An online service to tackle the isolation felt by the 60,000 children in care in England has won the largest investment from Futurebuilders' first funding round.
CareZone, run by the Who Cares? Trust, has already been sold to 35 local authorities and the £1.3m funding package will help the charity to double the number of buyers by 2008. The site is a mix of IT services that provides information, education and support. It can be accessed on any PC with internet access.
Each child has their own digital vault where they can store personal information or schoolwork. They can access more than 1,000 hours of digital education covering four key stages of the national GCSE curriculum.
The site also enables children to chat and email each other, and talk to carers and social workers.
Security was a prime concern - the charity spent two years developing separate security systems for children and adults. "No-one can masquerade as someone else," said the charity's chief executive Susanna Cheal.
The investment has been split between a loan, a grant and an overdraft facility. The loan, totalling £684,000, will fund moves to improve security, enhance online technology and widen availability to more marginalised children. A £500,000 overdraft facility with the Unity Trust Bank will provide cashflow, while a revenue grant of £150,000 will fund a service manager. Another £5,000 will bankroll specialist marketing advice.
"This kind of backing will enable positive outcomes for children," said Cheal.