Action for Children

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Action for Children
Action for Children logo.png
Registration no.1097940 (England and Wales) SC038092 (Scotland)
FocusChildren and young people's welfare
  • United Kingdom
Key people
Julie Bentley
Chief Executive
John O'Brien
Board of Trustees Chair
Formerly called
NCH Action for Children
National Children's Home (NCH)

Action for Children (formerly National Children’s Home) is a UK children’s charity committed to helping vulnerable and neglected children and young people, and their families, throughout the UK.

Through 650 projects and services based around the UK, the charity works with over 300,000 children, young people, and their families. It helps and supports people in areas as diverse as disability respite therapy, foster care, adoption and child neglect.

The website states: "We work to make sure every child and young person has the love, support and opportunity they need to reach their potential."[1]

Its national headquarters is in Watford and it is a registered charity under English and Scottish law.[2][3] In 2010/11 it had a gross income of £200 million, making it one of the 20 largest charities in the UK.[4]


The first boys to be admitted to The Children's Home in 1869

The first "Children's Home" was founded in 1869 by Methodist minister Thomas Bowman Stephenson who had been moved by the fate of street children in London. The first home was a renovated stable in Church Street, Waterloo. The first two boys were admitted on 9 July 1869.[5] In 1871 the home was moved to Bonner Road, Lambeth, and girls were admitted. The home was approved by the Wesleyan Methodist Conference in the same year. A year later, in 1872, a second home was opened in Edgworth, Lancashire.[6] An emigration scheme was set up in 1873 and a branch in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada opened.[6]

The homes were divided into small family units run by a "house mother" and "house father" which was in marked contrast to the large institutions and workhouses common at the time.[7] Training was also an important aspect. A childcare course was set up in 1878 and the graduates of this program were called "the Sisterhood" or "the Sisters of the children" went on to work in the Children's Home.[7]

An Industrial School at Milton, Gravesend was taken over in 1875 and a children's refuge in Ramsey on the Isle of Man was taken over in 1882. With the opening of the Princess Alice Orphanage in Birmingham the Home was renamed to "Children's Home and Orphanage".[6]

Further properties in Alverstoke, Hampshire, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, Frodsham in Cheshire, Bramhope, near Leeds were acquired and by 1908, the charity had grown to become the "National Children's Home and Orphanage".[6][7]

In 1913 work began on a large site in Harpenden which would be home to over 200 children, with a print works for apprentices. It became the Head Office.[8]

Many other new branches and schools were founded, including the first residential nursery branch in Sutton Coldfield in 1929[6] and the First Scottish branch in Glasgow in 1955.[6]

It became an adoption agency in 1926 and expanded to work outside the UK in 1969, supporting children's social care development in southern Africa, the Caribbean and Central America.[7]

The charity changed its name to "NCH Action for Children " in 1994 and to "Action for Children" in September 2008. The name changes reflected a shift away from providing children's homes (most of which have now closed) to a wider range of services.[9]

Projects and services[edit]

Family: from another place by David Worthington, 2010. Red Iranian Travertine stone, Great Queen Street, London.

Action for Children works in partnership with statutory bodies to deliver services for children, young people and their families in five main areas:

Family support[edit]

Action for Children is a major provider of family support services, and works in partnership with local authorities across the UK. The aim is to facilitate early intervention and then offer long term help, so families can stay together if possible. This is provided through children's and family centres, parenting programmes and targeted intervention initiatives, often with the hardest to reach groups in the community.[10]


Action for Children runs specialist projects for disabled children and those with learning and behavioural difficulties. These include residential care, short breaks and respite care services, keyworker support for families and carers, and advocacy work to help young disabled people transition into adulthood.[11]

Children in care[edit]

Action for Children is a registered adoption agency and also provides fostering schemes. Its intensive fostering services act as an alternative to custodial sentences for young people, challenging their behaviour and often enabling them ultimately to return to their birth families. The charity also runs a growing number of small residential units for children and young people, as well as supporting young people leaving care and moving into independent living.[12]

Support for young people[edit]

Action for Children works with the most disadvantaged young people in society. Issues these youngsters may face include alcohol and substance misuse, anti-social behaviour, homelessness, unemployment and poor educational attainment. Other services offer support for young carers, teenage parents, victims of sexual abuse and those leaving young offenders institutions. This support is provided through a range of services which offer counselling, help with housing and benefits, access to training and education, basic skills tuition, mediation and mentoring.[13]


Action for Children runs a number of schools for children and young people with disabilities, profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) and challenging behaviour (including social or emotional problems). The charity's aim is to offer a secure environment in which to facilitate educational, social and personal development adapted to pupils' individual abilities. The schools offer both residential placements and day care.[14]


Action for Children carries out and commissions research into issues around children, young people and families.[15]

Recent reports include Child neglect in 2011,[16] The Red Book,[17] and Children and the Big Society.[18] The charity also produces a yearly Impact Report[19] which details research findings on the outcomes and cost effectiveness of the its work supporting children and young people.


Action for Children hosted the 2014 Byte Night Overnight Challenge.

Action for Children campaigns and lobbies governments on behalf of vulnerable, disadvantaged and neglected children and young people and their families.

Currently, the charity's main campaign is called "Take your action for children" and aims to raise public awareness of child neglect,[20] an issue which studies suggest affects up to 10 per cent of all UK children.

Another recent campaign was On our own two feet,[21] which aimed to reinstate savings accounts for children in care following the abolition of the Child Trust Fund.

The campaign was successful, directly leading to the establishment of the coalition government's Junior ISA (Individual Savings Account) scheme, which commits the government to invest £16.75 million up to 2015 to ensure that every child in care for more than a year has a Junior ISA opened on their behalf. More than 55,000 children and young people will benefit in the first year.

As a consequence of its success, the campaign won the John Antcliffe Award for best public affairs campaign.[22]


The Big Egg Hunt logo

Action for Children raises money through corporate partnerships, fundraising events (such as sponsored runs) and through its partnership with the British Methodist Church.[23]

The charity is also involved with several large fundraising events, including Byte Night[24] – an IT industry event which raises money to prevent youth homelessness, and Never Mind The Business – a music-based quiz night for businesspeople.

The Big Egg Hunt is the charity's latest fundraising activity. The largest ever Easter egg hunt took place in London in the Spring of 2012, in partnership with Faberge and Elephant Family.

200 artists, celebrities and designers have created and painted meter high fibreglass eggs, which was placed in selected locations around central London. The public were then encouraged to find the eggs and text their location. Auctions of the eggs following the end of the hunt were designed to also benefit the charity.

Partnerships & Affiliations[edit]

Action for Children 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Action for Children. "Who We Are". Archived from the original on 10 September 2015. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  2. ^ Charity Commission. Action for Children, registered charity no. 1097940.
  3. ^ "Action for Children, Registered Charity no. SC038092". Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.
  4. ^ Charities Direct: Top 500 Charities ranked by annual income Archived 2 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ BBC (8 July 2009). "A childhood worth living". BBC News. Retrieved 15 July 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "History of a Child in Care: Administrative Biographical History". Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  7. ^ a b c d Action for Children (8 July 2009). "140 years of Action for Children". Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  8. ^ "National Children's Home". Harpenden and District Local History Society. May 2002. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  9. ^ CorpComms Magazine. "Action for Children Rebranding". CorpComms Magazine. Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 15 March 2011.
  10. ^ Action for Children. "Family support". Action for Children. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  11. ^ Action for Children. "Disabled children". Action for Children. Archived from the original on 22 January 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  12. ^ Action for Children. "Children in care services". Action for Children. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  13. ^ Action for Children. "Young people". Action for Children. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  14. ^ Action for Children. "Our schools". Action for Children. Archived from the original on 1 January 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  15. ^ Action for Children. "Research". Action for Children. Archived from the original on 22 May 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
  16. ^ Action for Children. "Child neglect in 2011". Archived from the original on 8 March 2012. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  17. ^ Action for Children. "The Red Book". Archived from the original on 22 February 2012. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  18. ^ Action for Children. "Children and the Big Society". Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  19. ^ Action for Children. "Impact Report". Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  20. ^ Action for Children. ""Take your action for children" neglect campaign". Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  21. ^ Action for Children. "On our own two feet". Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  22. ^ Corp Comms. "Winner: John Antcliffe Award – best public affairs campaign". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  23. ^ "Our Methodist partnership". Action for Children. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  24. ^ "Byte Night". Action for Children. Retrieved 16 February 2012.

External links[edit]