National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Time in Care Records

Time in Care Records

This page provides guidance to support people who are searching for personal information on time spent in care in Scotland as a child and who may be considering applying to Scotland’s Redress Scheme.

What records does NRS hold relating to time in care?

NRS holds the Scottish national archives. Its holdings include high level policy and strategic information produced by Government about the direction of the care service across the whole country, but not individual care records. NRS also has custody of historical inspection reports about schools and children’s homes, and of historical court records. NRS does not actively seek to collect records of former care organisations, though it does hold a small number of such collections.

More detailed information on the records NRS holds is provided in the NRS Research Guide: Records for time spent in care (210 KB PDF) and in our source lists below. The Research Guide also explains how you can request access to your information in the records.

Where can I find care home or school records?

A number of different voluntary, faith-based or local authority run organisations provided care for children over the years. Sometimes this involved a group living setting or a child being ‘fostered’ or ‘boarded out’ to a family. It might be called a children’s home, a residential school, a List D school, Borstal, approved school or secure unit. Sometimes the same establishment, or home, could be run by different organisations over time. Some of those establishments and organisations no longer exist. Children could sometimes move across a number of establishments over many years, some care settings existed over decades but changed hands - it can understandably be confusing for those seeking records.

Records of care homes and schools, where they have survived, are likely to be held either by the institution itself or the organisation that ran it, if these still exist, or the local authority archives of a council if it was responsible for the home or school. We recommend that you get in touch with the local authority archive service using the contact details provided in The National Archives’ directory of archives.

NRS holds some records for Children 1st (formerly the Royal Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (RSSPCC)), Dean and Cauvin Young People's Trust, and Dr Guthrie’s Schools, Edinburgh.

NRS also holds inspection reports for care homes and approved/List D schools. The reports focus on the quality of education provision, school management and other operational matters, but will occasionally refer to an individual in the care of the establishment.

Where can I find social work records?

Social work records, where they have survived, should be held by the relevant local authority. A local authority may have a record showing you spent time in care as a child, even if they did not run the home that you stayed in or they moved you to different area. This is also true for those who were not in residential care, but might have been part of the foster care system as again the local authority would have managed that provision. 

You should contact the local authority to ask for their help in finding and accessing your information. You could do this through the local Social Services Department, but you might also want to speak to the local authority archivists who are often best placed to know the extent of the records held by the authority. See The National Archives’ directory of archives for contact details.

Where can I find records of Borstals and Young Offenders Institutions?

NRS holds a small number of registers and volumes which have survived for Borstals and Young Offenders Institutions. For details of these and other related prison records NRS holds see the NRS Research Guide: Records for time spent in care (210 KB PDF) and the source lists below. Other records may be held by the Scottish Prison Service.

NRS Source List - Prison Service Registers and Volumes (Borstals and Young Offenders Institutions) (23 KB XLSX)

NRS Source List - Prison Service General Files (Borstals and Young Offenders Institutions) (44 KB XLSX)

What information can I find in court records?

If you were sent to an approved/List D school or a Borstal/Young Offenders Institution there may be a court record of this. Juvenile courts, held at sheriff courts, existed up until April 1971, when they were replaced by children’s hearings. From April 1971 onwards, court records include applications and appeals relating to children’s hearings. These are known as social work court records as they were made under the Social Work (Scotland) Act. For details of the records that survive see the source list below.

NRS Source List - Juvenile Court Records and Social Work Court Records (201 KB XLSX)

Adult court records can also contain evidence of your time in an approved/List D school or a Borstal/Young Offenders Institution. 

Divorce records can include mention of you and any time living outside the family home if you were under 16 at the time of your parents’ divorce.

See the NRS Research Guide: Records for time spent in care (210 KB PDF) for further guidance.

What information do I need to request searches of records?

Most of the records NRS holds are not indexed by the names of individuals. Therefore some basic information is needed to enable effective searches to be carried out. 

For example, to search for care home / school records it is helpful to know: 

  • full name of the establishment
  • county
  • date/year when admitted
  • how long you were there, 
  • address when you were admitted

To search for court records: 

  • name / location of court
  • date/year placed in care

How do I make a request for other personal information held by NRS?

Requests for your personal information can be made by completing and sending us a subject access request form (145 KB PDF). You do not have to use this form, but it should make it easier for us to process your request. In order to ensure that you are the data subject of the information you have requested, you will also need to send us proof of your identity. Further details are provided on the subject access request form. See also our Requesting Information page for information on how to make other types of requests.

Please note that a separate application process must be followed to request a certificate (or official extract) of your personal information in the statutory birth, marriage, adoption, divorce, civil partnership and dissolution registers. For more information see our page How to obtain an official extract from our records.