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Registration No. 216250 (England and Wales)
SC037605 (Scotland)
Founded 1866
Founder(s) Thomas Barnardo
Key people Peter Brook, Chief Executive
Area served United Kingdom
Focus(es) Children
Revenue £245,183,000[1]
Volunteers 17,175[1]
Employees 5,025[1]
Motto Believe in children
Formerly called Dr Barnardo's Homes, Dr Barnardo's[2]

Barnardo's is a British charity founded by Dr Thomas John Barnardo in 1866, to care for vulnerable children and young people. As of 2013, it spends over £191 million each year on more than 800 local services, aimed at helping these same groups. It is the UK's largest children's charity, in terms of charitable expenditure.[2] Its headquarters are in Barkingside in the London Borough of Redbridge.


The charitys founder, Thomas Barnardo, opened a school in the East End of London to care for and educate children of the area left orphaned and destitute by the recent cholera outbreak. A little street child called Jim Jarvis attended one of his classes after hearing of it from another child and asked for help. The little boy eventually led him to a hiding place of hundreds of boys on a rooftop in Whitechapel as their only alternative was to go to a workhouse. In 1870 he founded a boys' orphanage at 18 Stepney Causeway[2] and later opened a girls' home. By the time of his death in 1905, Barnardo's institutions cared for over 8,500 children in 96 locations. His work was carried on by his many supporters under the name Dr Barnardo's Homes.[3] Following societal changes in the mid-20th century, the charity changed its focus from the direct care of children to fostering and adoption, renaming itself Dr Barnardo's. Following the closure of its last traditional orphanage in 1989, it took the still simpler name of Barnardo's. The official mascot of Barnardo's is a bear called Barney. H.M. Queen Elizabeth II is the current patron of Barnardo's. Its current Chief Executive is TBC.[4]

There was controversy early on with Barnardo's work. Specifically, he was accused of kidnapping children without parents' permission and of falsifying photographs of children to make the distinction between the period before they were rescued by Barnardo's and afterwards seem more dramatic. He openly confessed to the former of these charges, describing it as 'philanthropic abduction' and basing his defence on the idea that the ends justified the means. In all, he was taken to court on 88 occasions, largely on the charge of kidnapping. However, being a charismatic speaker and popular figure, he rode through these scandals unscathed. Other charges brought against him included presenting staged images of children for Barnardo's 'before and after' cards and neglecting basic hygiene for the children under his care.[5]

Barnardo's work today

Today, Barnardo's provides a comprehensive range of local support, counselling, fostering, adoption, education, residential and training services for more than 100,000 children, young people and their families. The charity works to transform the lives of vulnerable children and young people, and aims to enable them to fulfil their potential. In recent years Barnardo's has accompanied its service delivery work with some robust campaigning on child poverty, Sarah's Law, asylum-seeking children, children in care, young carers and, most recently, youth justice and sexual exploitation.

Barnardo's raises money for its work with children and young people through its chain of high street and local retail shops. As well as regular second-hand stores across the UK, Barnardo's also has a network of shops dedicated to selling vintage clothing, books, shoes and furniture, as well as boutiques, bridal wear shops and dress agencies, not to mention GIK (gifts in kind) stores which sell new clothing and goods that have been donated to Barnardo's from manufacturers and retailers. Barnardo's also has an online shop on its main website which details new goods such as gifts and greeting cards.

Barnardo's has its own song, which was sung by children from Dedham C of E Primary School at the Royal Albert Hall to raise money for the charity. Some Barnardo's shops play pre-recorded programmes of "Barnardo's Radio" featuring a mix of easy listening music interspersed with short campaign appeals.

Barnardo's has used advertising campaigns to raise attention for its work. A 2003 advert which featured a new-born baby with a cockroach crawling out of its mouth was subsequently banned by the ASA.[7][8] In 2008 its 'Break the cycle' TV advert featuring a girl being repeatedly hit around the head by her father[9] prompted a number of complaints but was cleared by the ASA which said the imagery was justified, given the context.[10]

In 2009 Martin Narey, then Chief Executive of Barnardo's, stated that he believed that more children should be taken into care. This statement caused considerable controversy, especially as historical references were made by journalists to Barnardo's original practice of 'philanthropic abduction'.[11][12] However, by 2012, there was little opposition to Narey's claim which was publicly supported by the NSPCC[13] and Action For Children who called for an overhaul of the law on neglect.

Cedars controversy

Recently Barnardo's has been criticised for its work in Cedars, a detention facility used to hold immigrant families with children before they are expelled from the country. Barnardo's provide "welfare and social care facilities" at the detention centre, which is managed on behalf of the UK Border Agency by private security company G4S.[14] Barnardo's has been criticised by Frances Webber of the Institute of Race Relations for "legitimising child detention".[15]

Activists opposed to the detention of children, such as members of the No Border network, have mounted a campaign against the charity's involvement in Cedars[16] including actions such as occupying Barnardo's London head office in February 2012,[17] and disrupting the "Barnardo's Young Supporters" choir concert at the Royal Albert Hall in April 2012.[18]

In response to criticism, Anne Marie Carrie, then Chief Executive of Barnardo’s, stated that the decision to provide welfare and social care services at Cedars is in the children’s best interests,[19] outlining Barnardo’s ‘red lines’ and the action it will take if the welfare and dignity of any asylum seeking families and children is at risk.[20][21][22]

Children of Dr. Barnardo's Homes and music

During the 1950s, children from the homes made some significant recordings. Their biggest claim to fame was featuring on Petula Clark's 1952 recording of "Where Did My Snowman Go?"[23][24] . They also made some other recordings as a vocal group for Polygon & Pye Nixa[25]

Barnardo’s Barkingside Regeneration Programme

Barnardo’s is a major employer within the borough with approximately 450 staff, including secondments and visitors. Since September 2013, the organisation has consolidated its operations in one building, a smaller, more efficient and environmentally friendly head office on the Barkingside site.[26][27] The new building has been financed by the housing developments undertaken after public consultation and discussions with local residents in Barkingside.[28]

Partnerships & Affiliations

Barnardo's is a founding member of Fostering Through Social Enterprise (FtSE), a consortium of voluntary and non profit fostering agencies that advocate for children in respect of regulation, as well as representing its membership at central government level.


External links

  • Barnardo's Official website
  • Charity Commission
  • Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator
  • Intelligent Giving profile of Barnardo's
  • Barnardo's Child Sponsorship
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