Disadvantaged youngsters given grant to research history of residential care

The story of a London institution that has cared for vulnerable young people for more than two centuries will be explored and re-told by young beneficiaries in Brent, thanks to a grant of £46,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Coram, the UK’s first children’s charity which was founded in 1739, was awarded the funding for young people from its Supported Housing service to work alongside professional archivists to explore its historic Camden roots.

The grant will go towards a 12-month project training 50 young people living in Coram’s Supported Housing accommodation in London in different types of historical research, culminating in an exhibition and theatre performance next year.

The project gives young people the opportunity to learn more about the history of residential care, gaining skills in archival research, conservation of documents and oral history, as well as performance and exhibition design as the project concludes. Through the project they can gain Arts Award accreditation and a vInspired volunteering award.

Their research will draw on documents and photographs about Coram held at the London Metropolitan archives.

Over 30 young people living in Supported Housing in Brent will be involved.

The charity’s rich collection of materials map its beginnings as a hospital in 1739 for ‘foundlings;’ a term referring to children and babies whose mothers lacked the means to bring them up and were often tragically abandoned. The Foundling Hospital, as Coram was known, stood near Russell Square on the site of Coram’s Fields, and placed children with foster families until the age of five, when they were then returned to live and be educated in the Foundling Hospital until they were 16.

This continued until the 1952 Children Act changed residential care for children, and in 1954, the doors of the Foundling Hospital were closed and children returned to birth mothers, foster or adoptive families. The charity continued its work with children and young people and is today known as Coram. Coram today finds and prepares adoptive families for children in care, and provides Supported Housing for older children who are leaving the care system.

Coram Youth Projects lead Kemi Akinola says that supporting vulnerable children is still at the core of the organisation’s values:

“Our Supported Housing service offers young people aged 16-25 who’re either homeless or at risk of becoming so, a roof over their heads but crucially we also offer practical and emotional support.

“We help young people prepare for independence, manage their health, well being and finances, and pursue educational and work opportunities.

“Coram is delighted with the grant because it will benefit and upskill young people who’ve had direct experience of residential care, which is empowering for them as well as an educational opportunity.”

Research and oral history skills training workshops will take place at the Foundling Hospital archive collection at the London Metropolitan Archives and at the British Library throughout the year. Young people will interview people who were cared for by Coram or the Foundling Hospital in the mid 20th century.

The project will finish with a drama and music performance and exhibition in 2014 by the group, which other local young people in residential care will also have the opportunity to be involved in.


Foundling Hospital (Coram in 1900s) 

Coram Campus today, 2013

Thomas Coram statue, Coram Campus 2013

For more information contact Rachel Jasper in the Coram Press Office on: dd: 020 7520 0427 mob: 07949 561891 email rachelj@coram.org.uk 

About Coram’s Supported Housing service
Around 75,000 young people experience homelessness in the UK every year and one third of homeless people have lived in care. Coram gives young homeless people secure accommodation and ongoing support to restore their hope and protect them from the dangers homelessness may have exposed them to.
Coram, founded in 1739 as the UK’s first children charity, provides intensive support for more than 15,000 children, young people and families each year. It reaches a further 800,000 children through its health and social education programmes in schools nationwide. Coram’s expert services include adoption, creative therapies, supported housing for care leavers and family and parenting support.

About Heritage Lottery
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 35,000 projects with more than £5.3bn across the UK, including more than 3,200 totalling £1billion in London. www.hlf.org.uk.

Rachel Jasper

Marketing & Communications Manager
dd:    020 7520 0427
mob: 07949 561891

Twitter: www.twitter.com/coram Facebook: www.facebook.com/Coramsince1739

About Us

Coram, the UK's first children's charity launched in 1739, provides intensive practical and emotional support to more than 15,000 children, young people and their families each year, and reaches a further 800,000 school children through Coram Life Education's mobile health, drug and alcohol classrooms.The charity runs one of the country's most successful voluntary adoption services and pioneers creative therapies for young children, offers parenting support and provides supported housing for young people leaving care.