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
Sarika Patel
Board of Trustees Chair Julie Bentley
Chief Executive
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 children and young people, and their families, throughout the UK.

The charity's 7,000 staff and volunteers operate over 475 services in the UK, improving the lives of 387,000 children, young people and families in 2018/19. Action for Children supports people in areas as diverse as disability respite therapy, foster care, adoption and child neglect.

The website states: "Our vision is that every child and young person in the UK has a safe and happy childhood, and the foundations they need to thrive. We do this by working closely with children and their families, from before they’re born until their twenties."[1]

Action for Children's national headquarters is in Watford and it is a registered charity under English and Scottish law.[2][3] In 2017/18 it had a gross income of £151 million.[4]


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

The first 'Children's Home', a renovated stable in Church Street, Waterloo, was founded in 1869 by Methodist minister Thomas Bowman Stephenson, who had been moved by the plight of children living on the street in London. 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 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 programme – who were called 'the Sisterhood' or 'the Sisters of the Children' – went on to work in the 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 established 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, Cheshire; and 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 became home to over 200 children, with a print works for apprentices. It subsequently became the charity's 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] The charity became an adoption agency in 1926.

In 1994, the charity changed its name to 'NCH Action for Children'. Fourteen years later, in September 2008, it became 'Action for Children'. The 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 delivers fostering programmes. The charity also runs a number of small residential units for children and young people, as well as supporting young care leavers moving into independent living.[12]

Support for young people[edit]

Action for Children works with vulnerable and disadvantaged young people. Issues these youngsters may face include alcohol and substance misuse, anti-social behaviour, homelessness and unemployment. 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]

The charity also produces a yearly Impact Report,[16] which details research findings on the outcomes and cost effectiveness of 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 children and young people and their families.

One of the charity's current campaigns, 'Best Start in Life', seeks to address the issue of children – particularly those from poorer backgrounds – struggling to receive the right early years support. The campaign calls on the government to take urgent action so that children under five do not fall behind, either due to cuts in vital services or unequal access to opportunities.[17]

Action for Children is a member of the Disabled Children's Partnership alongside 27 other charities, working towards better health and social care for disabled children, young people and their families.

The charity also leads the children and families work of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness and is a partner of End Child Poverty.


Action for Children raises money through corporate partnerships, fundraising events (such as sponsored runs) and through its partnership with the British Methodist Church.[18]

The charity is also involved with several large fundraising events, including Byte Night[19] – an IT industry event which raises money to prevent youth homelessness – and Never Mind The Business, a music-based quiz night for business people.

In 2018, Action for Children launched its Secret Santa fundraising campaign.[20] The campaign encouraged the public to become a Secret Santa for a vulnerable child, donating £10 or more to bring joy, warmth and safety to children in the UK at Christmas.

Partnerships and 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 'What we do'
  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. ^ Charity Commission
  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 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. "Impact Report". Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  17. ^ Action for Children 'Best Start in Life' campaign
  18. ^ "Our Methodist partnership". Action for Children. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  19. ^ "Byte Night". Action for Children. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  20. ^ Action for Children's Secret Santa fundraising campaign, launched 2018

External links[edit]