11/03/2016 11:11 GMT | Updated 11/03/2017 05:12 GMT

Looking to the Future, and Learning From the past: Barnardo's 150 years

As with any landmark event, our 150th year is a time to reflect on the past and to look to the future.

While the manifestations of poverty and desperation that moved Dr Thomas Barnardo to help destitute children have changed, many core problems remain. Over the last 150 years, times have changed, and Barnardo's has changed too.

Back in 1866 Dr Thomas Barnardo felt driven to provide shelter, education and hope to the children society had forgotten. Sadly, we know that in every part of the country today there are children whose families can't look after them; children who have been sexually abused or exploited; and young people without the opportunities they need to forge the future they deserve.

Barnardo's supports some of the most vulnerable children, young people and families across the UK and sees first-hand the devastating impact issues such as sexual exploitation or trafficking can have on their lives. Our expert team of staff and volunteers in 960 services work tirelessly to ensure a better life for them, but the Government must ensure it puts in place measures that protect those who need it most.

The Prime Minister devoted his first speech of the new year to his vision for transforming life chances. Helping vulnerable children is at the heart of government policy. Ministers see it as their duty to talk about the most vulnerable and how to improve their outcomes. This echoes our ambitions for the future and is hugely welcome. Barnardo's is pleased to be working with government where we can to achieve real change for those who need it most.

Change over the last 150 years has taken a number of forms already. The law, social attitudes and the role of the state. For example, unmarried mothers no longer have their children taken away from them. Every child has the right to a free education. The welfare state provides financial and other help to those most in need. And women don't have to stop working when they marry or have children.

Although the country looks and feels different to the 1860's, the needs of the most vulnerable children and young people today are significant and complex. Too many children don't have birth parents who can look after them. Too many families are struggling to feed and clothe their children, and heat their homes - this even includes those in work. And the life chances of children born in poverty or other kinds of disadvantage are still too low.

The problem no government has cracked yet is equality of opportunity. How can society go about breaking the link between parents' money and education and their children's future?

Each year Barnardo's grows in size to support more and more children and families. There is still so much work to do. In every community there are struggling families, children at risk of being harmed, and young people unable to pursue their dreams.

At Barnardo's we will always speak out on behalf of those we support, without fear or favour. We give a voice to those who would otherwise go unheard by policymakers. So we will keep growing and keep raising awareness and keep calling for the changes that we see are needed from our direct work with children and families.

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