Increasing friendship in the lives of children

Girls laugh together in an outdoor play setting

If a child or young person is disabled and/or in the care system, they are more likely to miss out on friendship causing them to be socially isolated.

We have worked in over five local authorities, and our Friendship for All research and direct practice identified disabled children and young people and children and young people in foster care as experiencing particular disadvantage in relation to making and sustaining meaningful friendships.

Investigating barriers

We sought to find out what prevents disabled children and children in care from having friends. Unsurprisingly we learned that while the overwhelming majority of children and young people want to have friends or a friend, they face a multitude of intractable barriers.

The most frequently mentioned barriers were:

  • Disabled young people’s attendance at special school away from their home community.
  • Reduced autonomy and independence of disabled young people and their lack of access to social media.
  • Children in care enduring multiple moves (often in a hurry), resulting in broken friendships, with little or no consideration given to helping them maintain contact with the friends they left behind.
  • The friendship history of children in care not passed on to foster carers.
  • Frequent changes of social worker resulting in the loss of information about friendships.
  • The life story records and memory boxes of children in care not inclusive of friendship history.
  • Inconsistent interpretation of delegated authority for children in care.

We have more information on how to work to improve the friendships of children and young people in care  and those of disabled children and young people.

 We couldn’t have put together these resources without input from many different organisations and individuals and wanted to acknowledge the contribution of:

  • BBC Children in Need
  • The Children’s Society in Lancashire
  • CoramBAAF
  • The Fostering Network England
  • City of York Short Breaks Team
  • City of York Fostering Team
  • North Yorkshire County Council Fostering and Short Breaks Team
  • Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council
  • Nottingham inclusion and disability Short Breaks Team
  • FosterCare UK
  • Biomation
  • Fostering Outcomes North East and North West
  • WAC Arts Interactive
  • All of the children and young people, parents and carers who contributed to our interviews and pilots and shared their experiences so generously
  • Professionals partners who contributed their valuable time to share experience , good practice, challenges and solutions.

The members of our former Friendship for All team in York:

  • Lynda Corker, Senior Project Worker
  • Anna Barrett, Project Worker
  • Emily Collins, Project Worker