concern about increased unemployment and homelessness in the United Kingdom, promised a large donation from his personal wealth solely for the purposes of emigration.

2.2 CANADA2.2.1 The first party of 51 boys aged 14-17 left for Canada in August 1882 followed by 100 boys in June 1883 and 72 girls in July of the same year.2.2.2 By the beginning of the twentieth century Barnardo's were sending over 1,000 children a year to Canada reaching a peak in 1905 of 1,300 children.2.2.3 Between 1905 and 1915 when enemy submarine action made the crossing too dangerous between 600 and 1,000 children per year were migrated.2.2.4 The scheme restarted in 1920. In 1921 Barnardo's Executive Committee decided that, with regard to girls, only those over 13 should be sent to Canada. In 1925 the Canadian Government barred all children under 14 and without parents from entry for three years. In 1928 this ban was made permanent. While Barnardo's continued to send children aged 14 and over these numbers diminished until 1939 when the final 28 emigrated. A total of 30,000 children were sent to Canada between 1882 and 1939. The decision of the Canadian Government to end the scheme in 1939 was one criticised in the British House of Commons as late as 9 February 1959.2.2.5 Children migrated to Canadian foster homes largely took up occupation as agricultural workers or domestic servants. While their lives were hard the prevailing view of Government and Barnardo's at the time was that "saved" from the poverty and degradation of slum life they would flourish if provided with an environment of healthy fresh air and wholesome work.2.2.6 Barnardo's established a small team of workers and an Advisory Committee in Canada. Children were visited and foster homes inspected on an annual basis. There clearly was some abuse of children and efforts were made to counter such concerns as early as 1889 when Miss Stent, Honorary Secretary of the Girls Village Home, was sent to the Girls Home in Canada to try to devise safeguards for Barnardo's wards, requiring employers to provide chaperons and locks to be fitted to bedroom doors and windows.2.2.7 In 1960, 21 years after the last migration, Barnardo's office in Toronto was closed and all records shipped back to England.

2.3 AUSTRALIA2.3.1 In 1896 the Western Australian Parliament debated whether they should communicate with Dr Barnardo "with a view to him sending young people to this colony". They concluded that with immigrants "flooding" to the country they did not want an increase in the population.2.3.2 By 1918 the British Government was offering to war orphans free passage plus £20.00 to outfit each child.2.3.3 In 1920 Barnardo's sent a representative to Australia to raise funds and explore emigration possibilities. He was greeted enthusiastically and in 1921 the first party of 47 boys emigrated, followed in 1923 by the first party of 32 girls, after they first attended Buckingham Palace to receive words of encouragement from Queen Mary.2.3.4 The migrated children settled in New South Wales on individual farms and homes and in Western Australia on the Farbridge Farm School, a model farm for training younger children. On the farm the children lived in cottages. The founder, Kingsley Fairbridge based his community on Barnardo's United Kingdom Girls Village Home. In 1928 Barnardo's acquired the organisation's own model farm school at Mowbaray Park, Picton. No children were sent to Western Australia by Barnardo's after 1939.2.3.5 Barnardo's established a branch in New South Wales in 1922 to supervise these placements. Barnardo's Australia became independent of the United Kingdom organisation on 1 July 1996.2.3.6 In 1931, at a time of economic depression in Australia as with the United Kingdom, the Australian Government banned the immigration of boys over school age.2.3.7 The last pre-war party of thirty six boys and 18 girls arrived in 1938 which, together with two girls arriving separately in 1939, brings the pre-war total of child emigrants sent by Barnardo's to 2,340.2.3.8 After the war migration continued on a diminished scale for 20 years until 1967 with an eventual total of about 2,784 children migrating since 1921.

3. CONTACT ABOUT THE SCHEMES WITH GOVERNMENTS3.1 Barnardo's involvement with child migration schemes has historically been both driven by Government policy (albeit rooted in a shared understanding of the problems and solutions of the day) and attentive to specific legislative requirements.3.2 When migrating children to Canada Barnardo's received assistance from the United Kingdom and Canadian Governments in the form of joint grants covering the full cost of passages to and railway fares in Canada. A further grant from the United Kingdom Government covered one half of the cost of initial clothing.3.3 In respect of children migrating to Australia Barnardo's benefited from the Assisted Passage Scheme agreed between the United Kingdom and Australian Commonwealth Governments.3.4 Barnardo's received, until 1939, grants from the United Kingdom Government for children resident at Mowbray Park Model Farm School to assist in their maintenance and a further annual grant, per child leaving, to assist with their after care.3.5 Capital grants were also received to assist with items of expenditure necessitated in established the Farm School.3.6 Parental consent was sought for children migrating. Where a child had been committed to the custody of Barnardo's under the 1908 Children Act the Secretary of State for the Home Department's permission was sought and obtained. The 1948 Children Act placed a similar responsibility on the Secretary of State for Health and Social Services, in respect of children in the care of local authorities. However, regulations pertaining to voluntary organisations were not drawn up until 1982 (some 15 years after Barnardo's ceased involvement in child migration) with the Children and Young Persons: The Emigration of Children (Arrangements by Voluntary Organisations) Regulations 1982.3.7 In January 1956 the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations appointed a fact finding mission to travel to Australia and to collect information on the arrangements for the reception and upbringing in Australia of child migrants. The mission was headed by Mr J Ross who reported to Parliament in August 1956 that he had "no doubt that many children who are in children's homes in the United Kingdom would have much better prospects in Australia, if they are carefully selected and of suitable ages". He declared that he was "very impressed by the thoroughness with which the interests of child migrants are safeguarded and by the standard of care available".

4. REASONING/PRACTICE CONTEXT/IMPACT ON CHILDREN4.1 Child migration was historically seen as best practice, although there was some contemporary dissent. Today schemes where deprived children are shipped to another continent, cut off from former family and friendships, seem inhuman. A parallel may be drawn with current inter-country adoption which will likely shock future generations.4.2 The prevailing ethos was one of "rescue". It is difficult to evaluate with any degree of scientific rigour what in today's language would be termed "outcomes" against the potential for the children had they remained in United Kingdom residential homes. Care in the United Kingdom has proved a miserable experience for many and an abusive one for some. Adults who were formerly child migrants relay experiences which range from the positive to the distressing and oppressive.4.3 Public awareness to the vulnerability to abuse of children in care has grown over the past decade. It is now widely recognised that the public child care system in the United Kingdom has for many years been vulnerable to infiltration by people who wish to abuse children. Barnardo's, like every other child care organisation has had to accept that some adults who were formerly children in the Association's care both at home and abroad will have been abused. The issue of child abuse is taken very seriously both where abuse has happened in the past and in protecting the children receiving services today.

5. CURRENT RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS FORMER CHILD MIGRANTS AND THEIR DESCENDENTS5.1 Barnardo's After Care Service, which dates back to the time of Thomas Barnardo, is there to help people who were cared for by Barnardo's when they were children. The Department has pioneered services for helping adults to come to terms with growing up in care, providing information about their background and tracing relatives.5.2 People in Barnardo's care have been provided with information about their background for many years. Since January 1995 people have been able to see their original records. Although Barnardo's is not legally obliged to do this, the decision was made in the light of increased understanding of the significance of information from the past.5.3 The BBC programmes Barnardo's Children, broadcast in August 1995, highlighted the work of After Care and led to an extra 4,000 enquiries on top of the section's average annual workload of 1,500 enquiries. A second series in August 1997 resulted in a further 1,400 enquiries. The section doubled its Social Work staff to cope with the extra workload but currently has a backlog of some 2,760 enquiries.5.4 Barnardo's has cared for some 350,000 children on behalf of society since 1867. Barnardo's has a continuing duty of care towards these children as adults which the organisation is happy to fulfil. Barnardo's spends a considerable proportion of the money it raises—£600,000 each year—on the After Care Service. This provides two social work terms; nine full-time Social Workers, researchers and administrative staff, and their managers. Barnardo's is aware that despite the organisation's best efforts and the resources devoted to this work there are still many individuals being kept waiting for information which is important to them, but has to balance their needs against those of the children receiving services today.5.5 For many people in the United Kingdom or visiting to receive this service, their meeting with an After Care Social Worker may be their first opportunity to discuss their early childhood experiences. Concerns about what will be uncovered in their records and what memories arise mean that people are often extremely anxious and emotional during their visit. Issues of loss and separation are almost universal, whilst others may have very distressing memories from before or during their time in care. Many people suffer very low self-esteem because of their experiences and this may give rise to mental health problems.5.6 Social Workers therefore have to make an assessment of whether the person requesting information is able to cope with the impact the information may have upon them or their families. After Care staff need to assess what support networks a person may have, how vulnerable they are, and how the information will affect them.5.7 The records themselves, in keeping with general practice in earlier times, were never intended to be seen by the individual and the language may be judgemental, insensitive or discriminatory. The Social Worker therefore needs to prepare people for possible distress and to be able to explain the historical context in which the records were written.5.8 When somebody wishes to trace a relative, Social Workers are able to help in a number of ways. Where the person is able to undertake tracing themselves, this is encouraged and advice given as appropriate. Referral to other agencies such as the Salvation Army may be suggested, or Social Workers may undertake tracing themselves if neither of these options is possible. This might be, for example, where the client is very elderly or vulnerable or the nature of the search is such that other agencies cannot assist (e.g. looking for a putative father or an adopted sibling). Whatever method of tracing is used, Social Workers have an important role in preparing people for the issues involved in reunions with birth families so that people have thought through the possible implications and have considered all possible outcomes. In order to facilitate the initial contact sensitively, the Social Worker may act as a mediator between the two parties. Reunions may be joyful occasions but may also raise painful past memories and buried secrets. Considerable support may be needed to cope with this emotional period.5.9 During all of Barnardo's work in After Care, Social Workers have to help people cope with a range of powerful emotions. Assimilating new information about one's past may bring pain, anger, confusion, excitement, delight, regret, sadness and so on. However, each individual's experience will be different.5.10 Clearly this work is intensive and requires considerable resourcing. In Australia the task falls to our sister organisation. Files held here are forwarded as required. Since 1994 the Head of After Care (United Kingdom) has been attending major annual reunions of former child migrants and their families in Canada. The prime mover in arranging these reunions is Dave Lorente, whose father was a child migrant. He helps hundreds of people trace their United Kingdom origins through the work of the Heritage Renfrew Home Children Committee. In response to Dave Lorente's work Barnardo's links with Canada have become stronger.5.11  Family histories often bring crucial experiences of both the United Kingdom and Canada into focus. For example a man now in his late 60s, was fostered in the United Kingdom. His birth mother had been a child admitted to Barnardo's care in 1914 and emigrated to Canada in the 1920s. When she became pregnant she returned to England. Her son was born in a workhouse in 1930. After attending a Barnardo's reunion he learned that he could get some information from his case records. He discovered that his father was a Canadian soldier but presumed that he would by now be dead. He decided to do nothing else until reading an article in the Barnardo's publication Guild Messenger in 1995 about Dave Lorente's campaign in Canada. He wrote to him and soon learned that he had a brother living in Ottowa. He has since visited Canada and met his newly found family, a brother and two sisters. His father died in 1970 but he has visited his grave to pay his respects. He still regrets what might have been, had he known sooner about his father—he spent time in Canada in the 1950s when his father would have been alive and his brother visited the United Kingdom as a soldier some 20 years ago.5.12 Since 1985 the After Care section has dealt with 3,954 such requests for personal information and access to files from former child migrants or their relatives in Canada and Australia (an average of 301 a year) as detailed below:
Canada Australia
1985 ö 1985 177
1986 ö 1986 158
1987 179 1987 96
1988 152 1988 118
1989 194 1989 158
1990 195 1990 136
1991 195 1991 68
1992 187 1992 100
1993 204 1993 111
1994 258 1994 103
1995 242 1995 109
1996 305 1996 123
1997 223 1997 122
1998 (Jan) 33 1998 (Jan) 8
Total 2,367 Total 1,587
5.13  Barnardo's works with a group of former child migrants sending agencies, the Family Care Society, the Fairbridge Society, the Children's Society, NCH Action for Children, the Catholic Children's Society and the Catholic Child Welfare Council towards the aim of furthering the development of professional services to former child migrants and their families. A joint submission from these agencies is being separately submitted.6. ISSUES6.1  Some of those former children migrated or their descendants have found their experience so traumatic that they seek an apology from Barnardo's. Irrespective of any views current within Barnardo's about it's or the Government's responsibility for child migration schemes, the organisation is constrained from apologising by the requirements of insurers.6.2  In accepting that some adults, formerly children in Barnardo's care, may have been abused whether cared for in the United Kingdom, Canada or Australia, Barnardo's has developed with other national child care charities four principles from which standards and required actions are derived. These are designed to ensure that allegations of "historical abuse" are treated responsively and rigorously. These principles are that Barnardo's:

  (i)  listens to, takes seriously and acts responsively towards allegations of historical abuse.

  (ii)  seeks to promote the welfare of former service users who allege historical abuse.

  (iii)  promotes the protection of children who may currently be at risk from alleged perpetrators of historical abuse.

  (iv)  makes the protection of children and young people the primary aim of any intervention with adults who have sexually abused.6.3  Underpinning principles are an imperative that should not, however, be solely applied to an agency's response to allegations of abuse. Barnardo's, together with the other sending agencies, is endeavouring to establish professional standards and principles in working with former child migrants.6.4  Inadequate resources present a major constraint in providing services to these adults. Specifically and in addition to the capital and revenue costs of providing an After Care service in itself, there is the cost of reunions, travel to the United Kingdom and accommodation for these former children and their families.6.5  These four issues: resources, quality service, historical abuse, apology and related compensation appear to be core to an inquiry into the welfare of former child migrants.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1998
Prepared 10 August 1998