Research Impact


Transforming access to children’s social care records in England

The Memory, Identity, Rights in Records, Access project identified key areas that social care recordkeeping practices could be improved, benefiting thousands of adults who were in care as children.

Vintage Family Black and White Photos

20 April 2022

Child social care recording affects the lives of over 75,000 children and young people currently living in care, as well as an estimated half a million care leavers in England today. 

The Memory, Identity, Rights in Records, Access project (MIRRA), led by Professor Elizabeth Shepherd with Dr Andrew Flinn, Dr Elizabeth Lomas, and Dr Anna Sexton (all UCL Department of Information Studies), produced practical guidance for care leavers to access their records. 

This enabled them to exercise their information rights better; changed policy makers’ understandings of the implementation of the Data Protection Act on looked-after children’s information rights; and improved records management and child social care recording through the provision of new Principles for Caring Recordkeeping.  

Collaboration for better understanding  

The research was co-produced with a group of eleven care-experienced adults and the Care Leavers’ Association – the most active peer support network for care leavers in the UK. MIRRA research demonstrated the needs for participatory recordkeeping practices, and the benefits for care-experienced individuals, social care practitioners and Information governance practitioners.  

MIRRA’s Principles for Caring Recordkeeping shaped the design and provided the content for a new web resource, FamilyConnect (created in 2020 by charity Family Action) to provide support and expert guidance for the 4,000 care leavers who seek access to their care files annually and received 2,264 users / 12,317 page views by December 2020. 
MIRRA researchers presented findings at 34 professional and practitioner conferences, workshops and meetings across the UK, Europe and Australia, to a total audience of over 2,553 (2017-2020).  

Change in action  

In 2019, Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) incorporated MIRRA’s documentary film into training to improve practices around information management for staff in children’s services teams, which has been attended by 40 managers, 500 practitioners from children’s services and 40 members of the Information Management Service. MIRRA was ‘instrumental’ to GCC’s improving access to records for care-experienced people through improved online guidance for requestors and practitioners.  
MIRRA represented the voices of care leavers at the highest levels of public policy, governance and decision-making across the UK, advocating with them for regulatory and legislative change. For example, MIRRA researchers spoke at a roundtable discussion of the Access to Care Records Campaign Group convened by Baroness Young at the House of Lords in 2018.  

Research synopsis

Enhancing care-experienced people’s access to records and improving child social care recording practice in England 

Social care records are a vital resource for memory-making and identity for adults who were in care as children. The Memory, Identity, Rights in Records, Access (MIRRA) project (2017- 2019) worked with care experienced adults in England to understand their experiences of accessing their care records. MIRRA identified deficits in recordkeeping practice for looked-after children and ways in which information and data legislation could be better operated. Research by Elizabeth Shepherd, Andrew Flinn, Elizabeth Lomas, and Anna Sexton has enhanced care-experienced people’s access to records and improved child social care recording practice in England.