JK ROWLING has spoken about how seeing a picture of little boy in a cage helped inspire her to create children's charity, Lumos.

In 2004, the best-selling author saw an article in the Sunday Times about children with complex needs being kept in caged beds in a Czech institution.

The harrowing picture was of Vasek Knotek, said to have been around 5-years-old, who was disabled and had been kept in confinement since he was a baby.

Rowling told the Sunday Times magazine: "The image of the boy's face marked me. I couldn't get it, or the story, out of my mind.

"He was a very young disabled child, who was being kept in a cage bed around the clock. The journalist described an environment you hoped had vanished in the Victorian asylums.

I couldn't think of a more vulnerable, powerless person than that little boy."

The institutionalisation of children is still a stark reality in many eastern European counties, often because parents do not know or can afford to look after them themselves.

Rowling said she felt compelled to address this problem and established the charity Lumos -- named after a light-giving spell from the Harry Potter series -- as a result.

The charity works in partnership with governments, professionals and carers, communities, families and children in order to "transform outdated systems that drive families apart".

The extreme poverty and an underlying fear of disability contributed to the conditions in these institutions, with children often have little human contact.

The most recent work of the charity involves the closure of Krushari, which had housed 100 children in a remote village in northeast Bulgaria.

Abandoned or mildly disabled children slept on old-fashioned metal beds, while those with more complex needs were caged in high-sided cots in rooms were the windows would be taped shut.

A damning report carried out by the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, an independent NGO, found that 238 children had died in Bulgaria's care homes over the last decade, with 56 of them being at Krushari.

The closure has come after a shift-in thinking and the intervention of charities like the Rowling-led Lumos, which champions community-based services tailored to children's individual needs.

Rowling said it was "wonderful" that Krushari was now gone, saying: "To me it is a symbolic achievement for what Lumos represents because it proves that no one — not even children with sever disabilities and complex needs — will be left behind. All children matter.

She added: "That children need families, and not orphanages, is a very straightforward and intuitive notion.

"All the evidence shows that institutions damage children, sometimes irreparable. Persuading countries to undertake large-scale reform is a massive task, of course, but the evidence is all on our side."