Disability and Children: The Children’s Society, 1889 to 1979

Janine Stanford, The Children’s Society

The Children’s Society Archive represents one of the voluntary sector’s most important archive collections and services. It is an in-house archive managed by The Children’s Society and is of national importance in terms of charting both child care and charity development in England and Wales since the late nineteenth century through to the present day, a fact reflected by the collection being added to the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register in 2011.

In the light of the current Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives,  formally launched at an event at the House of Lords on 15 October 2012, The Children’s Society Archive offers a prime example of what can be achieved with professional management, appropriate investment and support by larger voluntary sector organisations in order to preserve and make their archives available to researchers and the public. For more information about The Children’s Society Archive, please email us at archives@childrenssociety.org.uk

The Children’s Society Archive was recently commissioned by the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives to open up access to The Children’s Society’s records relating to the care of disabled children. A year ago, I wrote for this blog on what we were hoping to achieve with the project. We are happy to announce that the project, entitled ‘Including the Excluded’, has now been completed.

As a result of the project several catalogues have been produced which list our records relating to The Children’s Society’s work with disabled children. These include records of the homes set up specifically by the charity to care for disabled children. Examples of these homes include St Nicholas’ and St Martin’s Home in Surrey, Bradstock Lockett Home in Merseyside, and Halliwick School in London, although there are of course many others.

Interestingly, the catalogues also list and index the individual case files of the disabled children that were in The Children’s Society’s care in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. These case files offer a fascinating insight into the lives of disabled children during this time and contain many stories that have not previously been heard.

As well as The Children’s Society’s work with disabled children, the records of The Children’s Union have been catalogued. The Children’s Union was a pioneering fundraising body that raised money, almost entirely, through donations from children. The money raised went on to support the children cared for by The Children’s Society. The records show that there was a strong link between The Children’s Union and the support of disabled children for over fifty years.

At The Children’s Society Archive, we aim to maintain the records in as good a condition as possible. Part of the project was the cleaning and repackaging of 600 case files with the help of a dedicated team of volunteers. Many of the case files were in poor condition, making them difficult to handle and leaving them in danger of sustaining further damage over time. The repackaging of these case files means that they are now easier to use and has helped to ensure that they will be preserved for years to come.

‘Including the Excluded’ has opened up a range of records that were previously inaccessible, making them available for future research. The wealth of information that the records contain can help to explain what life was like for disabled children in The Children’s Society’s care. It is a history that, until now, has remained unexplored.

You can find out more about the project by visiting the Including the Excluded web pages, which includes the completed catalogues and a blog showcasing items found within the collection.
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One Response to Disability and Children: The Children’s Society, 1889 to 1979

  1. I think it is a great blog that you have written it gives a bit of insight.

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