Survivors of child abuse in Islington children’s homes and foster care campaigning for justice
We’re on the move!
There’s been so many things that’s held us down
But now it looks like things are finally comin’ around.
I know we’ve got a long way to go and where we’ll end up, I don’t know.
But we won’t let nothing’ hold us back, we’re putting ourselves together, we’ re polishing up our act!
If you felt we’ve been held down before, I know you’ll refuse to be held down anymore!
Don’t you let nothing stand in your way!
I want ya’all to listen, listen to every word I say, every word I say!
Ain’t no stopping us now!
We’re on the move!McFadden and Whitehead
Bobby Martin (1964-2018) Director of Islington Survivors Network said this was his favourite song during his early teenage years when he was so severely abused in Islington children’s homes.
‘If it wasn’t for Bobby Martin, I don’t believe I would ever have had the strength to speak out and to speak out in the manner I did. Bobby taught me that feeling “angry” is not a crime. It is instead a reflection of self-worth. He and all of us who had to live under that regime, had and still have, a right to be angry‘ (ISN survivor)
‘I knew Bobby personally, he was, as is reported, a bright and wily person, he told me he had been a resident of Elwood Street and mixed with boys from Colgrain. He cared about people too; expressing pity for a local youth who had died with mental health issues. Bobby “had the saddest eyes, that would go dark and desolate like a lost dog when he was uncertain of you or what you were about” (ISN survivor)
Islington Survivors Network (ISN) began in 2016 and set up in January 2017 as a non profit making company which now has 5 survivor/directors, a coordinator and researcher. There were 42 children’s homes run by Islington Council between the 60s and the 90s and ISN have now heard from over 300 survivors as well as former staff who have come forward as witnesses
‘ 25 years have gone and passed but still Islington Council run away from the past.
But you got an answer at Islington’s pit (town hall culpability at last). I stood and challenged and run them round good For my Islington survivors with eyes dimly lit.
Challenging with anger and fury I bid Because that’s the only way to make clear what they did !
Islington survivors I love to the core As taking away my isolation I’m not so lonely no more!’ISN Survivor from his poem ‘ Just Ice’
Survivors get in contact mainly through personal recommendation from other survivors who pass on our details. Word spreads fast. Some contact us via the website and leave a message on the voicemail. We receive this message on our email and respond quickly. Where possible we arrange to call or meet up. When we are not in lockdown, we meet at our office in London Metropolitan University, on Holloway Road in Islington which is quiet, safe and accessible.
My dream is to end the painISN Survivor
POEM: You laughed at my weaknesses
You laughed at my weaknesses – So I feared to show them
You trampled on my dreams – So I dreamed alone
You were too busy to listen – So I never spoke
You handled my secrets – Indiscreetly – So I ceased to share them
You were insensitive to my needs – So I hid them from you
You never seemed to understand – So I stopped trying to communicate
You hurt me by your indifference – So I bled inwardly
You wouldn’t let me hear you – So I kept my distance
You cared for my physical needs – So my soul became impoverished
You drove me into myself -So now I am imprisonedISN Survivor
Since childhood I have had time to reflect on my life and have reviewed and questioned every memory, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
You can put those memories to one side however they creep back in when you do not expect them in everyday life, you realise they will always be there, the pain and the hurt, however you can never turn the clock back, and you realise that family and friendships you had and loved dearly are gone, and gone forever.
You may have photos and letters to remember, they are pieces of paper with a connection to who you were, and the man and dreams you once had and aspired too, and then you think about what might have been.
You can see looking around you people are smiling and happy, and families are sharing celebrations and the bonds between siblings’ parents and extended families are loving and real, they are not all thinking about the bad and the ugly, they feel safe.
What might have been my life and what would I have achieved ?ISN Survivor
Our priority is to help Islington survivors to find healing and also to achieve justice which might be through seeking financial compensation and an apology from the council or through police action in prosecuting abusers. Our first step after speaking with survivors, is usually to access their childhood care files from Islington Council. We may write a timeline on the basis of the file evidence adding the survivor’s own account so that what happened is clearly on record in date order. The timeline can be used by the survivor in contact with lawyers and police as well as to refer to in therapy.
Until recently ISN was funded solely by voluntary donations. Islington Council now provides funding to ISN to assist some aspects of our work.
Five Main Strands – The Work of ISN
- Working in co-production with Islington Council in the delivery of support and trauma services for Islington Survivors of non recent child abuse.
- Assisting survivors in applying for their childhood care files and, when needed, creating timelines of evidence from the file content and survivor & witness accounts.
- Supporting and advocating for Islington survivors in claiming;
- Individual financial compensation from Islington Council for all forms of child abuse (sexual, physical, emotional and/or neglect) experienced in Islington children’s homes and foster placements.
- A payment of £8000 from the Islington Council Support Payment Scheme announced on 18th March 2021 by the council Executive Committee now open to consultation.
- Working alongside police and local authorities in the investigation of alleged and known abusers and bringing them to justice. ISN also call to account those ‘enablers’ who were paid to protect but facilitated the abuse, remained silent and often maintained the secrecy of crimes committed.
- Acquiring, collating and publishing the history of the Islington child abuse scandal between the 1960’s and 1990’s to analyse the role played by pro-paedophile groups and self professed networks of paedophiles in the abuse of Islington children placed in the care of Islington Council.
ISN Would Like To Hear From You
You might be reading this because you;
- are a survivor of child abuse within Islington children’s homes and/or other children’s placements made by Islington Council
- are a witness of child abuse within Islington children’s homes and/or other children’s placements made by Islington Council
- are a friend, relative or parent of a child abused in an Islington children’s home and/or other children’s placements made by Islington Council
- are a professional who was employed to keep children in Islington’s care safe from harm and respond to their needs
- worked in an Islington children’s home, foster placement or social work office perhaps as a cook, cleaner, driver, residential care worker, inspector or administrator
- were a politician who held relevant responsibility at the time
- were a journalist who investigated Islington child abuse issues in the 60s-90s.
Contact ISN if you are a victim of, or witness to, child abuse (physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect) in;
- an Islington council run children’s home
- an Islington fostering or adoption placement
- a secure unit, private children’s home or boarding school where children were placed by Islington Council
- a holiday setting organised by Islington council
- the context of a network of organised abuse of children in Islington
ISN know that organised, powerful, networks of child abusers operated across the country, including within Islington. It’s a big jigsaw ISN is piecing together and all details you can share with ISN are important. We aim to protect children now from harm and your evidence might help to do that if the alleged abuser is alive and still in contact with children and their families or even working in the children’s workforce.
ISN have been asked by the council to try and work out how many children were in Islington’s care system from the 60s to the 90s. We are calculating this from survivor and staff accounts as well as from file evidence, media and council records. To date we have identified over 1000 children and also over 1000 residential care staff who lived or worked during that time in the 42 Islington children’s homes. The homes were mainly situated within the north of the Borough of Islington but also in Hertfordshire and Essex.
Some children were moved between many different homes and foster placements and also staff worked across different children’s homes. At times when the child abuse was exposed, it seemed a common management response to close the establishment, move the staff around and split the children between different homes or secure units.
If you did not witness abuse but have knowledge which can help survivors, then please help us collect information about the children’s homes, the buildings, incidents, regimes, the children who were resident there and staff who worked in them. We are trying to put facts and dates together to help us add to what survivors tell us. Many files and documents have gone missing, so what you remember is very important. Perhaps you even have photographs. We are interested to know about any regular visitors to the children’s homes who had access to the children. We also want to build a clear picture of the regimes in different children’s homes including what forms of ‘discipline’ or ‘pin down’ (a brutal form of ‘ restraint’) were used.
Some Islington care leavers speak of good experiences in care and do not define themselves as survivors of child abuse. It is just as important that we hear about the positives as well as about the abuse. Sometimes things changed for the better or worse when a new manager came into post or a new member of staff joined the team. This is all helpful information for us.
ISN during Lockdown
Without access to our office, ISN has carried on by working from home and, when the rules allowed, meeting in the park socially distanced. Since January 2022 we have begun working back in the office again.
From March 2020 the Non-recent Abuse Team at Islington Council have kept in contact with many survivors – monthly or weekly to offer support. The Support Workers and the Trauma Service Psychologists have continued to provide a service whilst working from home and have now slowly started to see survivors face to face again.
Survivors have continued to come forward to ISN and we have linked them to the services but also helped them to access their files. The council Access to Records office has also been closed and getting files was delayed by many months. Since January 2022 the backlog is being cleared.
Through zoom online meetings the directors of ISN have continued to meet and we have also continued the regular meetings we have with our legal team at Leigh Day solicitors, Islington managers and the Islington Survivors Trauma Service psychologists.
See our ISN News page for recent updates and developments