Family Fund

Scope and Content

The collection appears to represent all extant material from the Family Fund as a subsidiary of the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust (later the Joseph Rowntree Foundation). The collection also includes a small number of later documents from the Family Fund as an independent charitable trust.

In addition to the records of the Family Fund the collection includes a number of research papers and associated documents submitted to the Fund by the Social Policy Research Unit (University of York). Those papers deposited which clearly represented drafts or copies of published material available elsewhere have not been retained as part of this collection.

The collection does not include any series of case files, although a complete series of index books to case files up to 1991 have been deposited. In addition a small number of copied files relating to individual cases can be found amongst the correspondence and papers of the Trustees and the various committees of the Family Fund. The information in these documents is of a sensitive nature and access can only be granted in keeping with current Data Protection legislation.

Enquiries were made by the Borthwick Institute on receipt of the collection and no further material relating to the Fund is retained by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation or by the Social Policy Research Unit. The Family Fund itself holds no archival material prior to 1 Apr 1996.

The collection contains:

  • Administrative Records, 1972-1996
  • Financial Records, 1973-1996
  • Staff Records, 1972-1998
  • Records Concerning Grants to Families and Applications Received, 1972-1995
  • Research and Advisory Records, 1973-1996
  • Public Relations Records, 1973-1995
  • Related Organisations, 1974-1998.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Family Fund is a York based registered charity covering the whole of the UK and funded by the national governments of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The Fund helps low-income families caring for a severely disabled child or young person by providing grants that relate to their particular needs. As well as being a registered charity, the Fund is also a company limited by guarantee.

In 1973, against a backdrop of public campaigning on behalf of families affected by the Thalidomide drug, Sir Keith Joseph, Secretary of State for Social Services, and Anthony Barber, Chancellor of the Exchequer, set aside a special fund of £3m. The fund was not to be used for compensation but to help meet the gaps between the essential needs posed by caring for a severely handicapped child and the resources available through families, local communities, and the statutory services.

To administer the fund the government bypassed existing statutory agencies and approached the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust. The Trust accepted responsibility and £3m was credited to them on 21 March 1973. The Family Fund became operational on 2 April 1973 and was intended to run for three years.

The initial £3m funding from the Government was followed by a further £3m in 1975. At this time the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust and the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) agreed to the Fund's life being extended to five years. The Government made a grant of £2.7m for 1976 and committed to a further payment of £2m for each subsequent year.

By 1978 the Government and the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust had agreed that the Fund would continue, subject to review, on an ongoing but indefinite basis. Subsequent funding would be negotiated on an annual basis with the DHSS and successive departments based on estimates of anticipated demand. The Trust (renamed the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 1990) continued to administer the Fund until it became a legally independent charitable trust on 1 Apr 1996.

Full accounts of the establishment of the Fund can be found in the Report of the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Housing Trust (York, 1975); Jonathan Bradshaw, The Family Fund: An initiative in social policy (London, 1980); and Lewis E Waddilove, Private Philanthropy and Public Welfare: The Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust 1954-1979 (London, 1983).

The Family Fund began as a means to help parents shoulder the practical burdens of caring for children with a severe congenital handicap. In December 1974 the requirement to restrict aid to congenital conditions was dropped, so that medical eligibility became dependent on the severity rather than the cause of disability.

The grants made by the Fund were generally of a small scale and were explicitly not compensatory in nature. They were intended to fill gaps in provision for the families of disabled children which the existing statutory and charitable bodies could not provide. Provision of a grant by the Fund did not affect entitlement to any statutory benefits.

Grants are discretionary and are made in response to applications received. Initially grants were not means tested, but by the mid 1980s a maximum level of income for recipient households had been introduced. Grants for a broad range of purposes have been made by the Fund to applicant families, to cover such costs as the purchase of laundry equipment, transportation, clothing, and family outings and holidays.

The Fund also supported a research and advisory role, both internally to inform policy decisions on eligibility and grant making and externally to Government and the social welfare sector.

Reference: Report of the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Housing Trust (York, 1975).

Reference: Jonathan Bradshaw, The Family Fund: An initiative in social policy (London, 1980).

Reference: Lewis E Waddilove, Private Philanthropy and Public Welfare: The Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust 1954-1979 (London, 1983).

Reference: Eleanor M Barnes, The Family Fund and how it helps (York, 1991).

Conditions Governing Access

Records are open to the public, subject to the overriding provisions of relevant legislation, including the Data Protection Act 1998.

Acquisition Information

The bulk of the collection was deposited at the Borthwick Institute by the Family Fund in June 2007. Smaller additional deposits were received on 20 Jan and 11 Feb 2009.

Other Finding Aids

A typescript catalogue, to file level, is available for consultation in the Borthwick Institute's searchrooms.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by James Towe, May 2009.

Conditions Governing Use

A reprographics service is available to researchers. Copying will not be undertaken if there is any risk of damage to the document. Copies are supplied in accordance with the Borthwick Institute, University of York, terms and conditions for the supply of copies, and under provisions of any relevant copyright legislation. Permission to reproduce images of documents in the custody of the Borthwick Institute must be sought.

Appraisal Information

A record of material deemed unworthy of permanent retention and confidential destroyed/returned to the depositor is retained by the Borthwick Institute.

Custodial History

The collection was retained by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation before being acquired by the Family Fund Trust in 2007.


Further deposits are not expected.

Related Material

Joseph Rowntree Foundation Historical Archive GB 193 JRT

Material relating to the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation can be found in the Joesph Rowntree Foundation Historical Archive at the Borthwick Institute, University of York.

Geographical Names