LUCAS Seminar Series 2023 (2)

LUCAS Seminar Series 2023: Elizabeth Shepherd (UCL)

3:00pm - 4:30pm / Wednesday 3rd May 2023 / Venue: Lecture Theatre 1 Events will be held in-person and via Zoom - please email Alex Buchanan ( for Zoom access details Gordon Stephenson Building
Type: Seminar / Category: Research / Series: Centre for Archive Studies
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‘My lack of voice’: human-centred recordkeeping

Elizabeth Shepherd, Department of Information Studies, UCL

In family settings stories, photographs and memory objects document significant events, celebrations and milestones and support narratives of identity and belonging. But for some people, such as looked-after children, these are missing. Children in care often lack such narratives, especially where their experience has been complex, disrupted or traumatic. They may be unable to fill gaps in their memories or answer questions about their early lives.

Collaborative research at UCL brought together care leavers, academics, social workers and information professionals to explore the challenges this presents. MIRRA (Memory, Identity, Rights in Records, Access) was an AHRC-funded project, co-produced with The Care Leavers’ Association. Since 2017, MIRRA has explored information rights in the context of child social care in England, particularly from the perspective of care-experienced people who sought access to records about their childhood later in life.

MIRRA identified preservation and access challenges with child social care recording. Critically, the voices, experiences and feelings of the children themselves are rarely captured. Young people often don’t know what has been written and kept in their records, and have no access to records management systems. Social care recordkeeping reflects their broader experience of powerlessness and lack of self-determination over their own lives, an inequality which may have long term impacts on personal history, identity and belonging. The lack of voice is one of the most powerful symbols of the information inequality experienced by care leavers. A follow-on project MIRRA+ with OLM Systems, a major social care software provider, developed a digital daily journaling app specification which will enable young people to collaborate in the creation and content of records while they are in care.

This paper will draw on the findings of the research which supports a fundamental shift towards participatory recordkeeping in child social care, to explore more human-centred approaches to recordkeeping.

Details of the MIRRA project are at: