Lost or destroyed care records

This page explains what can happen to care records that can result in them being unobtainable, and suggests alternative methods of finding out about your time in care.

What can happen to records?

What to do if your records haven’t survived

What can happen to records?

Unfortunately not all care records survive.  This may be for a number of reasons.  If you left care before 1989 there was no legal requirement to keep your file and as a result some organisations and local authorities destroyed them.  Many files do survive from before 1989 because organisations made the decision to keep them, but it is not guaranteed.  In other cases records have been destroyed through floods, fires or during building moves. This may have been accidental or because they were poorly stored.

In other cases records simply cannot be found, either because there is no index or they haven’t been well kept.  In our experience some organisations have very little knowledge about what records they have or how to find them. As a result we have heard many stories about care leavers who were told their records were lost but received them on their second or third request. It is always worth asking again after a period of time has elapsed if this happens to you.

What to do if your records haven’t survived

If you are told your records do not survive or cannot be found you can do a number of things:

  1. Ask the organisation to investigate when and why your records were lost/destroyed. Occasionally during this process records are found again. If they are not at least you will have more information about what happened to them.
  2. Check to make sure you have asked the correct organisation. If you were in care in a place which used to be in a different local authority, or were looked after by an organisation that no longer exists, your records might be elsewhere.
  3. Contact any other organisations who were involved in your care as a child and ask to see any records they may have.  You can sometimes reconstruct your care history from education records, hospital records, GP records, court records, police and probation records. Not all of these will survive either, but it is worth trying.

You may need some support [link to support pages] to help you go through this process. We know it can have taken many years to work up to requesting your records and being told they don’t exist is very upsetting. You shouldn’t have to become a detective in search of your own life. You may find it helpful to talk to other care leavers who have been through the process.  For example, you can contact the Care Leavers’ Association or The Rees Foundation to talk about the process with people who can direct you to further resources or help. Links to these can be found in our resources section


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