The Fairbridge Society

The Fairbridge Society was established in 1909 by Kingsley Fairbridge who set-up a charity to offer opportunities for children and young people from the UK, primarily in Australia and Canada. There was also a Fairbridge school in Zimbabwe which, although carrying the same name, was not run under the auspices of the Fairbridge Society.

The child migration scheme ceased in 1981 when the Fairbridge Society changed its constitution to support disadvantaged young people from the inner cities in the UK.

In 1987 the Fairbridge Society merged with the Drake Fellowship - an organisation also focused on helping disadvantaged young people in inner cities. The new organisation became known as Fairbridge.

By 2011 the new Fairbridge was operating from centres based in 15 cities across the UK, supporting disadvantaged young people with education and employment.

The Prince’s Trust's history with Fairbridge

During 2010, the trustees of Fairbridge approached The Prince’s Trust to consider a merger. At this time, Fairbridge had long since ceased any involvement in child migration schemes and was operating as a UK charity, supporting disadvantaged young people.

The Prince’s Trust is a registered charity, which was originally founded in 1976, and granted a Royal Charter in 1999. The Trust’s mission is to help young people in the UK to change their lives and get into work, education, training or volunteering. There was a considerable overlap between the objectives of Fairbridge and The Trust at the time of the proposed merger and the beneficiaries of both regularly received support from the two charities.

The merger with Fairbridge was completed on 31 March 2012. Since the merger, over 22,640 young people have taken part in the Fairbridge programme at The Prince’s Trust and The Prince’s Trust has spent £43.9m on the Fairbridge programme.

Fairbridge was dissolved on 1 October 2013.

Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (“IICSA”)

On 12 March 2015, the Home Secretary established IICSA. IICSA was to consider whether public bodies and other non-state institutions had taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse. On 8 April 2016, The Prince’s Trust received a request from IICSA for information relating to Fairbridge and Fairbridge’s role in child migration. The Trust is supportive of IICSA and fully cooperated with the inquiry, working together on the historical migration schemes carried out by the Fairbridge Society. The IICSA Inquiry Report was published in March 2018.

The Sottish Child Abuse Inquiry (“SCAI”)

Since September 2018, The Trust has been assisting SCAI with its inquiry by providing information in relation to the Fairbridge Society and its past involvement in child migration in the twentieth century. The Prince’s Trust has cooperated fully with the SCAI’s important work.

Apology and Support for Former Child Migrants

The Prince’s Trust’s Group Chief Executive Dame Martina Milburn wrote to the Chair of IICSA on 4 July 2017 upon hearing the accounts of those who experienced abuse on child migration programmes. In that correspondence, Dame Martina expressed a sincere apology on behalf of The Trust to all those who had experienced abuse and condemned all forms of child abuse. This apology was repeated by Dame Martina in the evidence she gave publicly to IICSA on 12 July 2017. This apology is a public statement and is available on IICSA’s website.

As Dame Martina Milburn made clear, The Trust condemns all forms of child abuse and is very supportive of IICSA and SCAI and their objectives.

Although The Prince’s Trust has never had any involvement in child migration schemes, The Trust remains committed to finding ways to support the victims and survivors of the Fairbridge Society. The Trust believes that one of the ways it can assist the victims and survivors of the child migration programmes and their families is by ensuring that the Fairbridge Society Archive is preserved and made available to them.    

The Trust continues to maintain the Fairbridge Society Archive. Dame Martina, in her evidence to IICSA, explained how The Trust removed restrictions that had previously been put in place by Fairbridge on when certain documents could be released to former child migrants or their families, The Trust has adopted a policy of helping as many people who want to have access to their files as possible. The Trust facilitates former child migrants accessing copies of their case files, case notes and aftercare reports held in the Fairbridge Society Archive. These measures remain in place and mean that any former child migrant (or family member where appropriate) can access their records on request and free of charge.

Access to the Fairbridge Society Archive has also been enhanced by The Trust’s decision, at its own cost, to digitalise a large portion of the records. This digitalisation exercise will enable easier and wider access of the Fairbridge Society Archive and will help The Trust and the University of Liverpool to better preserve it for the future.

Since Dame Martina reiterated the removal of the access restrictions in her evidence to IICSA, The Trust has helped over 200 former child migrants, or their family members, with access to their individual records.

The Trust has been in contact with the Old Fairbridgian Associations in Pinjarra and Molong (both in Australia) and the Child Migrants Trust, to assist with access to the Fairbridge Society Archive and offer support.

Fairbridge (Restored) Limited

In March 2020 Fairbridge was restored to the register of companies in England & Wales, and can be contacted at 4 Hardman Square, Spinningfields, Manchester, M3 3EB.

For more details click here

If you would like to contact The Prince’s Trust in relation to the Fairbridge Society historic archive please contact: PrincesTrustCoSec@princes-trust.org.uk.