On 16th May, Islington Survivors Network met with Carmel Littleton, Corporate Director of Islington Children’s Services, and Islington lawyers for our first meeting about a proposal for a redress scheme which had been presented to the council, by Leigh Day solicitors on behalf of ISN, in November 2017.
During this meeting we were assured that Islington Council are willing to enter into discussion with ISN about the possibility of a redress scheme.
ISN were represented at this meeting by Alison Millar and Andrew Lord from Leigh Day solicitors and Sam Stein QC and Alan Barker, Barrister, both from the chambers of Michael Mansfield QC. Unfortunately Richard Watts, council leader, was unable to attend as planned.
ISN informed the meeting that we now have evidence from over 100 survivors who were abused in the care of Islington Council in Islington children’s homes and foster placements and/or where the abuse was committed by, or aided and abetted by the actions of Council employees or resulted from the Council’s neglect in looking after children. Carmel Littleton stated that at a council meeting, in September 2017, the council had made both an apology to survivors and an acceptance of culpability.
ISN lawyers suggested that a redress scheme, as proposed, would meet the best interests of survivors. In contrast, addressing each case individually would involve lengthy, costly and protracted legal processes which would be distressing for survivors and would add to the trauma of the abuse they experienced whilst in Islington’s care. ISN explained the urgency of agreeing a redress scheme as, sadly, two survivors have died since the need for redress was first presented to the council.
Carmel Littleton advised the meeting that the council had now acquired over 80 boxes of children’s files, including those from the London Metropolitan Archives, and this information was being collated. Spreadsheets were being compiled of data about children’s homes, the staff who worked in them and child residents. She welcomed ISN’s suggested contribution to this research process. ISN are now aware of at least 27 Islington children’s homes. Alan Barker suggested that these files needed to be secured through being scanned – especially as so much file content had gone missing in the past. ISN know of 4 survivors who had applied for their files but no documents had been found. This was highly distressing for them. Carmel Littleton said she would give consideration to securing the files and would also search for the missing files.
ISN added that survivor evidence includes information about abusers who may still have contact with children which has been passed to the Local Authority Designated Officer for Safeguarding in Islington. Information relating to alleged and known abusers has also been passed by ISN to the relevant police forces. A difficulty is that Islington Council does not always have HR records of staff who worked for them or any detail of them receiving their Islington pensions. ISN are concerned that when former staff cannot be traced, there seems to be no proper multi-agency process for investigation to enable an assessment of the risk they may currently present to children.
Carmel Littleton said she had identified current staff who had worked in the authority for a long time who could add to the council’s understanding of the homes and former staff. ISN is aware of a few staff currently employed who would have helpful information and there was assurance from the council that these staff could come forward to ISN without recrimination.
Islington Council has provided ISN with a dedicated Trauma Service based at St Pancras hospital. It is a self referral service and ISN have been fully involved in setting it up with an excellent team from Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust. The council has also allocated a senior housing officer to address the housing needs of ISN survivors some of whom did not receive housing when they left care. A social worker has been appointed by the council 3 days a week for ISN survivors and their families. Survivors’ needs include benefits issues, child custody arrangements. postadoption counselling and services related to disability as well as health and psychological needs. Survivors feedback to ISN about all these support services is positive.
The meeting was assured that the provision of support services was not conflated with the redress scheme. It was agreed that every ISN survivor has a right to access these services quite separately from any claim for redress.
Carmel Littleton advised the meeting that discussion of a redress scheme was not awaiting the outcome of the Sarah Morgan QC Review which is due to report in September 2018. This council commissioned review examined the nature, extent and duration of former Mayor and councillor, Sandy Marks’ involvement in a pro-paedophile group in the 70s. It was to consider what, if any, impact that involvement had on her duties within Islington Council. 6 Islington Survivors gave evidence to this Review but Sarah Morgan refused to see 6 other ISN survivors. ISN said that this was a disappointment as these survivors had felt sure their information had relevance to the Review terms of reference.
An ISN survivor told the meeting that he had contacted a helpline around 1992 set up for an Inquiry but he had received no response to his message. It was agreed that the council will look into this.
The council asked for ISN to present them with costings so that the council could assist their work. Funding could include the costs of ISN research, administration, additional interview facilities, office costs such as a telephone, laptops and expenses such as for survivor’s travel costs. It was acknowledged that the work of ISN is voluntary and that the workload has increased in recent months as more survivors come forward. If a redress scheme is agreed and advertised then the work of ISN would increase substantially.
A further meeting will be held within 6 weeks to progress the ISN redress scheme proposal.
If you were abused in the care of Islington Council and wish to register an interest in being included in a redress scheme, please contact us by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a voice message 0300 302 0930