Barnardo's is a British charity founded by Thomas John Barnardo in 1866, to care for vulnerable children. In the late 20th century, it was implicated in the scandal involving British children sent abroad as child slaves.[4] As of 2013, it raised and spent around £200 million each year running around 900 local services, aimed at helping these same groups. It is the UK's largest children's charity, in terms of charitable expenditure.[5] Its headquarters are in Barkingside in the London Borough of Redbridge.

FounderThomas Barnardo
Registration no.216250 (England and Wales)
SC037605 (Scotland)
Area served
United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia
Formerly called
Dr. Barnardo's Homes,
Dr. Barnardo's[2]


The National Incorporated Association for the Reclamation of Destitute Waif Children otherwise known as Dr. Barnardo's Homes was founded by Thomas Barnardo, who opened a school in the East End of London to care for and educate children of the area left orphaned and destitute by a recent cholera outbreak.[6] In 1870 he founded a boys' orphanage at 18 Stepney Causeway[5] 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 National Incorporated Association.[7] 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 in 1965. Following the closure of its last traditional orphanage in 1988, it took the still simpler name of Barnardo's. The official mascot of Barnardo's is a bear called Barney. Its chief executive is Javed Khan.[8]

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.[9]

Between 1945 and 1974, Barnado's supported and participated in colonisation policies that saw around 150,000 children exported to imperial colonies where they were mostly abused, beaten and neglected.[10]


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.[11][12] In 2008 its "Break the cycle" TV advert featuring a girl being repeatedly hit around the head by her father[13] prompted a number of complaints but was cleared by the ASA which said the imagery was justified, given the context.[14]

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".[15][16] By 2012, there was little opposition to Narey's claim which was publicly supported by the NSPCC[17] and Action For Children who called for an overhaul of the law on neglect.

Cedars controversy

Since 2011 Barnardo's has been criticised for its work in Cedars, the name chosen by UK Immigration Enforcement for what it describes as "pre-departure accommodation" (detention facility) near Gatwick Airport used to hold families with children pending deportation. Barnardo's provide "welfare and social care facilities" at the detention centre, which is managed on behalf of UK Visas and Immigration by private security company G4S.[18] Barnardo's has been criticised by Frances Webber of the Institute of Race Relations for "legitimising child detention".[19]

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[20] including actions such as occupying Barnardo's London head office in February 2012,[21] and disrupting the "Barnardo's Young Supporters" choir concert at the Royal Albert Hall in April 2012.[22]

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,[23] 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.[24][25][26]

Child abuse and sexual abuse

The 2014–2015 Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry included Barnardo's Sharonmore Project, Newtownabbey, and Barnardo's Macedon, Newtownabbey among the institutions under investigation.[27]

A number of children that were sent to Canada were abused and died in mysterious circumstances; they are buried in unmarked graves in Park Lawn Cemetery in Toronto.[28]

Barnados have seen additional scrutiny in 2018, as investigations and inquiries into NGO corruption expand.[29]


During the 1950s children from the homes made recordings, including appearing on Petula Clark's 1952 recording of "Where Did My Snowman Go?".[30][31] They also made recordings as a vocal group for Polygon and Pye Nixa Records.[32]

Barnardo's Barkingside regeneration programme

Barnardo's employs approximately 450 staff in Barkingside, including secondments and visitors. Since September 2013 operations were consolidated in one, smaller, building on the Barkingside site.[33][34] The new building was financed by housing developments undertaken after public consultation and discussions with local residents in Barkingside.[35]


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.

In January 2016, it was announced that Barnardo's would be one of the chosen charities for Santander's The Discovery Project alongside Age UK. As well giving as financial donations to the charity's on Track project, Santander will also allow staff to volunteer in their charity shops.[36]

See also


  1. "Barnardo's". Charity Commission for England and Wales. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  2. Index to Certificates Barnardo's (retrieved 21 November 2017)
  3. "Barnardo's I Celebrities believe in children event". Archived from the original on 4 September 2010. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  4. Symonds, Tom (28 February 2017). "The child abuse scandal of the British children sent abroad". BBC News. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
  5. "Dr Barnardo's charity for children". The Telegraph. London. 17 September 2001. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
  6. "Our history". Barnardo's website.
  7. "History page,". Archived from the original on 29 May 2010. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  8. Clare Jerrom. "Martin Narey interview,, January 2006". Archived from the original on 8 September 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  9. Oliver, Mark (3 October 2002). "The echoes of Barnardo's altered imagery". The Guardian. London.
  10. Symonds, Tom (26 February 2017). "The child abuse scandal of the British children sent abroad". Retrieved 27 February 2019.
  11. John Carvel, social affairs editor (13 November 2003). "Barnardo's ad provokes storm of protest | Society". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 29 June 2010. Retrieved 11 June 2010.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  12. Hickman, Martin (10 December 2003). "Barnardo's cockroach adverts banned – Media, News". The Independent. London. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  13. Mark Sweney (2 December 2008). "ASA to investigate Barnardo's TV ad |". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  14. Mark Sweney (10 December 2008). "Barnardo's ad cleared by ASA despite complaints |". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  15. McVeigh, Tracy (6 September 2009). "Take more babies away from bad parents, says Barnardo's chief". The Guardian. London.
  16. Bingham, John (7 September 2009). "Barnardo's chief Martin Narey calls for children to be taken away from 'failed' parents at birth". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  17. Children in care being returned to abusive homes – NSPCC
  18. "Pre-departure accommodation – Cedars". UK Border Agency homepage. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
  19. Webber, Frances (17 March 2011). "Does Barnardo's legitimise child detention?". London: Institute of Race Relations.
  20. "Barnardo's campaign timeline". London No Borders. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
  21. "Video of Barnardo's Protest". London No Borders. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
  22. "Activists disrupt Barnardo's fundraiser over child detention". UK Indymedia. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
  23. "Barnardo's chief: in the best interests of the children". The Guardian. 11 September 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  24. "Barnardo's sets out red lines for involvement in Pre-Departure Accommodation". 7 July 2011. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  25. "Barnardo's stands by red lines on family returns". 19 September 2012. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  26. "Barnardo's response to the report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons report on Cedars pre-departure accommodation". 23 October 2012. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  27. "Frequently asked questions". 7 October 2015. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  28. "Dozens of 'British home children' lie forgotten in Etobicoke cemetery – Toronto Star". Toronto Star. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  30. "Petula Clark, the Chorus of Children from Dr. Barnardo Homes". Amazon UK. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  31. "Petula Clark with The Chorus of Children From Dr. Barnardo Homes". Trackitdown. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  32. "The Dr Barnardo's Children And Bill Shepherd Orchestra". discogs. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  33. "Barnardo's Barkingside Development Brief". Redbridge London Borough. December 2009. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  34. "Barnardo's Barkingside Regeneration Programme". Barnardo's. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  35. "Building new homes for the local community". Barnardo's. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 24 September 2013.
  36. News, Melanie May on 19 January 2016 in (19 January 2016). "Santander selects new three-year charity partners". UK Fundraising. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
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