Care Leavers’ Stories Project (British Library)

This guest post is written by Pete Fleischmann, Head of Co-production at Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE). SCIE improves the quality and effectiveness of social care by sharing knowledge and evidence about what works. Co-production is the term SCIE uses to describe service users and carers working with professionals in equal partnerships.

Care leavers are one of the groups in society whose voice is not heard. Consequently care leavers can be a misunderstood and highly stigmatised group of people.   The Care Leavers’ Stories Project aimed to address this by recording, on video, the life story interviews of care leavers and then housing them in the British Library’s oral history collection.

The Care Leavers’ Stories Project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, it is a special piece of work. Nothing quite like it has ever been done before. Service improvement needs to engage hearts as well as minds. Professionals often see people at particular points in their lives.   The Care leavers’ stories give insight into interviewees’ whole lives and sets them in a wider context.

Here are some quotes from interviews I found especially moving:

“….so from there they took me to a foster family who were lovely, I still think – I can still … I can still feel the warmth from them [cries]. I can still see their house, their kitchen, coming through the door and the living room was there and kitchen down there, I can still see myself sitting on the floor and they were lovely. And then it – on Christmas Eve my social worker came and took me away to an assessment centre, on Christmas Eve afternoon. I hope they don’t do that kind of thing still now [laughs]. God, the tears, I’m like a tear factory [laughs]….That was the – that was the beginning of – that was it then, oh, you know, until I was eighteen.”

Amanda Bristow

“…my belief systems from a young age were affected, from being in care, from not being in care, you know. Just of how a family unit should be, you know, what’s love? You know, how do you show love, how do you – are you pretending to show love? All these things, how do you quantify these things? It’s very difficult, so my belief systems were definitely affected by being in care.”

Colin Thompson

The stories have been preserved in the British Library for hundreds of years to come. Each story is two to three hours long and covers the interviewee’s whole life, with a focus on their care experience. By looking back we can understand how the system has changed over time. We can also learn valuable lessons for current practice.

The project also produced three short documentary videos which summarise the main messages from all the stories. All the full stories, a half hour excerpt from each one and the documentary films are all available at:,2XKVX,XLJNN,AL76V,1



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